In yet another blow to the Trump administration from the courts, a federal judge in San Francisco declared Tuesday that he would temporarily block enforcement of President Donald Trump’s directive to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration policy.
The ruling by San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Orrick bars federal officials nationwide from carrying out the portion of a Jan. 25 executive order that would deny federal grants to cities and local governments that won’t provide assistance to federal authorities in locating and detaining undocumented immigrants.
Tens of millions of dollars are at stake for communities like Sacramento County, which received $315 million in Office of Justice Programs grants in 2016, and Miami-Dade County, which receives nearly $6 million in Office of Justice Programs grants.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco hailed the ruling as “a victory for public safety and effective policing strategies.”
“Who is safer when immigrant families fear going to the police when they are witnesses or victims of crimes?” she said in a statement. “Communities must have the right to choose humane and effective law enforcement strategies that work to protect and serve, not deport and intimidate.”
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said the administration would appeal and questioned the court’s finding that the White House couldn’t restrict funding.
“It is something that will be overturned eventually,” he said. “We’ll win at the Supreme Court level at some point.”
Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign and signed an executive order announcing plans to withhold funding. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned that cities and states that don’t comply with federal immigration laws risk losing their share of $4.1 billion in Justice Department grants. He said the Justice Department would require cities seeking the grants to certify that they are cooperating with immigration authorities as a condition for receiving the awards.
Orrick ruled that the federal government cannot threaten to deny money that counties rely on in a way that compels local jurisdictions to adopt certain policies. Quoting a Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act by threatening states with denying Medicaid fund, Orrick likened the threat of withholding federal funds represented a “gun to the head.”
“The threat is unconstitutionally coercive,” Orrick wrote.
It was at least the fourth time that a Trump order on immigration has been blocked by federal judges. A Seattle court ruled that Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending travel from seven Muslim-majority nations was unconstitutional. An appeals court in San Francisco upheld the ruling. A Hawaii court later ruled against a revised version of the executive order in which Hawaii argued that the revised order would harm its Muslim population, its tourism industry and its universities’ ability to recruit foreign students.