PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– The City of Philadelphia has filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions to keep him from imposing new requirements on grants to the police department.
Last month, Sessions announced that cities seeking Justice Assistance, or JAG, grants would have to meet two new conditions: to give federal immigration agents 48 hours notice before releasing certain prisoners and allow those agents unfettered access to city prisons to interview inmates. This on top of requiring Philadelphia to certify it co-operates with the agents.
City Solicitor Sozi Tulante went along with the certification but he says these new rules cross a line.
“They’re entitled to disagree with how we manage things in the city of Philadelphia. What they cannot do is make up rules beyond the directive of congress in order to coerce to change how we handle things locally,” said Tulante.
Tulante is asking the court to say all three conditions are unlawful. The city received $1.6 million from JAG last year. It’s applying this year but won’t include the new conditions in its application.
The Justice Department declined to be interviewed but spokesman Devin O’Malley sent an emailed statement.
“When criminal aliens are returned to the streets instead of sent home, public safety is undermined. Murder rates are on the rise in Philadelphia, but today the City joined other jurisdictions in doing a disservice to their citizens by protecting criminal aliens rather than law-abiding citizens.”
While Philadelphia’s homicide rate is up slightly from last year, the city is seeing historically low rates of violent crime.
Mayor Jim Kenney credits community policing for the decrease in crime and says advances would be undermined by the conditions Sessions is attempting to impose.
“Research shows that trust between officers and immigrant communities is essential to reducing crime and helping crime victims,” he said. “They would prefer that our police and prison officials work as an extension of ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement).”