Saturday, September 16, 2017
Judge Harry D. Leinenweber (N.D. Ill.) yesterday enjoined two conditions nationwide, but declined to enjoin a third, that AG Sessions placed on a federal grant program to clamp down on sanctuary cities. The order came in the lawsuit that Chicago filed against Session.
The ruling is a partial victory for the City and partial victory for the government. It partially halts two key conditions that AG Sessions placed on Byrne Grant recipients, but upholds a third, requiring certification of compliance with Section 1373.
Recall that AG Sessions placed three conditions on a municipality's receipt of federal funds under the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program: (1) that a state law or practice is in place to honor a request by DHS to provide advance notice of any scheduled release date and time for a particular alien (the "notice" condition); (2) that a state law or practice permits federal agents to have access to any correctional facility to meet with aliens and interrogate them (the "access" condition); and (3) that a local government submit a certification of compliance with 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1373, the federal law prohibiting state and local laws and practices that restrict state and local officials from sending to, or receiving from, federal officials information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual, and prohibiting officials from maintaining such information or exchanging it with federal officials. (the "certification" condition).
The conditions ran up against Chicago's "Welcoming Ordinance." That Ordinance prohibits any "agent or agency" from "request[ing] information about or otherwise investigat[ing] or assist[ing] in the investigation of the citizenship or immigration status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by [state law], federal regulation, or court decision." It goes on to forbid any agent or agency from "disclos[ing] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any person."
So Chicago sued Sessions, arguing that all three conditions were unconstitutional and unlawful.
Judge Leinenweber agreed in part and disagreed in part. As to the notice and access conditions, the court said that Sessions lacked statutory authority and exceeded his power to implement these conditions. In particular, the court held that only Congress could impose these conditions, or authorize the AG to do so, and that the statutory scheme in place didn't do that. Because the court ruled on statutory grounds, it declined to rule on the constitutionality of those two provisions.
But in contrast to its ruling on the notice and access conditions, the court held that Chicago did not show a likelihood of success on the merits of its challenge to the certification condition. The court held that this condition was authorized by Congress under the Byrne Grant statute, which says that a recipient must certify that it's in compliance "with all provisions of this part and all other applicable Federal laws" (emphasis added). The court said that Section 1373 fell into that latter category, "all other applicable Federal laws."
Moreover, it held that the certification condition didn't violate the Spending Clause and the anti-commandeering principle. In particular, the court said that Section 1373 doesn't compel Chicago to do anything; instead, it merely forbids it from doing something. The court said that the anti-commandeering principle only prohibits the federal government from requiring states or state officials to act, not from prohibiting them from acting, so Section 1373 doesn't violate it.
Without a doubt, Section 1373 restricts the ability of localities to prohibit state or local officials from assisting a federal program, but it does not require officials to assist in the enforcement of a federal program. . . . Because no case has gone so far as to prohibit the federal government from restricting actions that directly frustrate federal law, the Court finds that Congress acts constitutionally when it determines that localities may not prevent local officers from voluntarily cooperating with a federal program or discipline them for doing so.
But the court went on to recognize that Section 1373 raises an unanswered constitutional question: Does the provision commandeer insofar as it prevents local governments from disciplining an employee for spending time assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration law? The court punted, leaving that novel question for appeal:
[B]y leaving it up to local officials whether to assist in enforcement of federal immigration priorities, the statute may effectively thwart policymakers' ability to extricate their state or municipality from involvement in a federal program. . . . Here, we follow binding Supreme Court precedent and the persuasive authority of the Second Circuit, neither of which elevates federalism to the degree urged by the City here. A decision to the contrary would require an expansion of the law that only a higher court could establish.