Judge says DoJ anti-sanctuary city law is unconstitutional
The legal battle between states and cities that have approved sanctuary city laws and the federal government's anti-sanctuary policy is hardly over, but the deck is being stacked against the Justice Department. A federal judge has upheld the Philadelphia sanctuary city law, saying the U.S. government's efforts to stop it is unconstitutional.
Judge Michael M. Baylson also delivered a spanking to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying they were inaccurate in suggesting that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans and that further undercut the government's arguments against the city's policy.
The ruling joins similar defeats for Mr. Trump in California and Chicago, where his efforts to control the spread of sanctuary cities were also rejected in courtrooms.
"We took on the federal government and won," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter. "This ruling prevents the White House from bullying Philadelphia into changing its policies. It's a ruling that should make clear to Attorney General Sessions that federal grant dollars cannot be used for a political shakedown."
Under orders from Mr. Trump last year, Mr. Sessions announced a series of conditions he said localities would have to meet if they wanted access to several Justice Department grant programs. The conditions included letting federal immigration officers into local prisons and jails, holding deportation targets for up to 48 hours for pickup by officers.
Judge Baylson rejected each of those conditions, saying Mr. Sessions didn't have a good justification for adding them and cut too many corners along the way. Other judges in the California and Chicago cases held much the same.
The judge is accusing the government of being sloppy in drawing up the conditions for cooperation. That may be. The question becomes, are there any conditions that would stand up in court that can require states and cities to cooperate or lose federal monies?
The judge's ruling is based on a recent SCOTUS decision on gambling:
The judge relied heavily on a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that invalidated a federal law prohibiting states from allowing sports gambling. The justices in that case said Congress had tried to "commandeer" the states, ordering what actions they could and couldn't take, and ruled that violated the 10th Amendment.
Judge Baylson said the same principle applies to Section 1373, which says states and localities must allow their police to exchange information with the Homeland Security Department on the citizenship or immigration status of anyone. The court on Wednesday said that, too, is an attempt to commandeer the states.
"Section 1373 violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution," the judge concluded.
I find the irony irresistible that liberals cite the 10th to defend actions by the state they agree with while condemning the 10th as a "states' rights" excuse for just about anything else.
This is an issue tailor-made for the Supreme Court, where federal action to curtail sanctuary cities has not met with much success.