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Federal Judge Rules Trump’s Sanctuary City Order as Unconstitutional

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On Monday, November 20, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California blocked the efforts of President Trump and the Department of Justice to withhold federal grant funding based upon a locality’s “sanctuary city” status.  The ruling nullifies a White Order Executive Order from January that was intended to discourage and crack down on local governments that refused to comply with certain requests from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to question and detain individuals based upon their immigration status.

The lawsuits, filed by the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara in Northern California, argued that President Trump’s executive order was unconstitutional.  District Judge William Orrick agreed, finding that it violated the separation of powers doctrine, as well as the Fifth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution.  The judge held that the “Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Executive Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.  Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that they not be unduly coercive.  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.”

This lawsuit stems from a suit in April of this year, in which Judge Orrick issued a preliminary injunction against the White House from withholding federal funding over the sanctuary city issue.  Following that ruling, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley stated that the court had overstepped its boundaries and that the DOJ would continue to follow the president’s executive order.

It is likely that the White House will appeal the latest injunction, and the NMM Immigration Blog will continue to cover this issue as it develops.