Withholding Funds from Sanctuary Cities Illegal

President Trump lost his bid to punish San Francisco and other sanctuary cities by withholding federal grant money. A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday the punishment is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas

“We conclude that, under the principle of separation of powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the executive branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization, wrote Judge Sidney Thomas for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While the panel upheld an injunction against the Trump administration applied to San Francisco, Santa Clara County, and the rest of California, it vacated the nationwide injunction imposed by U.S. District Judge William Orrick and sent the issue back to him for further proceedings.

To the extent the injunction applies outside California, the district court needs to conduct a more detailed inquiry into the breadth of a national injunction.

The 9th Circuit panel voted 2-1 to strike down the injunction, with Judge Ferdinand Fernandez dissenting. He did not base his dissent on the merits of the claims but instead said the case was not ripe for review now.

Thomas, in the majority, harked back to Alexander Hamilton who he said, “succinctly put it, Congress ‘commands the purse.’”

Thomas also pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court has said that aside from the power of veto, the President “is without authority to thwart congressional will by canceling appropriations passed by Congress.”

San Francisco and Santa Clara sued in 2017 after Trump issued an executive order that sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration policy are not eligible to receive federal grants, except for law enforcement purposes.

While Congress has the exclusive power to spend, the president has a corresponding obligation to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. This includes to enforce appropriations approved by Congress, the majority held.

Case: City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, No. 17-17478


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