The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief last week in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his efforts to protect the American people from the harmful impact of sanctuary cities. The case, City of Chicago v. Sessions, is being heard on appeal from a federal district court in Chicago, which had blocked Sessions from making federal grant money to Chicago conditional on that city’s dropping its sanctuary policies.
At issue is a federal statute – 8 U.S.C. § 1373 – that makes it unlawful for states or cities to order their officers not to give information about aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For example, Chicago now violates this statute by forbidding its officers to tell ICE when criminal aliens in city jails will be released – a lockdown on information that makes it very difficult for ICE to pick up these aliens and deport them.
The district court, however, had ruled that § 1373 is unconstitutional because it “commandeers” states in violation of federalism principles. On this basis, the district court had ordered Sessions to cease making Chicago certify its compliance with § 1373 before dispersing federal grants to the city.
In its brief on appeal, IRLI shows that Chicago’s sanctuary policies force its officers to commit the federal crime of shielding illegal aliens from detection. Seen in this light, § 1373 does not command states or cities to do or refrain from doing anything: it merely creates a federal right in state and local law enforcement personnel not to be compelled to violate federal criminal law.
“It is hardly unconstitutional for Congress to protect local police from their own governments, when those governments are not only violating criminal laws themselves, but are making their employees do so, too,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “We must remember that the ultimate stakes here are extremely high – our integrity as a nation, and as a functioning democracy, is imperiled if states may turn huge areas of the country into immigration non-enforcement zones. In the end,” Wilcox added, “these sanctuary cases will be decided by the Supreme Court, which we hope and expect will not let such gross interference with federal law enforcement stand.”