Kenney Celebrates After Judge Sides With Philly in Sanctuary City Case

The mayor did a little dance on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that the Department of Justice’s efforts to block federal funding from the city violate statutory and constitutional law.

Mayor Jim Kenney (Official photo). Right: U.S. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions. (Photo by Jeff Roberson/AP).

Mayor Jim Kenney did a literal dance on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled in favor of Philadelphia in its ongoing high-profile “sanctuary city” case against the Trump administration.

In his decision on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled that the Justice Department cannot legally withhold roughly $1.5 million in federal law-enforcement grant funding that was supposed to have been awarded to the city in 2017. The city sued U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last summer after he threatened to block that funding, claiming that Philadelphia did not comply with newly imposed requirements for the federal program.

Baylson ruled that the city is entitled to the funding because the requirements that Sessions imposed, which would force the city to actively assist federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers in identifying and turning over undocumented immigrants,  are “arbitrary and capricious” and violate statutory and constitutional law.

The grant in question is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which Philly has applied for and received every year since the program’s 2005 inception. The funding goes toward the Philadelphia Police Department as well as the District Attorney’s Office and juvenile delinquency programs for the city’s youth. Baylson ruled that the city will suffer “irreparable harm” if the grant is withheld.

The Department of Justice had argued that Philadelphia violated immigration law by not honoring ICE detainers for people being released from custody. Baylson found that Philadelphia is only required to respond to a DOJ detainer request if paperwork is accompanied by judicial warrant with a judicial signature, and that the city “has no obligation to seek or receive citizenship information from any person in City custody.”

In his opinion Baylson wrote that the city has “historically, fully cooperated with all federal law enforcement agencies, including ICE.”

In a statement, Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley called Baylson’s ruling “a victory for criminal aliens in Philadelphia, who can continue to commit crimes in the city knowing that its leadership will protect them from federal immigration officers whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country,” according to

Needless to say, Kenney was thrilled.

“This ruling prevents the White House from bullying Philadelphia into changing its policies,” Kenney said in a tweet. “It is a ruling that should make clear to Attorney General Sessions that federal grant dollars cannot be used for a political shakedown.”