Q&A: Santa Clara County Attorneys Discuss Lawsuit against President Donald Trump

Last week, Santa Clara County sued President Donald Trump over his order to deny federal funding to local governments that refuse to comply with his draconian immigration policies. San Jose Inside wrote about the case a day before the county actually filed the complaint in federal court, which happened last Friday.

County counsel has since released a copy of the complaint—which you can read here—and a Q&A with its attorneys that explains the case in more detail. Below is a copy of that questionnaire, which was issued from the office of County Counsel James Williams.

Which Executive Order does the lawsuit challenge?

The lawsuit challenges Executive Order 13768, issued on January 25, 2017, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” This Executive Order targets so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions,” and is distinct from an executive order issued two days later regarding travel restrictions for refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals entering the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries.

What does the Executive Order do?

The Executive Order declares that it is the policy of the Trump Administration to ensure that “sanctuary jurisdictions” are stripped of all federal funds. The Executive Order does not define what entities are “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Instead, it seeks to grant executive branch officials unlimited discretion to deny federal funds to states, cities, counties, and other local governments they deem to be “sanctuary jurisdictions,” and to also take unspecified enforcement actions against them.

Why is the county bringing a lawsuit now?

The county is suing to prevent the Trump Administration from stripping the county of all federal funding, and to enable the county to continue to provide uninterrupted healthcare, public safety and other critical services to its residents. The Executive Order violates the United States Constitution, directly harms the county’s rights as a political subdivision of the State of California, and threatens the loss of over $1 billion in federal funds that are used to provide essential services. Because the vast majority of the county’s federal funding is provided on a reimbursement basis, the county is required to spend its own money first and make fiscal decisions far in advance of receiving federal dollars.

President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that do not agree to comply with this illegal order. Under the Constitution, the president does not have the authority to take away federal funding as a weapon to coerce state and local governments to undertake federal responsibilities. For these reasons, the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to bring a lawsuit to protect the county and its residents from this unconstitutional Executive Order.

Who are the parties in the lawsuit?

The county is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. The defendants are President Trump and his senior officials, including the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The lawsuit is being litigated by the Office of the County Counsel in partnership with the law firm of Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP, which is representing the county pro bono (free of charge).

What is at stake in the lawsuit?

Cutting all federal funds currently provided to the county would not only adversely affect all county residents who rely on county medical services, including trauma care, emergency medical services, law enforcement services, but would also have a devastating impact on infants, children, families, and seniors in need of health care, nutritious food, and housing support. The purpose of the lawsuit is to stop the Trump administration’s unconstitutional effort to coerce the county to act as an enforcer of the Trump administration’s federal immigration policy priorities or be stripped of all federal funds.

What federal funds does the county receive?

The county receives approximately $1 billion in federal funds each year. These federal funds support a diverse array of essential services and programs for all county residents, including: Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, the only safety net hospital in Santa Clara county; foster care, adoption assistance, and guardianship placements; basic food and nutrition needs for infants, children, families and seniors; housing and community development; highway planning and construction; security, intelligence, and counter-terrorism efforts.

What are the causes of action in the lawsuit?

The lawsuit asserts four causes of action: a violation of the Separation of Powers; two violations of Due Process under the Fifth Amendment; and a violation of the 10th Amendment.

What remedy is the county seeking in the lawsuit?

The county is seeking two forms of relief: (1) a declaration by a federal court that the Executive Order on “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” is unconstitutional; and (2) an injunction prohibiting the Trump Administration from stripping the county of federal funds.

What is a “sanctuary jurisdiction” under the law?

There is no clear definition of “sanctuary jurisdiction” in the Executive Order or in any federal statute. In common parlance, “sanctuary jurisdictions” are broadly defined as jurisdictions that do not use local taxpayer funded resources to perform the federal government’s function of enforcing federal immigration laws and deportation efforts. Importantly, the term “sanctuary” is a misnomer, however, because no local government can prevent the federal government from using its own resources to enforce federal immigration laws. The county has never sought to do so.

Is Santa Clara county a “sanctuary jurisdiction?”

The Executive Order does not clearly define what it means by “sanctuary jurisdiction.” And the county certainly does not and cannot prevent federal agents from operating within its borders to enforce federal immigration laws. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sometimes requests local governments, like the county, to hold immigrants in county jail after their scheduled release dates (ICE detainer requests). The county has a policy of only honoring such requests for individuals with certain serious or violent criminal convictions, and only if ICE will enter into a prior written agreement agreeing to reimburse the county for the costs it incurs in holding immigrants beyond their usual release dates. Currently, the county’s jails operate at or near capacity. ICE has refused to enter into a reimbursement agreement with the county.

Why doesn’t the county just comply with ICE civil detainer requests and other requests for assistance in apprehending immigrants?

Law enforcement agencies in the county believe that participating in federal immigration enforcement makes it much more difficult for them to fulfill their role in protecting the safety of our community. Local law enforcement agencies rely on the trust and respect of the community—including immigrant community members—who provide critical information needed to investigate and solve crimes. That trust and cooperation is seriously compromised when local law enforcement are perceived as federal immigration enforcers. This makes it much more difficult for local law enforcement to do their jobs and undermines public safety.

In addition, several courts around the nation have held that compliance with ICE detainer requests violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and may also violate other constitutional provisions. Thus, even if the county complied with ICE detainer requests in an attempt to avoid the Executive Order’s provision to strip “sanctuary jurisdictions” of federal funds, the county would expose the taxpayers of Santa Clara County to substantial financial liability.


  1. Would think/hope many politicians would be voted out of office at the next election if constituents/taxpayers would incur “substantial financial liability” to the tune of one billion. There should be a vote of the people to determine if Santa Clara County be deemed sanctuary anything. Either that or a poll tax should be instated; it never seems fair for property owners to pick up so much responsibility.

  2. The County’s answer to the last questions seems weak and disingenuous to me…
    I have not heard of any other County in the Country who has been sued and lost for violating the 4th Amendment when cooperating with ICE. Did i miss that somewhere? And if a person has already been arrested, and is already in jail, how does not helping the Feds put the local law enforcement in a negative light with their community? It seem to me they have that backwards….

  3. > The Executive Order declares that it is the policy of the Trump Administration to ensure that “sanctuary jurisdictions” are stripped of all federal funds.

    Ummm. Just so Mr. Newsroom and the snowflakes of America know, “the Trump Administration” means The Federal Government of the United States of America.

    • >>Trump Administration means the Federal Government

      One branch of three, yes. 33% ain’t bad.

      And I don’t think the term “Trump Administration” is incorrect. This certainly wasn’t the policy of the Obama Administration, the Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration, the Bush I Administration, the Reagan Administration, or the Carter Administration. Those too were one-third of the federal government. So what’s your point?

      • Pick up a history book CALMHERDOWN. Obama deported more illegals than any other previous President. And Jimmy Carter made all Iranian students in the US on student visas register with the government after which he deported 15,000 of them back to Iran in 1979, and refused to let any more into the US. The authority for this was the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 (8 USC §1182) passed by Congress. It was vetoed by President Truman, but the veto was overridden overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress. The Act was amended in 1990, and provides, among other things, that the United States can expel or exclude any person whose presence poses “potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.” The lawsuit filed in Washington state was heard by a judge who has volunteered at a refugee supporting organization, and the appeal is being heard in the Ninth Circuit, the most liberal and most overruled of all federal circuit courts of appeal. The Boston federal judge who issued a TRO earlier declined to make it permanent and dismissed that lawsuit, but the mainstream news doesn’t report those facts.

      • > One branch of three, yes. 33% ain’t bad.

        President Trump is the president of 100% of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government of the United States of America.

        The Executive Branch of the Federal Government of the United States of America exercises federal executive authority over 100% of citizens and residents of the United States of America.


        You seem to think that you and other “progressives” need to comply with only 33% of US law.

  4. “… to enable the county to continue to provide uninterrupted healthcare, public safety and other critical services to its residents.”

    Had the deliver of these services to the county’s legal residents been given the priority it deserved the county would never have considered jeopardizing them in service to foreigners here illegally. This nonsense about the costs involved in cooperating with the feds was manufactured long after our elected turncoats pledged their allegiance to Mexico and other failing Latin American states.

  5. Inquiring minds would like to know. Do Santa Clara county officials stand with the tax paying law abiding citizens of the county or illegal aliens, murderers, rapist, drugdealers, drunks, childmolesters, theaves, and muggers, and terrorists that have been arrested and or convicted of those crimes.

    Seem to me that a bunch of lawyers see perpetuating crime as a real business opportunity and a great way to screw the taxpayers out of a lot more money.

  6. As the late great Yogi Berra might have said, “If our representatives don’t want to represent then we can’t stop them.”
    Just because some ivy league egghead lawyer points out inconsistencies and quibbles with terminology doesn’t mean he’s being intellectually honest. Our local political leadership long ago chose to side up against the legal citizenry. The policies they’ve observed have created the mess we see now but like spoiled children knowing they’ve done something wrong they stubbornly continue to deny any responsibility… “Did not. Did not. I didn’t do anything. Donald did it.” And like spoiled, obnoxious children everywhere they will get their way. They always do.

  7. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. If me or a member of my family is hurt because of an illegal criminal that Santa Clara County or City of San Jose chose to protect verses deport, I will sue the County/City for as much as possible. The thought of protecting law-breaking illegal citizens over their own, is ridiculous.

  8. Key point: the County of Santa Clara will RELEASE serious felons who happen to be undocumented into our community regardless of whether ICE wants them held because ICE will not agree to reimburse the County for the extra time they may have to hold them.

    • My dear friend was murdered by a group of illegal GANG members from Mexico. They were NOT turned over to ICE. They are still walking around free after deal making, and one of them serving a year and a half. PLEASE explain to me how that is right?

      My former neighbor who is and was here illegally molested his 18 month old son. He was convicted, spent one day in jail, was NOT handed over to ICE. He is now walking around FREE with THREE kids now. Please explain to me how that is in any way acceptable.

  9. Stop blaming Trump for everything. He can’t do anything without Congress’s blessing. Why aren’t the media doing their jobs and holding CONGRESS accountable for their actions or should I say LACK of action? Stop focusing on Trump, he is powerless. Congress is the REAL problem here.

  10. If federal funds are pulled from the county or this state, hundreds of thousands of US citizens like seniors, Vets, and persons with disabilities will loose health care, housing and SSI payments. Have these electeds even considered that? Do they even care? It doesn’t appear so.

    • > If federal funds are pulled from the county or this state, hundreds of thousands of US citizens like seniors, Vets, and persons with disabilities will loose health care, housing and SSI payments.


      If California secedes from the United States, as “progressives” seem to want, Californians will no longer be “US citizens” and, therefore, “thousands of [former] US citizens like seniors, Vets, and persons with disabilities will loose health care, housing and SSI payments.”

  11. Per Mercury News (July 19, 2011), we have the largest number of illegals in the bay area: 10.2% of SCC’s population. A first level approximation is 10.2% * $1 billion annual federal payment to SCC = $102 million / year to support illegals. Travis County TX spent about $52K / year to satisfy ICE detainer requests. Extrapolating, Santa Clara County (about 1.5 times larger) would spend about $78K / year. Although negligible (1/2 of 1% of Corrections budget) there’s an argument that ICE should pay.

    Mr. Williams omits some important impacts. Drug trafficking and DUI violations are considered non-violent, but kill thousands each year. About 25% of President Obama’s “non-violent” pardons included those convicted of gun crimes. UC estimates about 2,400 students are illegals. Presumably an equal number of citizens are denied admission and thousands jobs occupied by illegals. Kathryn Steinle’s death and substantial law enforcement costs are a result of the sanctuary policies the BOS advocates.

  12. Um, I emigrated to the US LEGALLY. Paid thousands of dollars, waited years to be admitted. So glad I don’t live in California. Why reward illegal immigrants who broke the law? Shame on your idiotic state

  13. Wasted money and most residents (legal) do not agree with your grandstanding. We should have voted on this! Why anyone would sue our elected representatives for trying to keep us safe is upsetting and unbelievable. The county is spending our money on illegal criminals.

  14. Oh no! Somehow we lost our way and let the politicians and lawyers run amuck. What a pity! God help us!

  15. “Draconian” Immigration laws? You have to be kidding me! Anybody who aides-Abetts ILLEGAL ALIENS (especially if they are in governing, immigration lawyers and employing positions) should be in JAIL) and works to ensure USA immigration laws are ignored and USA borders remain Unsecured are ENEMIES of the USA and it’s citizens. I’ve had more than enough of this blatant treason against the USA for the sake of CHEAP LABOR and the GLOBALIST NORTH AMERICAN UNION!!!

  16. SB54 was introduced to make the entire state of CA a SANCTUARY State! Please contact your politicians to Stop SB54. Kevin DeLeon of LA who admitted half of his family are ILLEGAL ALIENS used forged documents and he’s ok with that despite the pain of the ID theft victims. Imagine that, so please stop SB54!

  17. Trump used Obama’s list of which nations Muslims come from and ban them. He didn’t ban all Muslims fe coming in. Also, after seeing what’s happening to Europeans who are run over with trucks, attacked or raped and after what happened in San Bernardino and Orlando, why do I want there here? What sane person would want them here? Muslim nations typically don’t allow Jews or Christians in and they want a Global caliphate with Sharia law. There’s nothing tolerant or inclusive in their religion. It’s their way or death. So, why would I want them here?

  18. So some think it’s OK to break federal law (in more than one way) but it is not OK for Trump to obey the law. How much more screwed up can liberals get!

  19. The Silicon Valley Technocrat Globalists also want their continued use of Cheap-Labor-H1B visas. These corporations typically pass over USA students who took the STEM courses so these students who are saddled with high college debt can never pay this back.–These Technocrats also demand that USA borders remain Unsecured, USA immigration laws remain Unenforced and when they lobby for this USA status, they should be considered deadly enemies of the USA. Who else would be making such demands?

    Also, these Technocrats work for the Globalists and will bring in a total surveillance state which will include the Internet of Things and they will Microchip us for an upcoming Cashless Glibal Monetary system.

  20. San Jose is a Sanctuary City and things are so bad there that the SJPD chief, Eddie Garcia belongs to la RAZA Roundtable and SJ major Sam Liccardo and the city council is favorably involved with la RAZA Roundrable.—-no small wonder the SJPD stepped down and allowed TRUMP supporters to be attacked with complete purity.—-la-RAZA means the RACE—-there’s this motto of Por la RAZA todo, fuera de la RAZA nada—– This translates as Fod the Race everything, for those outside the Race, nothing.—For people always whining about racism, they’re pretty racist themselves and then there’s the race-specific organizations and their media who is proudly RAZA and there’s even a race-specifi, college in San Jose.

  21. After reading these comments, I no longer wonder why Donald Trump is our President. It is astounding that many of the commentators here I have disagreed with in the past, seem to have the same line of thinking that I have. We have some common ground as Americans….that is the protection of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We have the right to be safe in our own communities, and the ability to guide our PUBLICLY ELECTED officials to make the decisions we feel are in our best interests.
    When the ELECTED OFFICIALS make decisions in opposition to the will of those who elected them, it becomes glaringly obvious that the system has been hijacked by people who have no concern. They feel like they are above the law, and that you have no say in how to be protected, cared for, and how your contribution to the common good (your taxes) are to be spent. I, for one, would be disgusted and acrimonious if another one of our elected officials took a taxpayer paid trip to a foreign country to see how well they manage traffic control, food service, homelessness…..ad nauseum.
    Fix the problem here…..the above commentaries are a good start.

    • Wow! These “troglodyte trump-ites” surely brought out the obligatory imagined clever one liner (zing Judy. Oooh! ZING!) of a smug liberal who, predictably will duck back into her lefty troll hole while congratulating herself, “Boy I sure told THEM!”

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