A three-judge panel—all of whom are Republican appointees—ruled that there were strong indications that the administration exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the new conditions without approval from Congress.
In a strongly worded opinion, Judge Ilana Rovner said allowing federal agencies to add conditions to grant funds without explicit congressional authority could lead toward “tyranny.”
“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. But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds,” Rovner wrote, in an opinion joined by Judge William Bauer. “It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power.”
One judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel, Daniel Manion, said he would narrow the injunction to protect only Chicago.
“The nationwide injunction is simply unnecessary here,” Manion wrote. “Other jurisdictions that do not want to comply with the Notice and Access conditions were not parties to this suit, and there is no need to protect them in order to protect Chicago. An injunction, particularly a preliminary injunction, is an extreme remedy. A nationwide preliminary injunction is more extreme still. One should only be issued where it is absolutely necessary, and it is far from absolutely necessary here.”
However, the nationwide injunction freezing the Justice Department’s effort will remain in place since Rovner and Bauer ruled that Chicago-based U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber’s order that it apply across the country appeared to be justified.
The Justice Department has found little traction in court for its policy. Judges in Philadelphia and Los Angeles also blocked attempts to add the immigration-related conditions to new federal grants.
Rovner was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, Bauer by President Gerald Ford and Manion by President Ronald Reagan, all Republicans.