Score one for the cities.
On April 19, a federal appeals court in Chicago threw a wrench into the Trump administration’s efforts to punish sanctuary cities for their basic decency. The ruling, issued by a three-judge panel—all Republican appointees—upheld a lower court’s injunction prohibiting Attorney General Jeff Sessions from trying to use the power of the purse to force cities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The injunction is nationwide, meaning that, for now, the Trump administration can’t keep holding sanctuary cities’ money hostage.
“The attorney general in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement,” wrote Judge Ilana Rovner in a forceful 35-page opinion. So, she continued, “It falls to us, the judiciary…to act as a check on such usurpation of power.”
The appellate-court decision was a victory for sanctuary cities—but also for the urban resistance more broadly, which has spent the last 15 months pushing back against malicious Trump-administration policy and, yes, “usurpation of power.” These efforts aren’t always accompanied by a cutting legal rebuke, or a string of news articles—it’s hard to compete with Stormy Daniels and North Korea—but they’re going as strong today as they were on the bitter morning of January 20, 2017.
A challenge to the power of the gun lobby. A push for housing rights in California. A commitment to 100-percent renewable energy by a major city. A resolution to demilitarize a local police force. Those are a few of the progressive efforts that bubbled up from the asphalt this past month alone.
Here’s a closer look.
After Parkland: Florida Cities Fight for their Right… to Regulate Guns
It’s little secret that the Florida State Legislature is in thrall to the National Rifle Association; the bicameral body couldn’t even pass a ban on assault rifles this past February, just two weeks after the Parkland massacre, as young survivors chanted outside the Capitol. But few people likely realize that the bond runs so deep that the state penalizes local legislators who dare to pass laws regulating where, when, and even whether people can wield firearms.
This has been the case since as far back as the 1980s, when, taking a page from the tobacco industry’s playbook, the NRA began promoting state preemption of local gun laws. But in 2011, the state amped up the penalties on recalcitrant cities: Not only are municipalities that attempt to pass their own gun-control laws liable for potential legal damages of as much as $100,000, but mayors and City Council members can also face a personal fee of $5,000, and removal from office by the governor for supporting gun-control legislation. If cities get sued by gun groups in the process, they’re on the hook for those costs as well.