A federal judge in San Francisco has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against an executive order signed by President Trump in January threatening to withhold federal funding from cities that do not provide full law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities, a.k.a. so-called "sanctuary cities." It's yet another blow to the Trump Administration and its first-100-days agenda, and the third time that members of the federal judiciary have struck down an executive order that the president signed.
As the New York Times reports, Judge William H. Orrick of United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued the injunction Tuesday following a lawsuit that was brought jointly by the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara. Judge Orrick wrote that both jurisdictions "have a strong interest in avoiding unconstitutional federal enforcement and the significant budget uncertainty that has resulted from the Order’s broad and threatening language."
It became unclear, however, as the case unfolded, how serious the administration continues to be about backing up that threatening language with action. During a hearing in the case two weeks ago, Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler tried to walk back the threats of the executive order, suggesting that "We don’t know yet exactly how the policy is going to be applied," and saying that San Francisco and Santa Clara counties likely had little to worry about in terms of federal dollars lost. Readler said at the hearing that the order likely only applied to "a limited range of grants" from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and this would likely result in no impacts for San Francisco, and $1 million lost for Santa Clara.
Judge Orrick suggested that such grants might legally still be withheld if conditions for providing them already exist and such "sanctuary city" status violates those conditions.
Further, Orrick wrote, "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."
Fox News has posted the full ruling here, noting that Judge Orrick did not buy Readler's argument about the enforcement of the order being limited, writing, "by its plain language, [the order] attempts to reach all federal grants, not merely the three mentioned at the hearing."
Meanwhile, as NPR reported on Friday, in advance of this decision the Justice Department sent out a stern warning to eight sanctuary jurisdictions, escalating pressure with regard to Justice Department grants and saying that "Failure to comply with [immigration law] could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future ... grants, or other action, as appropriate." And there continues to be argument, as the Washington Examiner reports, about how to define what a sanctuary city actually is.
Orrick's ruling follows on other injunctions issued by federal judges in Washington, California, and Hawaii that have called into question the constitutionality of the president's other executive order pertaining to those traveling or immigrating from seven Muslim-majority countries. Last month, a federal judge in Hawaii further blocked the president's revised version of the same order.
As was the case in those rulings, Trump's public comments, beyond the language of the order itself, were cited by Judge Orrick, in particular comments made by the president that the order was intended as a "weapon" to keep sanctuary jurisdictions in line.
Reuters had a reaction statement from Dave Cortese, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, who said, "The politics of fear emanating from the Trump White House has just suffered a major setback."
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying he "applauds" the decision, and adding, "San Francisco is and will remain a Sanctuary City. We know that Sanctuary Cities are safer, healthier, more productive places to live." Also, Lee says, "San Francisco’s Sanctuary City laws are in compliance with federal law. If the federal government believes there is a need to detain a serious criminal they can obtain a criminal warrant, which we will honor, as we always have."
So far, the President has yet to react on Twitter.
Update: As of about 6 a.m. Wednesday, the President had this to say:
First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the "ban" case and now the "sanctuary" case is brought in ...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
...the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017