Trump's executive order threat to remove federal funding from sanctuary cities, made public last month by AG Jeff Sessions, is now going before a judge in California. Both San Francisco and neighboring Santa Clara County, home of San Jose, are taking the order to court to get an injunction.
A Trump administration lawyer told an apparently skeptical federal judge Friday that President Trump’s executive order against so-called sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco, doesn’t deprive them of federal funding — at least not yet — but merely encourages them to follow immigration laws.
“There’s been no action threatened or taken against the cities,” Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said at a hearing in San Francisco on a lawsuit by San Francisco and Santa Clara County. He said Trump, in a Jan. 25 order that spoke of withholding federal funds from cities and counties that refused to cooperate with federal immigration agents, was just using a “bully pulpit” to advocate compliance.
But U.S. District Judge William Orrick III said Attorney General Jeff Sessions has publicly identified San Francisco as a sanctuary city, and Trump has also criticized the city’s immigration policy.
In the first legal test of Trump’s executive order, Orrick is considering San Francisco and Santa Clara County’s request for an injunction that would halt enforcement of the order against more than 300 cities and counties nationwide. After a 70-minute hearing in his San Francisco courtroom, Orrick said he would issue a ruling “as soon as I can.”
Readler had argued that the two counties lacked standing — the right to challenge the executive order — because they faced no prospect of immediate harm. But Orrick noted that San Francisco has received as much as $2 billion a year in federal funding, and Santa Clara County $1.7 billion.
That's a lot of damage at stake. The question is whether or not local governments can sue at all. The Trump regime of course says no, but it's pretty easy to conclude that the removal of billions of dollars in funds from a city or county would do lasting and immediate harm.
There's also the question of the order forcing local law enforcement into immigration enforcement activities.
But administration officials have also demanded that cities and counties hold immigrant detainees after their scheduled release dates when immigration officials want to take them into their custody for possible deportation.
San Francisco and Santa Clara County say any such prolonged confinement would be unconstitutional, a position shared by many other local governments that the administration has defined as sanctuary cities. Readler told Orrick the administration was issuing only requests, not orders, to keep immigrants in custody, and that local compliance was “voluntary.”
But Orrick said Sessions has classified local governments that fail to go along as sanctuary cities, meaning they are covered by Trump’s order.
At one point in the hearing, Orrick said he was inclined to conclude that the local governments faced the prospect of financial harm, a prerequisite for allowing them to continue challenging Trump’s order. To issue an injunction, he would also have to find a likelihood that the order exceeded the president’s legal authority.
So we'll see. I expect an injunction will come at some point, if not in California than in New York, Washington State, Hawaii, or Minnesota. Flordia and Texas stand to lose a lot of money from this too, so you can bet cities like San Antonia and Miami will be watching this very closely. After all, the Trump regime doesnt have a very strong record so far in the courts.