DOJ appeals decision in Philadelphia’s win in ‘sanctuary city’ case

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference after touring the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11. The Justice Department is warning so-called

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference after touring the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11. The Justice Department is warning so-called "sanctuary cities" that they must prove they are complying with federal immigration laws or risk funding.(Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit in a case that pitted the federal agency against so-called “sanctuary cities.”

“We’ve received notice that the DOJ has appealed Judge Baylson’s ruling, and we will vigorously defend the judge’s well-reasoned decision,” said Ajeenah Amir, spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

In November, U.S. district judge Michael Baylson ruled that the DOJ could not withhold public safety grants from Philadelphia based on the city’s level of cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Three months earlier, the city sued the DOJ over new conditions it imposed on awarding those grants, which included changes to how the city works with federal immigration enforcement.

So-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions such as Philadelphia limit their collaboration with federal immigration enforcement, but do not interfere with immigration arrests. Justice Department officials have repeatedly argued that these policies make cities less safe, an assertion that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross refuted during the trial.

“There is no evidence in the record whatsoever that non-citizens in Philadelphia commit any more crimes than the citizens,” he testified.

DOJ public safety grants to the city will be used to pay for public safety initiatives such as getting Narcan, a drug which can halt fatal opioid overdoses, into more hands, according to City Solicitor Sozi Tulante.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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