A federal judge in San Francisco on Tuesday blocked an executive order by President Donald Trump that threatened to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction in a pair of lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County.
In his decision, Orrick wrote that the "plain language" of the order issued by Trump on Jan. 25 threatens all federal funding for cities, counties and states deemed by the Trump administration to be sanctuary jurisdictions that limit cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in deporting undocumented immigrants.
The judge said it is unconstitutional for the executive branch to place new conditions on federal funds because that would intrude on Congress's spending power.
"The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds," Orrick wrote.
"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 said in the ruling.
Orrick rejected an argument made at a hearing earlier this month by a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who contended the order should be interpreted narrowly to apply only to a limited set of federal criminal justice grants.
The judge said that argument was not plausible because the wording of Trump's order addressed all federal funding and because Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had made broad statements threatening to withhold, terminate or claw back federal funding.
Orrick said his ruling did not prevent the government from enforcing any existing conditions imposed on federal grants or from developing regulations to define a sanctuary jurisdiction.
The San Francisco and Santa Clara County lawsuits were among several filed around the nation to challenge the executive order, but were the first to receive a judicial ruling. Another of the pending lawsuits was filed in federal court in San Francisco by the city of Richmond.
"The politics of fear has just suffered a major setback, thanks to Judge Orrick and our judicial branch, along with the support of cities and counties across the country," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese said in a press release. "Millions of people across the country can continue to receive essential medical care, go to school and remain active members of their communities without fear that their local governments are being forced to work against them, rather than for them."
"The court's decision is a win for the neediest people in our nation," Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. "Seniors in need of food, foster youth in need of shelter and children who need medical care. We'll continue being a welcoming, safe and diverse community," Chavez said.