Sam Levin, The Guardian, April 25, 2017
A US judge has blocked Donald Trump’s order cutting off funding to “sanctuary cities”, dealing a major blow to the president’s anti-immigrant agenda and setting the stage for another legal battle after the ongoing travel ban dispute. The White House has responded with fury, calling it another case of “egregious overreach by a single unelected judge”.
A California judge issued a nationwide injunction on Tuesday blocking enforcement of Trump’s executive order targeting cities and counties across the US that have pledged to be a safe haven to the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The order, in line with one of Trump’s signature campaign pledges, is aimed at forcing cities to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in deportation efforts by withholding government funding.
San Francisco was the first US city to challenge the order with a lawsuit in January, arguing that blocking funding to municipalities that protect immigrants was unconstitutional and a federal overreach that violated the sovereignty of the liberal California city.
US district judge William Orrick ruled that San Francisco and Santa Clara County, which joined the lawsuit, have demonstrated that they are “likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge” and that “the balance of harms and public interest weigh in their favor”.
The ruling is a significant rebuke to Trump as he nears the 100-day mark of his presidency and is the latest example of local progressive governments successfully thwarting key policy efforts of the administration.
The decision came days after the US Department of Justice sent letters to nine jurisdictions demanding that they provide proof of cooperation with federal immigration authorities or risk losing grant money.
The DoJ claimed in a statement on Tuesday that the ruling upheld the government’s “ability to use lawful means to enforce existing conditions of federal grants” and said “it will follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions”. It’s unclear how the DoJ may challenge the order, which temporarily halts the president’s executive order as the lawsuit moves forward.
An angry White House statement on Tuesday night said the judge’s ruling facilitated “the dangerous and unlawful nullification of federal law in an attempt to erase our borders”. The Trump administration would “pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary cities threat”.
“This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk,” said the statement.
Trump echoed this early on Wednesday morning, tweeting: “First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities – both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!”
He added: “Out of our very big country, with many choices, does everyone notice that both the ‘ban’ case and now the ‘sanctuary’ case is brought in … the Ninth Circuit, which has a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80%). They used to call this ‘judge shopping!’ Messy system.”