Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trump’s ‘Sanctuary City’ Order Blocked by Federal Judge in San Francisco
Moina Shaiq holds a sign at a rally outside City Hall in San Francisco in January. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

By Maria Sacchetti April 25 at 6:52 PM

A federal judge in San Francisco dealt the Trump administration another legal blow Tuesday, temporarily halting President Trump’s threat to withhold federal funding from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick imposed a nationwide injunction against a Jan. 25 executive order authorizing the attorney general to withhold federal grant money from what are called sanctuary jurisdictions that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration officials.

Orrick called the order “broad” and “vague” and said the plaintiffs, the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, were likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuits challenging it.

In the 49-page ruling, Orrick pointed to discrepancies in the Trump administration’s interpretation of the executive order. In court, the government’s lawyers suggested that cities and towns were overreacting to the order because federal officials have not yet defined sanctuary cities or moved to withhold funding from them.

But on television and in news conferences, the judge pointed out, the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have threatened to sanction cities and towns that do not cooperate with immigration officials, leaving local officials nationwide fearful that they will lose funding for vital services.

“The result of this schizophrenic approach to the Order is that the Counties’ worst fears are not allayed and the Counties reasonably fear enforcement under the Order,” the judge wrote.

“The threat of the Order and the uncertainty it is causing impermissibly interferes with the Counties’ ability to operate, to provide key services, to plan for the future, and to budget.”

Trump says that sanctuary cities put Americans at risk by refusing to hold immigrants who have been arrested or convicted of serious crimes so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take them into custody and deport them.

Sanctuary cities’ officials counter that they do not have the legal authority to hold a person after a judge in a criminal case has ordered that person released.

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Holding people on immigration offenses is generally a civil process, rather than a criminal one.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups said the judge’s ruling offered a clear warning that Trump’s order — the third to be blocked, at least partially, in federal court — is illegal.

“Once again, the courts have spoken to defend tolerance, diversity and inclusion from the illegal threats of the Trump administration,” said ACLU National Political Director Faiz Shakir in a statement. “Once again, Trump has overreached and lost.”

Orrick signaled that the government would be within its rights to pull back federal grant money that came with immigration-related strings attached. His ruling largely blocked the administration from doing things its lawyers had said in court it would not do, such as strip health-care funding from cities and towns.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it would essentially continue business as usual, as the court had blessed its ability to withhold grant money that came with immigration-related conditions.

“The Department of Justice previously stated to the Court, and reiterates now, that it will follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions,” the department said. “Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions . . . Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions.”

In court, the Justice Department had essentially argued that Trump’s order was a restating of existing law.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee (D) applauded Orrick’s ruling, saying his jurisdiction “is and will remain a Sanctuary City. We know that Sanctuary Cities are safer, healthier, more productive places to live.”

“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,” Lee said in a statement.

Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

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