A federal judge in Philadelphia on Wednesday blocked the U.S. government from withholding a major grant that pays for public safety equipment because Philadelphia is a “sanctuary city.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said in his decision that he weighed the public interest and possible harm that could come from withholding such funds.
“Both the federal government and the city of Philadelphia have important interests at stake here and the court does not minimize either of their concerns,” the judge wrote. “In this case, given Philadelphia’s unique approach to meshing the legitimate needs of the federal government to remove criminal aliens with the City’s promotion of health and safety, there is no conflict of any significance.”
The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling and determining next steps, spokesman Devin O’Malley said.
“In Philadelphia, 2017 homicides have already eclipsed 2016’s numbers, and so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ further undermine public safety and law enforcement,” he said in a statement.
As of Tuesday, the city had recorded 281 homicides, a 16 percent increase over same period last year, putting the city on track for its deadliest year since 2012.
The city sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions in August over the conditions that had been added to the grant program, calling them unconstitutional and capricious.
The new directives were intended to pressure cities into cooperating more with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
Sessions has said that cities that don’t help enforce immigration law are endangering public safety, especially when it comes to sharing information about immigrants who have been accused of crimes.
District Attorney-elect Larry Krasner has vowed to stop the Trump Administration’s immigration policies.
“This is clearly another defeat of Donald Trump’s un-American agenda by an independent judiciary,” said Krasner’s spokesman, Ben Waxman. “DA-Elect Krasner has made clear that policies that force immigrants into the shadows ultimately make us all less safe.”
The Justice Department has threatened to cut off millions of dollars in federal grants to cities if they don't meet certain criteria for cooperating with immigration officials.
For Philadelphia, more than $1 million authorized under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program was a stake. New York City is anticipating $4.3 million from the program.
The program is named after a New York City officer killed in 1988 while protecting an immigrant witness who’d agreed to testify against drug dealers.
Separately this month, Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana barred the Marion County Sheriff’s Office from detaining people in Indianapolis based solely on requests by immigration officials.