On April 25, a San Francisco judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s attempt to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities.” While some municipalities have declared themselves sanctuary cities by limiting cooperation with immigration enforcement agencies, the term is generally applied to any city with policies friendly to undocumented immigrants.
William H. Orrick, the judge who blocked the latest presidential order, wrote that President Trump had abused his powers in January by coupling billions of dollars in federal funding to immigration enforcement.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman agrees with Orrick’s decision. In a statement released after the ruling, Schneiderman said:
“As we’ve said since January — and my legal guidance makes clear — President Trump does not have the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to state and cities simply because they are lawfully acting to protect their immigrant families. We welcome today’s court decision.”
This ruling marks another judicial setback for the Trump administration, which has experienced three immigration order standstills in its first 100 days. And as with the previous two federal court rulings, Trump’s own words were used against him.
When lawyers from the Justice Department argued that the government never intended to withhold funding from sanctuary cities like New York City and Los Angeles, Orrick noted that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously suggested punishment for sanctuary cities could be “far greater” than denied funding.
“If there was doubt about the scope of the order, the president and attorney general have erased it with their public comments,” Judge Orrick wrote in his decision.
In general, California’s largest cities have welcomed undocumented immigrants, making it easier for them to access state services like the DMV or public schools. For instance, a California policy enacted almost 18 months ago allowed undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licences, and state officials assured California citizens that it would decrease the rate of uninsured drivers on the roads. But according to Fox News, there is no evidence that the program actually worked. According to the Insurance Research Council, one out of every seven drivers is uninsured.
While immigration hardliners would like states like California to turn over information on undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, there are few ways to force states to release this information — even if failing to release this information violates federal law.
During the presidential campaign, President Trump promised to deny funding to sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate, a constitutionally questionable move. According to The New York Times and other legal experts, the president has no legal power to deny funding to states and cities — only congress can make that decision.
As a result, even though Orrick’s ruling has only temporarily blocked President Trump’s latest immigration order, many immigration activists are feeling optimistic at the 100-day mark of the Trump administration.