A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked a directive from President Donald Trump to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions — those that limit their cooperation with U.S. immigration agents.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a temporary ruling Tuesday that will remain in effect while the lawsuit over a provision in a Trump executive order makes its way through the court.
San Francisco and neighboring Santa Clara County had argued that the January 25 executive order jeopardized billions of dollars in federal funding.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice said the amount of funding was much less and pertained to a specific set of grants.
Orrick rejected that argument and said Trump could not set new conditions on spending approved by Congress.
He cited comments by the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as evidence that the order was intended to target a wide array of federal funding. And he said the president himself had called it a “weapon” to use against recalcitrant cities.
Trump had declared that sanctuary jurisdictions cause “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic.”
Even if the president could set new conditions on the spending of grant money, those conditions would have to be clearly related to the funds at issue and not coercive, as the executive order appears to be, Orrick said.
“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.
Orrick was careful to specify that his order does not prevent the Justice Department from enforcing “existing conditions of federal grants.”
The Justice Department had no immediate comment on Tuesday’s action.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that with the issuing of the preliminary injunction, the president had been “forced to back down.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
The injunction was the third major setback for the administration on immigration policy. Trump had sought to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, but a federal appeals court blocked the plan. The administration then revised it, but the new version also is stalled in court.
Some material for this report came from AP.