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Immigrant rights activists demonstrate against U.S. President Donald Trump's policies on March 2, 2017 in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

'Tremendous Defeat' for Trump's DOJ as Judge Rules in Favor of Philadelphia's Sanctuary City Status

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to restore funding to Philadelphia after Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled a grant as retribution for the city's refusal to assist in immigration arrests

Julia Conley

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Trump administration's policy of withholding law enforcement funding from Philadelphia over its status as a sanctuary city "violates statutory and constitutional law."

Contrasting with the Justice Department's policy, Philadelphia's refusal to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities was based in "reasonable, rational," and "equitable" logic, ruled U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson.

Baylson's decision came 10 months after Philadelphia sued the DOJ for attempting to withhold $1.5 million in law enforcement grant money from the city as punishment for not assisting in federal immigration arrests.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to keep the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the city if it refused to allow ICE agents into city prisons, notify the agency when undocumented immigrants leave prisons, and share information with the federal government about any individual's immigration status.

Philadelphia's police force is not an arm of federal immigration agencies, argued the city, and acting as such would damage community relations.

A similar ruling in favor of Philadelphia last November found that withholding the funds would significantly damage the city's ability to maintain its police force. The DOJ appealed that decision in January.

In addition to declaring that the city is "entitled to prompt payment" of the grant, Baylson refuted the Trump administration's repeated claims that American cities should participate in federal immigration enforcement because undocumented immigrants commit high rates of crime.

"The public statements of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, asserting that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born citizens, are inaccurate as applied to Philadelphia, and do not justify the imposition of these three conditions," that the administration attempted to impose on the city in exchange for its law enforcement funding, Baylson wrote.


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