Sanctuary jurisdictions

Sanctuary States Map

Immigration has been thrust into the federal and state spotlight following recent events. The backlog of immigration requests, the wait for a visa, and illegal immigration are issues government officials on all sides of the debate often address. Historically, the federal government has involved state and local officials in the enforcement of immigration laws, more so when public opposition to immigration grows. In 2018, the nation is still faced with solving a perplexing issue that has no easy solution.

States and local governments who have sued the Trump administration over the sanctuary jurisdictions executive order, the adding of conditions to receive Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG), and providing documentation to prove they comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 have won all their major claims except one as of June 5.

On June 6 in City of Philadelphia v. Sessions a federal district court became the first to rule that Section 1373 is unconstitutional. This statute prohibits states and local governments from restricting employees from sharing immigration status information with federal immigration officials.

In July 2017 the Department of Justice (DOJ) added two new requirements for states and local governments to receive federal Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) for law enforcement funding. Chicago sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions arguing he lacks the statutory authority to impose these conditions.

In September 2017 an Illinois federal district court granted Chicago’s request for a nationwide preliminary injunction temporarily disallowing DOJ from imposing the two new requirements. Last week, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision.     

Most of the Trump administration’s disagreements over protecting undocumented immigrants have been with local governments. But on March 6 the Trump administration filed a complaint against the State of California. The administration claims three California statutes aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants are preempted by federal immigration law. The administration asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction disallowing California from enforcing the statutes.

In April a federal district court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the Trump administration from enforcing the sanctuary jurisdictions portion of the Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States executive order (EO). The same court has made that injunction permanent. 

Section 9 of the EO says that jurisdictions that refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 are ineligible to receive federal grants. On its face Section 1373 prohibits local governments from restricting employee communication of immigration status information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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