The scrapping over JAG money (Justice Assistance Grants) for sanctuary cities reached the next level this week. A federal judge in Chicago somehow issued an injunction preventing the Justice Department from not issuing grant money to non-compliant cities. As the Associated Press reports, it was Chicago bringing the challenge, but the judge extended his ruling to cover the entire country.
A federal judge has ruled Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot follow through with his threat to withhold public safety grant money to Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities for refusing his order to impose tough immigration policies.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on Friday granted Chicago’s request for a temporary “nationwide” injunction. That means the Justice Department can’t deny requests for the grant money until Chicago’s lawsuit against the agency is concluded. He wrote that Chicago has shown a “likelihood of success” in its arguments that Sessions overstepped his authority with the requirements.
You can catch more local coverage at the Chicago Tribune.
So what is Judge Leinenweber basing this ruling on? I’m not going to jump to any conclusions about bias in the case, particularly since he was a Reagan appointee and a Republican member of the state legislature before that. But the arguments he’s putting forth in the ruling seem to be indicating that not only do cities have some sort of inherent right to JAG money, but that they could suffer “irreparable harm” if they didn’t get it. The Daily Caller has part of the ruling up on their site.
“The court finds that the city has established that it would suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is not entered,” Leinenweber wrote according to Bloomberg. Leinenweber extended the order to jurisdictions around the country, “there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago.”
This is puzzling to be sure. We’re not talking about some business arrangement or scheduled contract here. These are grants. While a significant number of states, municipalities and tribes do receive JAG funds each year, none of it is automatic. There’s a lengthy application process and list of qualifications before a law enforcement agency is even considered for a grant. And even if you meet all of the requirements and complete all of the required forms, there’s still no assurance that you’re going to get one. There are countless law enforcement agencies around the country who don’t get particular grants and they somehow seem to survive without suffering irreparable harm.
In the end, this is money controlled by the Justice Department and disbursed based on a set of criteria they create themselves. If those criteria now include a requirement that the municipality comply with federal law on the handling of illegal aliens, it’s a requirement that every applicant would need to meet, not just Chicago. So how is there a chance of any city or state suffering “irreparable harm” if they fail to receive funds which they were never assured of getting in the first place?
This definitely needs to be appealed up the chain so someone with clearer vision can have a crack at it. I realize that if you shop around long enough you can eventually find a judge to rule against anything supported by the Trump administration. (Just look at the travel ban.) But this is just bizarre and unseemly.