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Judge sides with Philadelphia in ‘sanctuary city’ fight

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration cannot cut off grants to Philadelphia over the way the city deals with immigrants in the country illegally.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson issued a 93-page memo, saying the conditions placed on the city by the federal government in order to receive the funding are unconstitutional, “arbitrary and capricious.” He also wrote that Philadelphia’s policies are reasonable and appropriate.

Philadelphia has said as a “sanctuary city,” it will turn over immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement only if the agency has a warrant signed by a judge. The city was fighting federal efforts to block grant funding as a result of the policy.

A spokesman for the city said early Wednesday afternoon that staff is reviewing the ruling. A request for comment from the Department of Justice was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Several sanctuary cities have opted to limit cooperation with government enforcement of immigration law. 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. Philadelphia’s attorneys had argued the move is unconstitutional and that it harms residents by withholding money earmarked to help buy kits to counteract opioid overdoses.

Attorney General Jeff 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.

A federal appeals court in April sided with Chicago in a similar dispute.

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