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Judge Blocks Trump’s Order to Cut Sanctuary Cities’ Funds

April 27, 2017

By Alberto Garcia

A federal judge in Washington State has blocked the Trump Administration from cutting funding to sanctuary cities, dealing another blow to the new president during his first 100 days in office.

The injunction, issued by U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick, was in response to a lawsuit filed by the City and County of San Francisco, Santa Clara County, and other localities that have been under threat of losing hundreds of millions in federal funds simply because they have refused to enforce immigration laws within their jurisdictions.

“The Counties have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to Section 9(a) of the Executive Order, that they will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of harms and public interest weigh in their favor,” Judge Orrick wrote in his order.

Although the order blocks implementation of the proposed cuts nationally, the Judge did not rule on the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds to cities, counties, and states that have deemed themselves sanctuary status.

“Faced with the law, the Trump administration was forced to back down,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or choose to ignore it,” Herrera added.

President Trump reacted to the news of the injunction in much the same way he has over the other actions taken by courts in regard to past executive orders; he lashed out on Twitter.

“First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban and now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!” Trump wrote.

President Trump, new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have made public statements threatening to withhold federal funds to sanctuary cities. Judge Orrick cited those comments as evidence that the President’s order was much broader than what the government lawyers were arguing in court.
“If there was doubt about the scope of the order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Judge Orrick wrote. “The President has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that ‘counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cities don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.”

The arguments used by the federal government’s lawyers narrowed the potential enforceability of Trump’s order because they argued it only applied to requiring cities to report the citizenship status of a person in custody, something just about every local jurisdiction already does. In that case, most cities would feel comfortable their federal funds would not be at risk.

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with local mayors and explained the federal definition of “sanctuary jurisdiction” as those that violate the requirement to report citizenship status. After the meeting, Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler said he felt that his city would be safe from Trump’s proposed cuts.

“Based on the conversation we’ve had last night and today, I don’t think Austin and Travis County qualify as a sanctuary city,” Mayor Adler said.

Judge Orrick’s order can be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that upheld Trump’s first immigrant ban in March. Trump and Congressional Republicans have dismissed both orders as overreaching, and have pledged to appeal them.

The term “sanctuary” has been used in various cities and counties throughout that country where local elected leaders have decided not to investigate, arrest, or detain people solely based on their immigration status. Those jurisdictions argue that enforcement of immigration laws is a federal matter and that their local resources should not be used to carry out duties that federal agencies should be doing and paying for.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities, continuing his hard stance on immigration he championed during his campaign. He issued his Executive Order on January 25, just five days after being sworn in.

The California State Senate recently passed Senate Bill 58 by Senator Kevin de Leon that would prohibit local and state law enforcement from “using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes”, essentially applying the sanctuary city model to the entire state. SB 58 passed the Senate on a party line vote, and must now pass the Assembly before it can go to Governor Brown for his approval.

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