President Trump’s administration order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with the U.S. immigration authorities was blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday. The judge pointed out that the president has no authority to attach new conditions to federal spending.
The temporary ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge William Orrick in a lawsuit against the executive order targeting so-called sanctuary cities. Orrick’s decision will be effective while the lawsuit works its way through court.
Two California governments and Trump’s administration that sued over the order disagreed about its scope during a recent court hearing.
Santa Clara County and San Francisco County argued that it threatened billions of dollars in federal funding for each of them, adding that the move would make it difficult to plan their budgets.
The acting assistant attorney general, Chad Readler, revealed that the county and San Francisco were interpreting the executive order too broadly. It turns out that the funding cutoff applies to three Justice Department and Homeland Security Department grants that require complying with a federal law that local governments not block officials from providing people's immigration status.
Chad Readler revealed that the order would have an effect of less than $1 million in funding for Santa Clara County and possibly no money for San Francisco.
Readler also indicated that President Donald Trump was using a bully pulpit to encourage communities and states to comply with the law.
Judge Orrick’s ruling sided with San Francisco and Santa Clara. Orrick said that the order attempts to reach all federal grants, not merely the three mentioned at the hearing, adding that the rest of the order is broader still, addressing all federal funding.
Orrick said that 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.
President Trump’s administration says that sanctuary cities allow dangerous criminals back on the street and that the order is needed to keep the country safe.
The order also provoked lawsuits by Seattle; two Massachusetts cities, Lawrence and Chelsea; and a third San Francisco Bay Area government, the city of Richmond. The San Francisco and Santa Clara County suits were the first to get a hearing before a judge.
The county government in collaboration with San Francisco and the county argued in court documents that the president did not have the authority to set conditions on the allocation of federal funds and could not force local officials to enforce federal immigration law.
They also revealed that Trump's order applied to local governments that didn't detain immigrants for possible deportation in response to federal requests, not just those that refused to provide people's immigration status.
In response, the Department of Justice indicated that the city and county's lawsuits were premature. President Trump has signed several immigration measures since January. Mr. Trump also banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.