The U.S. Department of Justice violated the separation of powers doctrine and principles of federalism when it threatened to withhold from the city of Philadelphia more than $1 million in grant money due to its immigration policies, Philadelphia has argued as part of its efforts to fend off an appeal from the DOJ.
In June, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania determined that the DOJ cannot withhold the funding based on Philadelphia’s so-called sanctuary city policies, and on Oct. 4, the city filed a brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to affirm that decision.
In its 70-page brief, which Hogan Lovells attorney Neal Katyal filed, the city contended that Eastern District Judge Michael Baylson was correct when he found that the DOJ had improperly attached conditions to the grant money that were “arbitrary and capricious” and exceeded the DOJ’s authority.
The city further contended that its policies make Philadelphia more safe.
“Philadelphia believes that when any of its residents remain in the shadows, too afraid to participate in civic life, the city’s social fabric breaks down. The city has worked hard to encourage its residents, including immigrants, to use city services (e.g. health, education) and report crimes,” Katyal said in the brief. “That has become more difficult since [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has increased its enforcement actions against non-criminals, indiscriminately picking up ‘collateral’ persons.”
In June, Baylson held, in a 93-page ruling, that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not impose requirements that the city assist in ICE roundups of undocumented immigrants as a condition of receiving about $1.6 million in federal grant money earmarked for local law enforcement. The three requirements—that a city must provide ICE access to prisons to interview suspects, notice when undocumented immigrants are to be released from prison, and that the city is restricted from withholding a person’s citizenship status—formed the basis of Philadelphia’s lawsuit.
The city sued in 2017, saying the police department is not an arm of immigration enforcement, and that making it one would damage community relations.
In his ruling, Baylson said the Trump administration’s view that undocumented immigrants are significant contributors to an allegedly rising crime rate in the city was simply false. Further, Baylson called the conditions “arbitrary and capricious.”
The DOJ outlined its appeal to the Third Circuit in a brief filed in late August.
The DOJ’s 62-page filing says that the district court held a “sprawling preliminary injunction hearing and trial on immigration policy writ large,” and that it improperly limited the DOJ’s authority without a sufficient statutory basis.
“Worse still, not only does the court improperly restrain the department’s ability to impose these and other similar conditions that it has historically imposed without objection, but it did all this based on the judicial overreach of expounding n broad policy questions that were not before it and that are committed to the legislative and executive branches,” the DOJ said. “The court’s order must be set aside.”
Neither Katyal nor a spokeswoman for the DOJ returned a request for comment.