In a big loss for the Trump administration, a judge has declared that the law the Trump administration has been using to penalize sanctuary cities is unconstitutional. That law, which the Trump administration has also repeatedly cited in attempting to defend itself against lawsuits brought to stop the punishment of sanctuary cities, dictates that local governments share individuals’ immigration statuses with the federal government.

In his decision Judge Harry Leinenweber was sharply critical of President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for their efforts to penalize sanctuary cities by withholding federal law enforcement grant money from those cities unless and until they comply with the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including sharing the immigration status of anyone in local custody with the federal government and not releasing anyone from their custody until the federal government has had time to act on the person’s immigration status. Initially, this new ruling applies only to the sanctuary city of Chicago, although the judge in the case reportedly hopes the ruling will extend nationwide. According to The Hill:

A judge on Friday declared a law the Trump administration has relied heavily on in many of its lawsuits against so-called sanctuary cities as unconstitutional…(Judge Harry) Leinenweber moved to strike down the underlying law, known as Section 1373, which mandates that local governments share the immigration status of individuals with the federal government. The ruling from Leinenweber, an appointee of former President Reagan, currently only applies to Chicago, though the judge reportedly said he intends for the ruling to be applied across the country. Leinenweber previously issued a ruling temporarily blocking immigration-related conditions that the administration had imposed on federal law enforcement grants in an effort to penalize sanctuary cities, a ruling an appellate court upheld. The judge has now made his initial ruling on the grant conditions permanent and is taking aim at the underlying law the administration has depended on in its sanctuary city lawsuits, CNN reported.

Judge Leinenweber was able to find a precedent for his ruling from a somewhat surprising source – a recent lawsuit having to do with state laws on gambling. A Supreme Court ruling legalized state gambling laws by finding that the federal government could not prohibit states from passing the laws they choose to pass, so state laws allowing gambling could not be prohibited by the federal government. By extension, state and local laws protecting undocumented immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities also could not be prohibited by the federal government, making the kind of provision in Section 1373 not allowed when state or local laws conflict with it.

This ruling represents yet another in a series of legal losses for the Trump administration on the subject of sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants.

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