On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department couldn’t withhold funding from Philadelphia simply because of its status as a sanctuary city.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, who was appointed by Reagan, ruled in a 128-page decision that Philadelphia’s refusal to fully cooperate with the federal immigration authorities wasn’t grounds for the Justice Department to withhold law enforcement grants, as it has tried to do. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, at stake was $1.5 million in funding for a city with a $4.4 billion budget. So the lawsuit, and its victory, was more symbolic.

“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,” Baylson 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.”


In September, a federal judge ruled that President Trump’s Justice Department couldn’t withhold funds from Chicago, following a similar lawsuit filed by the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel. The judge in that case agreed with the city of Chicago: complying with the Justice Department’s immigration demands would cause “irreparable harm” to the city.

Fresh off another legal defeat, the Justice Department, helmed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sent a letter to 29 cities and counties on Wednesday warning them that refusing to comply with its immigration demands violates federal law. Los Angeles; Seattle, WA; Berkeley, CA; San Francisco, CA; Denver, CO; and Burlington, VT, were among some of the cities that were put on notice.


Each letter specified local laws and ordinances that the Justice Department viewed as flouting immigration laws; the cities have until Dec. 8 to prove their compliance.

Sessions reiterated the Trump administration’s claim that sanctuary city policies endanger Americans. “Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Sessions said in a statement. “I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents.”