By Chris Kenning and Joseph Ax
CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chicago will sue the Trump administration on Monday over threats to withhold public safety grant money from so-called sanctuary cities, escalating a pushback against a federal immigration crackdown, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Sunday.
The federal lawsuit comes less than two weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Justice Department would strip cities of certain grant funds unless they agreed to allow immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and to provide 48 hours' notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.
"Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate," Emanuel, a Democrat, said at a news conference. "Chicago will not let our residents have their fundamental rights isolated and violated. And Chicago will never relinquish our status as a welcoming city."
The program in question, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, provides money to hundreds of cities across the country, and the Trump administration has requested $380 million in funding next year. Chicago, a regular target of Republican President Donald Trump because of its murder rate, expected to receive $3.2 million this year that it planned to devote mostly to police vehicles.
Under Trump and Sessions, the federal government has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration and has repeatedly sought to punish sanctuary cities, which generally offer safe harbor to illegal immigrants and often do not use municipal resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Dozens of local governments and cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, have joined the growing "sanctuary" movement.
Chicago's lawsuit will contend that the U.S. government cannot "commandeer local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration law functions," among other arguments, the city's top lawyer Ed Siskel said.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment on Sunday.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)