Federal Judge Permanently Blocks Trump's Order on Sanctuary Cities

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A federal judge in California has permanently blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order to cut federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” that did not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, deeming the measure unconstitutional.

In his November 20 opinion, California District Judge William H. Orrick ruled that Trump's January 25 executive order violated the Fifth and Tenth amendments and the separation of powers doctrine. Orrick had temporarily halted the executive order from going into effect back in April, and the move to block the order is in response to the original lawsuit filed by the city of San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County against the Trump administration.

In his ruling, Orrick pointed out that while the federal government had tried to convince him that the executive order was a narrow measure that didn’t place conditions on federal funds, statements straight from the Trump Administration demonstrated otherwise.

“And if there was ever a doubt about the scope of the executive order, the President and Attorney General erased it with their public comments," Orrick wrote. "The President called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary 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.'"

Orrick also pointed out that Trump didn’t have the power to withhold federal funds from states, writing that “the Constitution vets spending powers in Congress, not the President,” nor could Trump place “unduly coercive” conditions on federal funds.

“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,” Orrick wrote.

Trump's January crackdown on sanctuary cities was echoed in the Texas Legislature as lawmakers worked to pass Senate Bill 4, a similar measure dubbed a “show me your papers” law.

SB 4, which was signed into law in June, allows local law enforcement to question legally detained or arrested people about their immigration status, and it could potentially land law enforcement leaders in jail or require them to pay a fine if they discourage officers from asking about immigration status. It also makes all detainer requests from ICE (requests to hold a person with unclear or undocumented legal status for 48 hours after they would have otherwise been released so ICE can pick them up) mandatory.

In his ruling, however, Orrick reiterates that detainer requests are “voluntary and local governments are not required to honor them.”

Similar to the executive order, the state legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott had pushed for SB 4 to include a provision that would cut state funding from cities or counties that acted as “sanctuary cities,” or refused to comply with all immigration detainer requests. Abbott withheld $1.5 million in governor’s grants from Travis County in response to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy that limited cooperation with federal immigration enforcement — she had opted to only carry out detainers for violent crimes, including murder, aggravated sexual assault or human trafficking.

Ultimately, SB 4 passed without the provision that withheld funding for noncompliance. Instead, the legislature established a competitive grant program for cities or counties enforcing immigration laws and complying with detainer requests to receive more state funds.

A lawsuit filed by several Texas cities and counties against the state to halt SB 4 from going into effect continues to play out in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) told the Current it's unclear if the California ruling will have an effect on the SB 4 trial, since the Fifth Circuit is not obligated to defer to a district court judge's decision across the country.


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