Judge blocks Trump from slashing sanctuary city funds

A federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday blocked an executive order by President Donald Trump that threatened to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction in a pair of lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County.

Orrick wrote that the “plain language” of the order issued by Trump on Jan. 25 threatens all federal funding for cities, counties and states deemed by the Trump administration to be sanctuary jurisdictions shielding undocumented immigrants from federal deportations.

The judge said it is unconstitutional for the executive branch to place new conditions on federal funds because that would intrude on Congress’s spending power.

“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” 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,” the judge said in the ruling.

Orrick rejected an argument made at a hearing earlier this month by a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who contended the order should be interpreted narrowly to apply only to a limited set of federal criminal justice grants.

The judge said that argument was not plausible because the wording of Trump’s order addressed all federal funding and because Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had made broad statements threatening to withhold, terminate or claw back federal funding.

Orrick said his ruling did not prevent the government from enforcing any existing conditions imposed on federal grants or from developing regulations to define a sanctuary jurisdiction.

The San Francisco and Santa Clara County lawsuits were among several filed around the nation to challenge the executive order, but were the first to receive a judicial ruling. Another of the pending lawsuits was filed in federal court in San Francisco by the city of Richmond.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement, “We’re fighting for the United States Constitution and we succeeded after the Trump Administration tried to do an end run around it. The court’s decision is a win for the neediest people in our nation.” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also issued a statement about today’s ruling.

“Faced with the law, the Trump administration was forced to back down,” Herrera said. “This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it.”