A federal judge Tuesday blunted the impact of one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, forbidding the White House to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities — local governments that limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Federal District Court Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County. They argued that the president’s January 25th executive order, declaring sanctuary cities ineligible to receive federal grants, was unconstitutional.

This image obtained February 11, 2017 courtesy of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detaining a suspect during an enforcement operation on February 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect during an enforcement operation in February in California CREDIT: CHARLES REED/AFP PHOTO / ICE 


“The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President,” the judge said. President Trump’s executive order “cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”

San Francisco’s city attorney, Dennis Herrera, applauded the judge’s order. “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.”

Related: San Francisco Seeks Ban on Trump ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Order

The Trump administration argued that the lawsuit was premature because the government hasn’t yet taken steps to carry out the executive order. But the judge said the city and county were already feeling the effects of budget uncertainty caused by the administration’s threat to withhold grants. Lawyers for San Francisco said the city could lose about $2 billion a year.

Tuesday’s order covered a section of Mr. Trump’s executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The challenged provision directed the attorney general to ensure that sanctuary cities “are not eligible to receive federal grants.” It also directed the secretary of Homeland Security to designate local governments as sanctuary cities.

At the heart of the dispute are detainer requests, issued by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, asking local police and sheriff’s offices to hold jail inmates for up to 48 hours after they have completed serving their sentences. The requests apply to people in the US illegally who are convicted of committing local crimes and who are subject to deportation after they are released.

City ordinances prohibit San Francisco police from giving immigration authorities advance notice of an inmate’s release from jail, even if the police know that ICE wants to detain that person.

Related: Conservative Cities See ‘Sanctuary City’ Term as Scarlet Letter

Judge Orrick also said the executive order was unconstitutional because it imposed conditions on federal funds already issued or approved. And he said the president’s action was too broad.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” the judge wrote.

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Judge Blocks Trump Effort to Withhold Money From Sanctuary Cities

A judge in San Francisco on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Trump’s efforts to starve localities of federal funds when they limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement, a stinging rejection of his threats to make so-called sanctuary cities fall in line.

The judge, William H. Orrick of United States District Court, wrote that the president had overstepped his powers with his January executive order on immigration by tying billions of dollars in federal funding to immigration enforcement. Judge Orrick said only Congress could place such conditions on spending.

The ruling, which applies nationwide, was another judicial setback for the Trump administration, which has now seen three immigration orders stopped by federal courts in its first 100 days. And as with the rulings halting his two temporary bans on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, the president’s own words were used against him.

Though Justice Department lawyers argued in the case that the government did not intend to withhold significant amounts of money, the judge noted that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had suggested the punishment could be far greater.


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