Ithaca Files Brief To Protect Sanctuary Cities

Svante Myrick '09, pictured before the COVID-19 outbreak, expressed concerns that the newest relief package aids corporations more than municipalities.

In a move to defend its sanctuary city status, the City of Ithaca recently filed an amicus curiae brief supporting a motion by the City of Chicago to halt the enforcement of new federal grant conditions that would penalize sanctuary cities.

According to a city press release dated Sept. 1, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 joined 35 cities, counties and municipal agencies in filing the brief, which argues that the new Department of Justice federal grant conditions are unconstitutional.

The conditions would withhold a main source of grant funding for law enforcement, crime prevention, crime victim programs, witness programs and other services from state and local governments that refuse to help enforce federal immigration law, according to the press release.

“The DOJ’s new conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“Byrne JAG”) program violate federal law, usurp local control over public safety policy, erode the community trust on which local law enforcement depends, and pose serious challenges for local governments like amici,” read the brief. “A nationwide preliminary injunction is required to prevent their enforcement and protect communities throughout the United States.”

Under the grant conditions, the City of Ithaca — which adopted a sanctuary city ordinance in early February — would be disqualified from this source of federal grant funding due to its sanctuary city status, the reasoning behind which the press release further explained.

“Many cities and counties around the country have decided that limiting their involvement in federal immigration enforcement best promotes public safety by empowering all community members to report crimes and serve as witnesses, avoiding creating a class of ‘silent victims’ who feel local law enforcement doesn’t serve them,” the release said.

Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr ’77, law, says he is glad that Ithaca filed the brief, noting that it shows the city is backing up its sanctuary status.

“It certainly seems that the City of Ithaca is committed to continuing to be a sanctuary city despite efforts of the DOJ to penalize sanctuary cities,” he said.

After President Trump’s DACA announcement last week, Myrick tweeted his agreement with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed a suit to protect Dreamers in New York State.

And back in January 2017, Myrick pledged support for DACA students at his 2017 State of the City address, where he claimed that Ithacan officials would “protect DACA students … from forcible deportation.”

In the midst of a fierce federal push to tighten national borders, Ithaca city officials have reaffirmed their determination to protect undocumented immigrants.

“The new DOJ conditions only confirm for me our obligation to act, to preserve our communities as bastions of the American dream, welcoming the newcomer and so energizing the cross-cultural currents that have long made this country strong,” Myrick said in the release.