Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Photograph by Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
By Natasha Bach
August 7, 2017

Rahm Emanuel is taking on President Trump and his administration’s latest immigration policy.

Chicago’s mayor announced that the city would be filing a lawsuit Monday, alleging it’s illegal for the federal government to withhold grants from “sanctuary cities.” Chicago received approximately $2.3 million in federal grants in 2016 and is slated to receive another $3.2 million this year—funds which are used to buy items such as police vehicles, radios, and Tasers.

Read: Donald Trump Outlines His Plan to Curb Legal Immigration

A policy proposed last week added new stipulations requiring local police to assist with federal immigration matters. During a Sunday press conference, Emanuel questioned the legality of these requirements and contended that plans to withhold funds based on failure to comply violated the Constitution.

The mayor told the media present that Chicago would not let its police officers “become political pawns in a debate” and that the city would not be “blackmailed into changing [its] values.” choosing instead to remain a “welcoming city.”

Emanuel continued that the “federal government should be working with cities to provide necessary resources to improve public safety, not concocting new schemes to reduce our crime-fighting resources.”

Read: FOP Police Union Warns President Trump That Sanctuary City Cuts Could Hurt Public Safety

Cities that are considered sanctuaries usually refuse to hold people on immigration agents’ behalf without a warrant from a judge. President Trump, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and other advocates of curbing immigration have accused such places of flouting the law and helping convicted criminals evade deportation.

Local officials counter that separating local law enforcement from federal immigration authorities is good policy both from a legal standpoint and from a public safety standpoint, making immigrants more likely to come forward to report crimes and serve as witnesses.

The former White House Chief of Staff acknowledged that Chicago was the first “sanctuary city” to bring a lawsuit on the matter, but expressed confidence that it would not be the last. In fact, during a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” California Governor Jerry Brown endorsed the idea of a lawsuit. There is a bill currently in the California legislature that, while avoiding declaring California a sanctuary state, bars state law enforcement from asking about a suspect’s immigration status.

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