Judge Halts Trump’s Order on Sanctuary Cities. What Does It Mean?

A federal judge out of San Francisco has temporarily halted Donald Trump’s efforts to defund so-called “sanctuary cities.” Here’s some of what you need to know.

The preliminary injunction came in response to the lawsuits filed by San Francisco and Santa Clara.

San Francisco filed its lawsuit at the beginning of February. Santa Clara followed suit. The ruling means Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities will be halted nationwide.

The judge said Trump's order was too broad.

Under federal law, the Department of Justice can only withhold specific funds from jurisdictions that refuse to comply with the law. However, Trump’s EO addressed all federal funding, casting too wide of a net, said Judge William H. Orrick. The Trump Administration’s public statements once again played a role in the judge’s ruling. “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. He also cited Trump’s use of the term “weapon” when threatening to defund.

Trump’s Executive Order Threatens Separation of Powers.

“The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” according to the judge. “Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that the total financial incentive not be coercive. Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration strategy of which the President disapproves.”

The counties had legal standing to sue.

Despite the administration’s claims to the contrary, Judge Orrick ruled that the counties had legal standing in the case. First, the loss of federal funding would have an enormous deleterious impact on their budgets. Second, given their current policies on federal immigration detainer requests, the judge said they are highly likely to be targeted by the order. The judge once again cited statements to the media that show Trump was likely to target these jurisdictions: “In a February 5, 2017 interview, President Trump specifically threatened to defund California, stating: ‘I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime. There’s a lot of problems. If we have to we’ll defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California . . . California in many ways is out of control.’”

The Definition of “Sanctuary Cities” is up in the air and that’s a problem.

Jurisdictions deserve to know what they can do to avoid a loss of funding under Trump’s EO, but the order doesn’t make that clear, said the judge. For starters, the EO does not even define “sanctuary city.” That has reopened up an entire public discussion on what it means to be a sanctuary city in the first place.

The White House responded to the ruling Tuesday.

"Today's ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping. But 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," it said in a statement.

An appeal by the Government would send the case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

You can read the entire opinion here


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