Sanctuary Cities Saved by Federal Judge

On Tuesday a District Court judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked President Trump’s January executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities who do not comply with the administration’s mass deportation efforts.

The judge ruled that Trump did not have the authority to make funding for all grants and programs conditional on compliance with the single issue of immigration enforcement, saying that power belonged to Congress. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the federal government cannot force states to comply with federal programs, and the 10th amendment requires that the federal funds at stake must be associated with the exact policy in question.

While the lawyers from the Justice Department tried to argue that Trump did not intend to withhold significant amounts of federal funding from sanctuary cities, the judge said that the president and attorney general’s public statements on the matter contradicted the government’s argument.

The judge’s ruling is temporarily in place nationwide until he can reach a larger decision on the order’s constitutionality, though he implied that the final decision was likely to grant a victory to the plaintiffs.

“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,” said Dennis Herrera, the attorney for San Francisco city. “Because San Francisco took this president to court, we’ve been able to protect billions of dollars that fund lifesaving programs across this country.”

Sanctuary city is a broad term with no exact definition, but the general consensus among them is a declaration by local authorities that they will not comply with oppressive federal immigration crackdowns. That means that they will largely not cooperate in raids, turn over undocumented immigrants who are arrested on minor charges, or allow police to ask individuals about their immigration status.

San Francisco argued that by trying to deputize local officers to act as immigration agents, the administration was threatening public safety by breaking trust between law enforcement and the community they are meant to serve. Immigrants documented and not, would be less likely to report crimes or assist in investigations.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County filed suit after they estimated they could lose over $1 billion and $1.7 billion in federal funding respectively. Since then, five other local governments have also filed suit and others have said they will do so if Trump attempts to follow through with the executive order.

A report by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found that of the 168 counties where most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants live, 69 have declined the administration’s request to detain people based on immigration status while 99 counties have accepted to the federal request.

Trump has encountered a number of judicial setbacks to his immigration orders, most significantly the temporary blocks of his travel ban on people from seven, and later revised to six, Muslim majority countries.

Media Resources: New York Times 4/25/17; Washington Post 4/26/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 2/1/17

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