Trump admin. asks high court to halt sanctuary cities ruling

The Supreme Court Building is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The Supreme Court Building is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to allow it to largely implement a policy of withholding public safety grants from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.

The Trump administration filed a brief Monday asking Justice Elena Kagan to limit a lower court ruling against the administration to Chicago, which sued. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the government in April, keeping in place a lower court’s nationwide ruling preventing the Trump administration from implementing its grant requirements.

The administration wants the ruling narrowed to Chicago as the case proceeds before the entire appeals court and possibly to the Supreme Court. Nationwide rulings by individual federal judges have been a recurring frustration for the administration.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Scranton on Friday, but much of his half-hour speech to about 150 local, state and federal law enforcement officials was directed at another city, about 120 miles south.

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“It cannot be that someone who illegally crosses the border in El Paso, Texas, and two days later arrives in … Philadelphia is home free,” he said. “Philadelphia is not giving sanctuary to Americans, they’re giving sanctuary to foreign criminals.”

Sessions spoke at Lackawanna College, one of a handful of engagements in which he’s defended controversial federal immigration enforcement policies — including separating children from their parents at the U.S. border — implemented by the Trump administration.

He also criticized Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney over a video circulated on social media in which Kenney dances and high-fives a staffer after the city won a case against the Department of Justice over its attempt to withhold federal grant money in order to force changes to local law enforcement policies. In Philadelphia, unauthorized immigrants who come into police custody are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement only if ICE provides a judge’s warrant or in the case of a felony conviction.

“This is the elected mayor of a major city in America celebrating lawlessness,” said Sessions. The attorney general connected “sanctuary cities” to higher crime and the opioid epidemic, claims that have been refuted by some police forces themselves.

Laura Benshoff contributed to this report. 

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