A federal judge has ruled for Philadelphia in its contentious “sanctuary city” case against the Trump administration, saying the city’s refusal to help enforce immigration laws is based on policies that are reasonable, rational, and equitable, Philly.com reports. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said the Trump administration’s attempt to withhold about $1.5 million in federal law-enforcement grant money “violates statutory and constitutional law.” The money comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. “The city is entitled to prompt payment of the JAG funds,” the judge said. The Trump administration wanted to withhold the funds unless the city agreed to assist federal authorities in identifying and turning over undocumented immigrants. The city sued, saying the police department is not an arm of immigration enforcement, and that making it one would damage community relations.
“Philadelphia has always been and will always be a welcoming city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Philadelphia needs its immigrant community.” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley called the ruling “a victory for criminal aliens in Philadelphia, who can continue to commit crimes in the city knowing that its leadership will protect them from federal immigration officers whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country.” Baylson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said “the public statements of President Trump and Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, asserting that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born citizens, are inaccurate as applied to Philadelphia…” At the heart of the case was a relatively small amount in a city with a $4.4 billion budget but a big principle: whether the Trump administration can hold back money unless the city agrees to make its police department help federal agents identify and arrest people who immigrated without appropriate documents.