Law & the Courts

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Admin. Move to Block Funding from Sanctuary Cities

President Donald Trump addresses a coronavirus news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 27, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A federal appeals court ruled against a Trump administration policy to withhold millions in federal grants for law enforcement from “sanctuary” cities on Thursday, contradicting a prior ruling from a different appeals court earlier this year to set up a possible Supreme Court case.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled against the administration’s appeal to condition law-enforcement funding on cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, upholding a pair of lower-court rulings in favor of the city of Chicago. The court added that the ruling would be applied nationwide, although one judge on the three-judge panel wrote that the scope should have been narrowed to just the city.

The decision diverged from one made by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in February, which sided with the Trump administration in a separate lawsuit to say the government could block funding from New York City and seven states that had sanctuary policies.

The decision, which applied to New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island, overturned lower-court decisions that had ruled in favor of the states. The initial lawsuit began in 2017 after the localities sued the Trump administration for creating a system to streamline the transfer of illegal immigrants from local jails to federal immigration authorities.

Following the February decision, President Trump said that his administration would begin withholding funding from sanctuary cities.

“They should change their status and go non-Sanctuary. Do not protect criminals!” Trump tweeted on March 5. He also commented on the situation this week, telling reporters on Wednesday that “If you’re going to get aid to the cities and states for the kind of numbers you’re talking about, billions of dollars, I don’t think you should have sanctuary cities.”

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