Trump’s Sanctuary Cities Order Blocked by Federal Judge

Updated on
  • San Francisco, Santa Clara County win nationwide ban on cuts
  • White House chief of staff says some judges ‘going bananas’


The Trump administration vowed to keep fighting to cut funding to so-called sanctuary cities and accused the federal judge who blocked its plans of ignoring immigration law.

The ruling Tuesday bars President Donald Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration. As with its temporary travel ban on six mostly Muslim nations now on appeal, the White House said it expected to ultimately win its case against sanctuary cities in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country,” the White House said in a statement. “San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.”

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

Forcing sanctuary cities to cooperate with deporting undocumented immigrants was a key component of the president’s campaign vow to rid the U.S. of “bad hombres” entering from Mexico. The ruling further frustrates an administration mired in litigation over immigration policy since its ninth day.

The win by the city of San Francisco and its Silicon Valley neighbor, Santa Clara County, reinforces similar sanctuary policies in some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The decision was applauded by Democratic leaders and groups that also fought Trump’s travel ban, which was found by judges to violate the Constitution’s ban on religious bias.

California Resistance

The ruling also bolsters California’s aspirations to lead the resistance against the Trump administration’s agenda. This month, the state Senate passed the California Values Act, a measure that would give the entire state sanctuary status by prohibiting its agencies from sharing certain information with U.S. counterparts or detaining individuals on orders from Washington.

While Trump had declared that sanctuary jurisdictions cause “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic," U.S. District Judge William Orrick agreed with the city and county that the the president’s Jan. 25 order violated the Constitution by threatening to deprive them of funding for local programs.

Read More: Why ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Are a Target for Trump: QuickTake Q&A

Orrick, in his order, found the city and county were likely to succeed on their claims that Trump was attempting to wield powers “exclusive to Congress," and that the executive order violates the Constitution’s Fifth and Tenth amendments. As such, the judge rejected the federal government’s argument that any injunction issued in the case should apply only to San Francisco and Santa Clara County.

Tough Talk

"These constitutional violations are not limited to San Francisco or Santa Clara, but apply equally to all states and local jurisdictions," Orrick said. The judge found that the Justice Department’s claim that the order’s scope was limited to a few grants was undermined by the Trump Administration’s tough talk against sanctuary cities.

The judge, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, scheduled a trial in the case for March 5.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the ruling reflects the regional judicial circuit that includes California’s federal courts “going bananas.”

A Justice Department spokesman said the ruling doesn’t prohibit the federal government from taking action against communities that violate immigration laws.

“We are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States,” the White House said in its statement.

‘Lawful Authority’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in March that the administration would use “all the lawful authority we have to make sure that our state and local officials are in sync with the federal government."

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think-tank that supports Trump’s immigration policies, said the law allows the government to slash financial aid from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with immigration norms.

"This, like the travel ban rulings, is a purely political maneuver by a judge who opposes the Trump administration’s policies, and has nothing to do with law," Krikorian said in an email.

On April 21, Sessions wrote letters to California and other cities to set a June 30 deadline for local governments to prove their compliance with federal policy. Those who miss the deadline will risk losing federal funds tied to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that provides states and local governments with funding for law enforcement, prosecution and courts.

Minimal Losses

In all, the U.S. Office of Justice Programs issued $376 million in Justice Assistance Grants in fiscal 2016, including $17 million to California. San Francisco and Santa Clara County didn’t receive the letter, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office. San Francisco may have lost as little as $1.5 million if Trump’s order had survived the court challenge.

Although the executive order’s budgetary impact on sanctuary jurisdictions may be minimal, Sessions’s calls for compliance have remained fierce.

“There are holdouts,” Sessions said in an April 11 speech to police chiefs. “Some mayors and city councils, and even a police chief and a sheriff here and there, are refusing to work with the federal government, choosing instead to protect the criminal aliens who harm public safety. For the sake of your communities, families, and children, work with us.”

After Trump issued his executive order, the administration asked Congress to draft a 2017 spending bill that includes a provision to withhold federal funds from states and local governments that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Immigrants Fearful

Even without funding cuts, the city and county argued the president’s order had already made their residents, especially immigrants, fearful that local police had been commandeered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would detain and deport them if they sought help in an emergency. Most sanctuary cities turn over criminals convicted of serious crimes to federal agents.

ICE agents have executed regional detention and removal programs on a weekly basis to arrest “criminal aliens” en mass. From April 2 to April 6, ICE said it arrested 368 foreign nationals across the country, including in New York City, Denver, Colorado and Washington. One of them was a Guatemalan man who had been released by New Jersey authorities after Camden County declined to honor a detainer request filed by ICE.

The cases are City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, 17-cv-00485, and County of Santa Clara v. Trump, 17-cv-00574, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Watch Next: Sessions Urges Sanctuary Cities to Rethink Policies

— With assistance by Toluse Olorunnipa, and Margaret Talev

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