On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked efforts by the Trump administration to take away federal funds from sanctuary cities on the grounds that it could be unconstitutional. The decision is considered another setback for President Donald Trump as he approaches his 100th day in office.
As reported by The New York Times, Judge William H. Orrick, a federal judge in California, issued the nationwide preliminary injunction against the Trump administration, stating that efforts to cut funding from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions must stop.
However, the federal government can still move forward with labeling certain areas as sanctuaries based on a jurisdiction’s intent to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement operations. It also does not prevent the enforcement of conditions for distributing federal funds that already exist.
The executive order was challenged by the City of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, two jurisdictions targeted by the Trump administration.
In a statement released by Orrick regarding the decision, he said, “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.” He continued, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses and immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”
Orrick determined the executive order, originally signed by Trump during his first week in office, was likely unconstitutional based on the likelihood that jurisdictions would likely be denied funds that were rightfully theirs, a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Additionally, the order may also be unconstitutional based on the separation of powers outlined in the 10th Amendment.
The judge also expressed concerns regarding comments made by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that suggested the order was intended to act more broadly than permitted by federal law.
Orrick said, “Although Government counsel has represented that the Order will be implemented consistent with law, this assurance is undermined by Section 9(a)’s clearly unconstitutional directives. Further, through public statements, the President and Attorney General have appeared to endorse the broadest reading of the order.”
His concerns included a statement made by Trump, as reported by ABC News, stating he was not opposed to the use of defunding efforts as a “weapon” against so-called sanctuary cities. Orrick wrote, “Is the Order merely a rhetorical device, as counsel suggested at the hearing, or a ‘weapon’ to defund Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”
He continued. “The result of this schizophrenic approach to the Order is that the Counties’ worst fears are not allayed and the Counties reasonably fear enforcement under the Order.”
At least three other lawsuits are pending regarding the language used in the executive order and how it impacts sanctuary cities. Orrick’s injunction does apply nationwide, so the results of the other suits may ultimately be irrelevant.
The decision applies to federal agencies and certain executive branch officials, but not to Trump himself, as injunctions directed as the president specifically are not, as said by Orrick, “favored by the courts.”