Threatened Cut to Sanctuary Cities' Federal Funding Halted
For the moment, a San Francisco federal court judge’s April 25 preliminary injunction has stalled President Donald Trump’s executive order that seeks to make “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which shelter undocumented immigrants, unable to receive federal grants and funds, including billions of dollars for highway construction, seismic upgrades and other public infrastructure projects.
Judge William Orrick’s ruling, which applies nationwide, came as hearings began in a federal suit filed by the city and county of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, Calif., claiming the January order is unconstitutional. Other cities and advocacy groups filed more than 150 supporting briefs in the case. Orrick did not allow 84 of the briefs. None favor the order. Chelsea and Lawrence, Mass., and Seattle filed separate federal suits.
Orrick disagreed with the government that the order was merely an exercise of Trump’s “bully pulpit” on immigration enforcement and would apply to only three federal grants, as the administration’s lawyers argued at a hearing. He noted that, by the order’s plain language, it would extend to all U.S. funding, citing warnings by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that non-complying jurisdictions would be ineligible for future grants and could have awarded funds clawed back. Orrick agreed the order is unconstitutional because only Congress can place conditions on federal funds, and those conditions can’t be coercive.
Without the injunction, “roads and public transportation would have fallen [into] disrepair,” says San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera, adding that the city receives $800 million each year in multiyear federal grants, mostly for public infrastructure. Santa Clara County says $1.7 billion in federal funding makes up 35% of its total annual revenue. Sessions vowed “to continue to litigate this case to vindicate the rule of law.” But the Trump administration has not yet appealed the injunction nor sought a stay.