WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - The Trump administration, escalating its fight with so-called sanctuary cities, asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to narrow a lower court's nationwide order preventing the federal government from denying public safety grants to municipalities that limit cooperation on immigration enforcement.
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The Justice Department asked the high court to make the injunction issued by a federal judge in Chicago cover only that city and not the entire country. Republican President Donald Trump's administration has gone on an offensive against Democratic-governed cities and states that protect undocumented immigrants as part of his hard-line immigration policies.
The Justice Department said the injunction "strays far beyond the traditional, proper role of federal courts." The justices likely will ask the city of Chicago for a response before deciding on the request.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized lower courts for imposing nationwide injunctions against some of the administration's most contentious policies.
Chicago sued the administration last year after Sessions said he would cut off cities from certain grants unless they allowed federal immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and provided advance notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.
Since the injunction was issued last year, the Justice Department said it has not issued grants to the nearly 1,000 state and local jurisdictions that have applied, amounting to more than $250 million in funds.
The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction in April, saying Sessions likely exceeded his authority in imposing the conditions on the grants. The 7th Circuit said that because nationwide injunctions have such a powerful effect, judges should rarely grant them, but doing so was proper in this case.
Nationwide injunctions also have blocked Trump's bid to wind down a program protecting immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children from deportation, and to exempt more religious-based employers from a requirement that health insurance provided to employees covers birth control for women.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)