In January, shortly after he was inaugurated, Trump issued an order which said that funding must be cut to all jurisdictions that refused to go along with a statute that would require local governments to hand over information to U.S immigration authorities on undocumented immigrants.
These would be so-called sanctuary cities, which usually offer a safe haven to illegal immigrants. Sanctuary cities oftentimes do not enforce federal immigration laws. Dozens of local governments in large cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, have joined the rapidly growing list of places illegal immigrants can seek refuge. After Trump released this executive order, several small communities sued, on the grounds that the order was unconstitutional. A similar lawsuit was also filed in San Francisco
Trump’s original order, which targeted a broad range of categories of federal funding for sanctuary cities, was blocked by U.S District Judge William Orrick III.
Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, wrote a memo stating that rather than cutting the funding to the cities completely, the order would be applied to only a small number of grants, and to specific aspects of immigration law. The memo further states that cities that choose not to comply with federal law would be at risk of losing grants from the Justice and Homeland Security departments, but not federal funding as a whole. The Justice Department asked Orrick to revisit that ruling, after the memo was issued, which said the only funds the government intended to withhold were certain grants tied to law enforcement programs.
Orrick declined the request made by the Trump administration, asking that the injunction which halted Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities from being put into effect be lifted. Orrick wrote that he did not trust Sessions to go back on what he had said as a memo is not legally binding and the Attorney General could revoke it at any given moment.
Even before Sessions released this memo, it didn’t seem as though Orrick could be fooled into believing anything the Trump administration promised. When filing his injunctions in April, Orrick cited public comments from Sessions and Trump talking about the scope of the administration to dismiss notions that the executive order would only enforce laws that existed already. Orrick wrote:
‘If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments. The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.’
Orrick said that Sessions’ memo in no way impacted “prior conclusions that the Counties have standing, that their claims against the Executive Order are ripe, and that they are likely to succeed on the merits of those claims,”
Another large blow was dealt to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda by Orrick refusing to reverse the injunction. Trump is still determined that it would crack down on cities that seek to provide safety to undocumented immigrants.
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