Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to withhold federal grants related to law enforcement to local governments that operate so-called “sanctuary cities” in which officials, including law enforcement, do not cooperate with federal officials in the enforcement of immigration laws. Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago, a city that has a severe crime problem, has vowed to sue the Justice Department in federal court, finding as he does the new policy, “unlawful and unconstitutional.” Hot Air wonders what the mayor is talking about.

What is a ‘sanctuary city?’

A “sanctuary city” is a community that pursues policies that protect illegal immigrants from federal law enforcement when the latter seeks to deport them. Typically local police will not ask the immigration status of people they come in contact with, even if they are arrested. They ignore so-called “detainers” from ICE that request that illegal immigrants who are in local custody be held so that the feds can pick them up and deport them. In some cases, local governments have actively impeded federal officials in their duties to enforce immigration laws, barring access to illegal immigrants for example.

The theory posited behind “sanctuary cities” is that if illegal immigrants are put in fear of deportation, they will not cooperate with local law enforcement during crime investigations.

No independent studies support this proposition. The real reason seems to be an ideological opposition to immigration legislation on the part of certain left-leaning city governments.

Why is Chicago making legal threats?

As Hot Air points out, legal precedent seems to favor the Justice Department in this case. While the federal government is barred from denying federal funds to state and local governments out of caprice, it can do so if the issue is related.

The one example given is using access to highway funds to compel states to raise the drinking age to 21. Certainly denying “sanctuary cities” access to certain funds related to law enforcement to force them to obey federal immigration laws would pass federal court muster.

That Emmanuel would still spend money on what may likely be a futile court battle is telling.

Chicago is a city that is rife with crime, with gun murders occurring at an astonishing rate, despite some of the most draconian gun control laws in the United States. A sensible policy would be to seek help from the federal government in trying to tamp down on the carnage. Instead, Mayor Emmanuel is grandstanding by casting himself as the champion of illegal immigrants and not, apparently, of the residents of the city he governs who are being gunned down in constant gang wars.