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Chicago Sues Attorney General Sessions Over Plan To Withhold Funds From Sanctuary Cities

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Emanuel administration has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenging rules that would make it impossible for sanctuary cities like Chicago to receive some federal grants.

The federal lawsuit was filed Monday morning in Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it's a matter of doing what's right.

Sessions has announced new rules that would require cities to give federal immigration enforcement agents access to jails and notify the feds whenever an undocumented immigrant is about to be released from custody.

City attorneys said the new conditions for the grants would allow federal agents to interrogate at will people who have been arrested, and force the city to hold them longer just so agents can ask about their immigration status.

At stake is a $3.2 million grant from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance program. That amounts to only a fraction of 1 percent of the city's annual budget, but Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel said it provides crucial support to the Police Department, "funding the purchase of vehicles, radio, and equipment for SWAT teams, Tasers, and other essential equipment for the crime fight."

Chicago is one of the so-called sanctuary cities targeted by the new policy. Its "Welcoming City Ordinance" protects undocumented immigrants from being held for immigration authorities, unless they have been convicted of a serious crime or are being sought on a criminal warrant. The ordinance also prohibits Chicago police from allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from using city facilities for interviews or investigations, and bars officers from replying to ICE inquiries or speaking to ICE officials about someone's custody status or release date.

Monday morning on CNN, the mayor said he hopes the courts rule the Justice Department's new rules for Byrne grants are unlawful, and stop President Trump from setting a precedent for future grants.

"I think the Justice Department is trying to coerce people into making a choice between who they are and their values and what you want to see in every neighborhood across the city of Chicago. That's why we're going to file a case against the Trump Justice Department," he said.

Siskel said the city would seek an injunction to prevent the Justice Department from imposing the new rules in time for the September 5 deadline to apply for the Byrne grants.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley issued the following statement Monday morning:

"In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. So it's especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago's law enforcement at greater risk."

Sessions has claimed so-called "sanctuary city" laws make the nation less safe; and that cities, counties, and states with such laws in place should not be eligible to receive federal grants.

Emanuel said he is confident other sanctuary cities like New York and Los Angeles also will sue the Justice Department over its policy toward sanctuary cities.

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