A federal judge has permanently blocked President Trump’s decree to withhold funding from jurisdictions that limit cooperation with immigration authorities. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick handed down the 28-page ruling on Monday in lawsuits filed by Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, saying the executive branch has no right to impose new conditions on money already authorized by Congress.
Orrick added: “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.”
Santa Clara County could have lost $1.7 billion in federal funds—more than a third of its yearly revenue—for services such as public safety, nutrition programs, as well as medical and mental health care.
“This is a historic victory, protecting residents of the county and jurisdictions across the nation from President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional abuse of power,” county Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese said in a press release. “Our county will continue to welcome and embrace all people, no matter how much this administration tries to threaten or divide us.”
County counsel James Williams called the order “a clear rebuke” of the Trump administration’s unlawful attempt to deputize local law enforcement into acting as federal immigration officers.
“[Monday’s] decision vindicates a core constitutional principle: that the president cannot use federal funds to threaten local governments,” Williams said.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley defended Trump’s executive order, which he signed during his first week in office.
“The district court exceeded its authority today when it barred the president from instructing his cabinet members to enforce existing law,” O’Malley said in a statement Monday. “The Justice Department will vindicate the president’s lawful authority to direct the executive branch.
The term “sanctuary city” broadly applies to local governments that refuse to fully collaborate with federal immigration enforcement. The non-cooperation policies, which vary from place to place, date back to a movement among churches in the 1980s to shelter Central Americans fleeing violence in their native countries. At the time, the federal government refused to grant them refugee status, which ignited a grassroots effort to protect them from deportation.
The idea eventually crystalized into local laws throughout the U.S., becoming especially popular in cities and regions with a diverse population of foreign-born residents—places like Silicon Valley.
In Santa Clara County, the policy prevents the Sheriff’s Department from holding undocumented immigrants beyond their court-set jail stay without a warrant. The county makes exceptions for undocumented immigrants with certain violent offenses.
However, the county does cooperate in other ways with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and related agencies, according to correspondence obtained earlier this year by San Jose Inside. The Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department alert these agencies to the whereabouts and release dates of undocumented immigrants as part of international or multi-jurisdictional investigations.
Hundreds of local governments throughout the nation have so-called sanctuary city policies, because the courts have repeatedly ruled that ICE detainer requests—absent a warrant—are unconstitutional.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra applauded Orrick’s ruling, calling it “another deserved blow” to the president’s unconstitutional overreach.
“The Trump administration executive order spitefully threatened to defund law enforcement agencies focused on public safety for all,” Becerra said, “including hard-working immigrant families. Congrats to San Francisco and Santa Clara.”