On Tuesday, April 25, San Francisco Federal Judge William H. Orrick blocked the enforcement of President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities nationwide.
Trump’s executive order called for the withholding of federal funds from cities that serve as sanctuaries for undocumented or “under-documented” immigrants. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are often considered sanctuary cities. Although the definition of a sanctuary city is open to some interpretation, these cities are commonly characterized as cities that restrict their cooperation with federal immigration authorities by preventing local police from inquiring about immigration status, enforcing deportation codes or declining to report unauthorized immigrants in local prisons.
Trump’s effort to withhold funds from sanctuary cities is part of his ongoing initiative to stiffen immigration control. Judge Orrick ruled that a threat of this nature has the potential to be unconstitutional because it could violate rights granted to individual states by the Constitution.
According to the Constitution, the federal government is not allowed to pressure states or cities into the implementation of any federal program.
Additionally, the Tenth Amendment regulates the government’s power to withhold funds, requiring that the funds in question be related to the law at issue. For example, education funding cannot be revoked due to immigration laws.
According to Orrick, the mandate has the potential to cause, “immediate, irreparable harm” to the areas that would be affected by its implementation.
San Francisco city officials argued that this type of policy would effectively seize power from local authorities, forcing them to act in accordance with federal immigration mandates, in turn producing a massive disconnect between municipal authorities and immigrants. This disconnect would shatter the trust between the groups, creating a breach in public safety as immigrants would be less inclined to report crimes or stand as witnesses.
Before his inauguration and since taking office, Trump has repeatedly chastised sanctuary cities for sheltering lawbreakers through a lack of cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, pledging to protect America through the imposition of harsher immigration restrictions.
On Tuesday night, the White House released a statement referring to the ruling as an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”
In defense of Trump’s recent mandate, the Department of Justice argued that the size of funds withheld would not be significant. However, previous statements made by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have implicated sizable economic punishments for sanctuary cities.
Although Judge Orrick’s ruling blocks the government from punishing sanctuary jurisdictions, it does allow for conditional fund provisions for these cities. Orrick’s ruling, however, is only a temporary jurisdiction against Trump’s immigration agenda. If the case is appealed, the verdict is expected to economically-impede sanctuary cities. The ruling has been met by much relief in sanctuary cities.
James Williams, County Counsel to County of Santa Clara, California, supported Orrick’s motion.
“This is an absolutely huge win,” Williams told CNN. “The threat to withhold funds from state and local governments in this executive order is dead.”
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera spoke to the positive effects Orrick’s motion will have on his jurisdiction.
“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 choose to ignore it,” Herrera said in a statement. “Because San Francisco took this president to court, we’ve been able to protect billions of dollars that fund lifesaving programs across this country.”