Courtesy of ACLU

A judge has once again ruled that one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders, this time the one that tried to take federal funding away from sanctuary cities, is unconstitutional. And, once again, a judge used the president’s own words against him in his ruling.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick on Tuesday night issued a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the order, stating that the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, power over federal funds. The ruling was in response to two lawsuits brought on by Santa Clara County and the city and county of San Francisco.

Certain grants could still be in jeopardy, based on existing law. However, these grants do not add up to a significant amount of money.

According to Orrick, the counties “are currently suffering irreparable harm, not only because the Order has caused and will cause them constitutional injuries by violating the separation of powers doctrine and depriving them of their Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights, but also because the Order has caused budget uncertainty by threatening to deprive the Counties of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants that support core services in their jurisdictions.”

Undocumented not a criminal problem, according to local authorities.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the judge’s decision.

“Once again, the courts have spoken to defend tolerance, diversity and inclusion from the illegal threats of the Trump administration,” said Faiz Shakir, the organization’s national policy director.. “Once again, Trump has overreached and lost.”

Trump’s defense tried to argue that the order only applies to three specific federal grants that are already contingent on states complying with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, which states that government and other entities may not “prohibit” or “restrict” Immigration and Naturalization Service information. They also said that the order does not change existing law.

Orrick rejected both of these claims. By the order’s “plain language” in the section regarding sanctuary cities, it “attempts to reach all federal grants,” Orrick says in his ruling.

“The rest of the Order is broader still, addressing all federal funding. And if there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” the judge adds.

Orrick references a February interview in which the president “confirmed that he was willing and able to use ‘defunding’ as a ‘weapon’ so that sanctuary cities would change their policies.”

“Attorney General Sessions recently reaffirmed the Government’s intent to enforce the defunding provisions, stating that if jurisdictions do not comply with Section 1373, such violations would result in ‘withholding grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or in eligibility for future grants,’ and that the Government would seek to ‘claw back any funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates 1373,’” Orrick continues.

He also quotes White House press secretary Sean Spicer as saying that “counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cities don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.”

The counties also argued their concerns that the administration is after them in particular. Orrick points to the many times Trump and his administration specifically targeted California in public comments, notably when Trump said, “I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime. There’s a lot of problems. If we have to we’ll defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California … California in many ways is out of control.”

He also references more quotes from Sessions, including an op-ed he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he references Kate Steinle, who was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had previously been deported several times. In his article, “the Attorney General wrote that ‘Kathryn Steinle might be alive today if she had not lived in a ‘sanctuary city’’ and implored ‘San Francisco and other cities to re-evaluate these policies.’”

“These statements indicate not only the belief that San Francisco is a ‘sanctuary jurisdiction’ but that its policies are particularly dangerous and in need of change,” Orrick writes. “They also reveal a choice by the Government to hold up San Francisco as an exemplar of a sanctuary jurisdiction.”

“I urge President Trump to revoke this Executive Order right away. If he does not, I will do everything in my power to fight it,” said New York’s attorney general.

Edwin Lee, San Francisco’s Democratic mayor, welcomed the ruling and added that his city will remain a sanctuary city while also continuing to follow the law — as it always has.

“If the federal government believes there is a need to detain a serious criminal, they can obtain a criminal warrant, which we will honor, as we always have,” Lee said.

Dennis Herrera, San Francisco city’s attorney, noted that the ruling demonstrates the necessity of having a court system.

“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,” Herrera said. “Because San Francisco took this president to court, we’ve been able to protect billions of dollars that fund lifesaving programs across this country.”

White House officials said following the temporary ruling that the administration is not done fighting.

“It’s the 9th Circuit going bananas,” said White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. “The idea that an agency can’t put in some reasonable restriction on how some of these monies are spent is going to be overturned eventually, and we’ll win at the Supreme Court level at some point.”

In a statement the White house called the temporary ruling “one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”

Further perpetuating the administration’s false narrative that immigrants are more likely to be criminals, the statement added, “San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.”

2015 study by the American Immigration Council found that not only are immigrants less likely to commit serious crimes or be incarcerated than native-born residents, but high rates of immigration correlate with even lower rates of violent and property crimes. And during the period that more immigrants entered the country, violent crime was on the decline. The pattern held true over a period of time and spanned cities nationally — particularly in cities that have been welcoming to the immigrant population.

“Some scholars suggest that new immigrants may revitalize dilapidated urban areas, ultimately reducing violent crime rates,” the researchers state.

The grants that could still be withheld pertain to the Office of Justice Programs. Last week a letter was sent to city and state officials in California, Chicago (two letters were sent to Chicago: one to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and another to Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle), New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee and New York City, threatening them with “the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future [Office of Justice Programs] grants or subgrants, or other action, as appropriate,” if they do not cooperate with immigration officials.

In total, the areas that were sent a letter received $20.4 million in OJP grants. To compare, the missile strike on Syria earlier this month involved 59 Tomahawk missiles. With each missile worth anywhere between an estimated $832,000 and $1 million, that comes out to a conservative total of $49 million for the strike — more than double the threatened cuts to sanctuary cities.

In 2016, cities used their grants for various initiatives, including police and public safety.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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