Chicago is by no means the first municipality to defy the Trump administrationâs hard line against sanctuary cities. San Francisco and Santa Clara County, Calif., won an injunction in April against a broader federal effort to deny federal funds to local governments that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities. Seattle and Richmond, Calif., among others, have also sued.
But the litigation comes at a complicated time for Chicago, which has struggled with a persistently high murder rate, strained relations between residents and the police, and frequent jabs from Mr. Trump, who has threatened to âsend in the Fedsâ if local officials cannot tamp down the bloodshed. The particular funding itself, too, is essential, Chicago officials say, because it is aimed at solving the cityâs crime problem.
In his scathing rebuke, Mr. Sessions noted Chicagoâs high murder rate and said the cityâs leaders, to âa degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction,â have âchosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this countryâs lawful immigration system.â More than 400 people have been killed in Chicago this year.
âThey have demonstrated an open hostility to enforcing laws designed to protect law enforcement â federal, state and local â and reduce crime, and instead have adopted an official policy of protecting criminal aliens who prey on their own residents,â Mr. Sessions said in a statement. âThe cityâs leaders cannot follow some laws and ignore others and reasonably expect this horrific situation to improve.â
The dispute over sanctuary cities, where the local authorities limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials, pits two visions of public safety against each other.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions have argued that sanctuary policies like Chicagoâs endanger American citizens and police officers by allowing undocumented immigrants who commit crimes to stay in the country and evade justice.
âThe mayor complains that the federal governmentâs focus on enforcing the law would require a âreordering of law enforcement practice in Chicago,ââ Mr. Sessions said. âBut thatâs just what Chicago needs: a recommitment to the rule of law and to policies that roll back the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city.â
But Mr. Emanuel and Chicago police leaders argue the opposite. They say Chicago police officers make no inquiries about immigration status because doing so might fracture residentsâ trust of the police and discourage those here illegally from reporting crimes or cooperating as witnesses, making the streets more dangerous.
Mr. Emanuel said the Trump administration was asking Chicago âto choose between our core values as a welcoming city and our fundamental principles of community policing.â
âIt is a false choice, and a wrong choice,â Mr. Emanuel said.
Eddie Johnson, Chicagoâs police superintendent, said the city âwill not compromise the rights, safety or break the sacred trust of the people that live in and visit Chicagoâ in order to be eligible for federal funding.
The grants at stake in Chicago, which the city has used in the past for stun guns, SWAT team equipment and police vehicles, make up a tiny fraction of the city budget. But one supporter of the lawsuit, Gilbert Villegas, an alderman who is chairman of the City Councilâs Latino Caucus, said there was âpotential for that issue to creep into other grantsâ if it went unchallenged.
âI think it is a smart lawsuit,â said Mr. Villegas, whose ward was the site of a shooting this year involving an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent that raised tensions among residents. âI think itâs something that we as a city need to do.â
The lawsuit adds to an already complex relationship between Chicago and the Justice Department. Chicago officials are waiting to hear whether Mr. Sessions plans to enforce a department investigation of the Chicago police, completed in the final days of Barack Obamaâs presidency, that found a pattern of discriminatory practices.
On Monday, city leaders said they hoped for a preliminary ruling on the lawsuit before Sept. 5, the deadline to apply for new funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which the lawsuit said provided âcrucial supportâ for the police department.