A San Francisco judge has said “no” to President Trump’s executive order to reduce federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities. The ruling temporarily blocks efforts to force localities to cooperate with immigration enforcement.
Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court said only Congress could place such conditions on spending and that the president has overstepped his boundaries.
The ruling applies nationwide, and was the third setback for the Trump Administration. Earlier this year, two temporary bans on travel—from several predominantly Muslim countries—were blocked by federal judges.
Justice Department lawyers argued in the case that the government did not intend to withhold significant amounts of money. However, Orrick noted that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had suggested the punishment could be far greater.
The block was also an early verdict on the question of whether the White House can coerce cities and counties into helping federal immigration agents detain and deport immigrants who are not authorized to be in the country.
The president told Fox News in February that sanctuary cities “breed crime; there’s a lot of problems.” He added, “If we have to, we’ll defund. We give tremendous amounts of money to California — California in many ways is out of control, as you know.”
Orrick wrote that because the Constitution gives Congress the federal wallet, the president may not impose new conditions on federal funds to municipalities. The Supreme Court has held that the federal government cannot compel states to administer a federal program.
“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,” Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney, 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.”
While the judge’s order temporarily stops the White House from placing new restrictions on federal funding without going through Congress, it does not keep the administration from enforcing existing rules on federal grants.