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Philadelphia wins sanctuary city ruling in federal court

November 15, 2017 by NCC Staff


In a 128-page ruling, a federal judge said on Wednesday that the Justice Department can’t withhold grant funding from Philadelphia for not complying with federal “sanctuary city” polices.

Senior Judge Michael Baylson from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania even disputed the use of the term “sanctuary city” in his ruling, calling it a “misnomer.”

“Philadelphia is not a sanctuary for anyone involved in criminal conduct, nor is it a sanctuary as to any law enforcement investigation, prosecution, or imprisonment after having been found guilty of a crime. The Court does not need a label for Philadelphia’s policies,” Baylson said.

Back in August 2017, Philadelphia sought a preliminary injunction against the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Philadelphia objected to three conditions raised in its lawsuit and several other lawsuits that were announced by Sessions on July 25, 2017.

 “From now on, the [Justice] Department will only provide Byrne JAG grants to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours’ notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities. This is consistent with long-established cooperative principles among law enforcement agencies,” Sessions said.

 “Simply put, the Attorney General’s imposition of these three conditions on the FY 2017 Byrne JAG grant is contrary to law, unconstitutional, and arbitrary and capricious. That action should be enjoined,” the attorneys for Philadelphia argued in its suit.

The city claimed the Justice Department's actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Constitution's Spending Clause and a Supreme Court decision that prevents the federal government from commandeering local government resources under the Tenth Amendment.

Judge Baylson agreed with those conclusions in his opinion. “The Court concludes the City is likely to succeed in its claims that the Department of Justice’s conditions are improper under settled principles of the Spending Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and principles of federalism,” he said.

“Principles of federalism allow a city to deal with local issues as it sees best. The supremacy clause of the Constitution gives the federal government the final say – if, as, and when there is a conflict. In this case, given Philadelphia’s unique approach to meshing the legitimate needs of the federal government to remove criminal aliens with the City’s promotion of health and safety, there is no conflict of any significance,” Baylson concluded as he issued the injunction.


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