CITY HALL — The Trump administration threatened again on Thursday to yank federal funds from sanctuary cities — this time placing Chicago officials on notice that Attorney Jeff Sessions may try to take back $2.3 million the city received in 2016.
Chicago officials have until Oct. 27 to object to Sessions' determination that the city's sanctuary city ordinance violates federal law before the attorney general makes a final determination, according to the letter.
Cook County, New York City and Philadelphia got similar letters, according to the Justice Department. A DOJ press release described the latest move as a "last chance" for cities to comply.
While the letter does not indicate what would happen if Trump administration officials determine that the city is flouting federal law, Sessions has said in the past that such a violation could lead to the loss of federal grant funds.
In response, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday the city would not alter its policy and again cast the Trump administration efforts as an attempt to force Chicago to choose between its renewed commitment to community policing and its status as a self-declared "sanctuary city," where officers are prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration agents in most cases.
"I totally, 100 percent, reject the false choice of Donald Trump and the Justice Department," Emanuel said after an unrelated event Thursday touting the opening of a new South Side factory. "It is a wrong choice."
In 2016, the city used the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, is the leading source of federal funding for state and local law enforcement agencies, to purchase body-worn cameras, touted by Emanuel as a key reform of the department in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Last month, a federal judge granted city lawyers' request to block conditions Sessions added to the applications for the 2017 grant.
District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, said "the harm to the city’s relationship with the immigrant community if it should accede to the conditions is irreparable" and blocked the Trump administration's effort.
The Department of Justice has appealed that ruling.
In 2017, city officials applied for $1.5 million from the grant named for New York Police Officer Edward Byrne, who was slain on duty in 1988, said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the Law Department.
If the conditions urged by Sessions are upheld by the courts, cities that get the grant would have to "allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities," officials said.
That could force the Police Department to hold men and women under investigation longer than the constitutionally mandated 48 hours, officials said.
Sessions responded to the city's lawsuit by noting that more people have been killed in Chicago this year than in New York and Los Angeles combined and asserting that a "culture of lawlessness has beset the city."