U.S. appeals court rules against Trump attempt to withhold funds from 'sanctuary' cities

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about Trump Administration efforts to protect senior citizens from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday ruled against a Trump administration attempt to withhold millions of dollars from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

The decision, by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, upheld a pair of lower court rulings that blocked the administration from placing immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grants.

President Donald Trump, who faces reelection on Nov. 3, has made immigration a central theme of his presidency and 2020 campaign. He frequently criticizes Democrat-controlled “sanctuary” jurisdictions for policies that he says protect criminal immigrants.

The decision follows Trump’s remarks on Wednesday that suggested he might restrict coronavirus aid to states and cities with “sanctuary” policies.

“If you’re going to get aid to the cities and states for the kind of numbers you’re talking about - billions of dollars - I don’t think you should have sanctuary cities,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

The appeals court said the ruling would be applied nationwide, although one judge on a three-judge panel that considered the matter said he would have narrowed the scope to the city of Chicago, which brought the lawsuit.

Federal appeals courts have issued divergent rulings over Trump’s attempts to restrict funding to “sanctuary” cities, setting up a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reporting by Ted Hesson; Editing by Richard Chang