A month after a federal judge in San Francisco told the Trump administration that they could not block federal funding from sanctuary cities like SF that had nothing to do with immigration or law enforcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a guidance memo Monday afternoon laying out the administration's current intentions. As the Washington Post reports, the President's sweeping promises to withhold billions of dollars in annual funding to sanctuary cities unless they began cooperating with ICE appear to have been walked back following this latest run-in with a federal judge, with Sessions stating as Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler previously had in court that the administration's intention is only to withhold Justice and Homeland Security Department grants relating to law enforcement.
Sessions further said that future grants to cities may be "tailor[ed]" and otherwise contingent on complying with federal immigration law.
The attorney general defined sanctuary cities as "those that violate a federal law requiring local and state governments to share information with federal officials about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status." And the intention of the memo appears to be to get US District Judge William H. Orrick to reconsider his April injunction against the president's executive order regarding sanctuary cities by clarifying that the withheld funds will only be law enforcement grants.
Federal lawyers in the case filed a motion late Monday requesting the judge's reconsideration based on the memo, as the Post reports.
Many US cities with sanctuary city policies panicked in January after President Trump issued his order threatening to withhold billions in federal dollars connected to education, health care, and other programs, with Miami-Dade County being the only locality to reverse its policy in the face of the threat. San Francisco was the first city to file suit against the administration in late January, a suit that was later joined by the county of Santa Clara.
CBS 5 notes that for Alameda County, the withholding of these grants will amount to about $15 million annually, and that is "a lot less than the original threat."
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the withheld grants would amount to "not that much" for SF, and issued a statement in reaction:
This guidance memo is coming from an administration that has a different explanation for things seemingly every time you turn around. The memo is a self-serving document. We can’t rely on it, and we can’t trust it. It is trying to blunt the resounding loss the Trump administration suffered on our motion for a preliminary injunction, but the memo doesn’t change the constitutional problems of the executive order. That order tried to take away all federal funding from sanctuary cities, and we can't trust this administration not to make good on its threats. The bottom line is this is about local governments knowing what’s best when it comes to using their limited law enforcement resources to protect their community. The federal government can’t hold a gun to the head of cities and counties and force them to spend their limited police resources on immigration enforcement. The federal government can’t force local governments to do its job for it. We want to use our law enforcement resources to fight violent crime, not take hard-working mothers away from their children.
Sanctuary cities became a cause célèbre on Fox News and in other conservative media especially after the 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle on San Francisco's Pier 14, allegedly by repeatedly deported immigrant Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez had never been convicted of a violent crime, and evidence has pointed to the fact that the stolen weapon Lopez-Sanchez had at the time of the shooting may have discharged accidentally.
President Trump invoked Steinle's name multiple times on the campaign trail, and Steinle's family has repeatedly asked that her story not be politicized or used for political gain.