Trump’s Sanctuary City Defunding Order Blocked

A federal judge issued a nationwide injunction Tuesday to halt President Trump’s plan to punish sanctuary cities by taking away federal money.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Orrick III, in San Francisco.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County argued Trump’s executive order, signed on January 25, violated constitutional separation of powers doctrine by usurping spending powers reserved for Congress, violated Tenth Amendment prohibition on commandeering local jurisdictions, was vague and violated Fifth Amendment due process rights.

Justice Department lawyers argued on April 14 that the new Executive Order signed by Trump only affected three federal grants issued to local jurisdictions and that the local governments lacked standing to bring the challenge.

The DOJ lawyers said during the April arguments that the President was merely exercising the “bully pulpit” to highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement.

Orrick said that interpretation, however, would render the executive order “toothless” because the government already had the power to enforce the terms of the grant programs.  He noted the President has called the order “a weapon” to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration and that his press secretary, Sean Spicer, has said the President intends to ensure sanctuary cities won’t get funder funding.

In addition, the Attorney General has warned  it could withhold grants, end grants, debar cities from future grants and claw back previously awarded funds.

The city and county have shown they are likely to succeed in their suit and that the balance of harms tips in favor of the city and county. He pointed out, for example, that ICE does not reimburse local jurisdictions for the cost of immigration holds on prisoners kept beyond their release dates.

San Francisco became a sanctuary city in 1989 because its leaders believe the city is safer if undocumented immigrants believe it is safe to report crimes.

Orrick noted that while the federal government cannot punish sanctuary jurisdictions by withholding all types of funds, it does have the authority to demand compliance with the terms of the three grant programs related to local law enforcement and immigration.

Case: Santa Clara County v. Trump, No. 17-cv-574

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