U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled on Wednesday that conditions the federal government placed on the city of Philadelphia to receive federal funding are unconstitutional, "arbitrary and capricious." In contrast, Baylson wrote in his opinion, the policies put in place by the City of Brotherly Love are reasonable and appropriate.The Trump administration had argued that it can cut off grants to cities that do not cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities.
The federal government had required, in order for the grants to be disbursed to Philadelphia, that officers of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency should have access to city lockups in order to interview people of interest such as criminal aliens. Philadelphia was also asked to provide advance notice of the release of any such persons of interest.
Judge Baylson wrote: "The public statements of President (Donald) Trump and Attorney General (Jeff) 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." The judge wrote that the city should receive prompt payment of grant funding.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Baylson ruled that withholding federal law enforcement grants based on local immigration policies “violates statutory and constitutional law,” and that Philadelphia’s non-compliance was “reasonable, rational” and “equitable.” Baylson was nominated to the bench by then-president George W. Bush in 2002.
According to attorneys arguing in federal government’s case, Philadelphia’s policies endangered federal immigration officers and also allowed illegal aliens to go free and commit more crimes. Attorney General Sessions has echoed these sentiments.
Philadelphia claimed that requirements placed by the federal government when issuing grants were unconstitutional. The city feared that adhering to federal rules would create the impression that the city was enforcing immigration laws. Attorneys for the city argued that immigrants would thus be reluctant to seek city services or call on police.
Besides Philadelphia, numerous metropolitan jurisdictions have declared themselves “sanctuary cities” and limited their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The Department of Justice is threatening to cut millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to cities that do not comply with federal criteria regarding, for example, notification of the release of criminal aliens in local jails.
In a ruling last year, Judge Baylson called it a "misnomer" to label Philadelphia a "sanctuary city" and cited statistics used by local legislators that immigrants in the city do not contribute to high crime rates. "Philadelphia is not a sanctuary for anyone involved in criminal conduct, nor is it a sanctuary as to any law enforcement investigation, prosecution, or imprisonment after having been found guilty of a crime," Baylson wrote. "There is no evidence on the record whatsoever that non-citizens in Philadelphia commit any more crimes than the citizens," he added.
Federal study shows incidence of crime among immigrants
However, data provided by U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that of persons convicted of federal crimes between 2011 and 2016, 44.2 percent were not U.S. citizens. When immigration crimes are excluded, that figure is 21.4 percent. Non-citizens represent 8.4 percent of the adult population in the U.S. Of this 8.4 percent, approximately 4 percent are illegal immigrants and about 4 percent are legal immigrants, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The study does not distinguish between legal and illegal aliens.
According to the study, among the types of crime where non-citizens account for a larger share of convictions than their 8.4 percent share of the adult population include:
42.4 percent of kidnapping convictions;
31.5 percent of drug convictions;
22.9 percent of money laundering convictions;
13.4 percent of administration of justice offenses (such as witness tampering and obstruction);
17.8 percent of economic crimes (e.g. larceny, embezzlement);
13 percent of other convictions (e.g. bribery, civil rights, and prison offenses); and
12.8 percent of auto thefts.