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Federal judge blocks Trump’s attempt to punish sanctuary cities

A federal judge has blocked President Trump’s executive order cutting off funding to so-called sanctuary cities, despite the president’s assertion that those cities are causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic.”

U.S. District Judge William Orrick granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday to the city of San Francisco and bordering Santa Clara County, which both sued the Trump administration alleging the order was unconstitutional and could deprive them of billions of dollars in federal funds.


Judge Orrick’s ruling suggested Trump’s January 25 executive order was unenforceable because it attempted to give the office of the Attorney General the unilateral authority “to impose new conditions on federal grants” — a power reserved exclusively for Congress.

The government had previously claimed the order was “merely an exercise of the president’s ‘bully pulpit’ to highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement,” a contention Judge Orrick firmly disagreed with, citing threats made by both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the sanctuary cities. “If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and the Attorney General have both erased it with their public comments,” he wrote.

As of December 2016, there were about 70 or so jurisdictions that have declined to hold illegal immigrants in jail for federal authorities to deport, according to Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

The latest ruling is sure to be a blow to the Trump administration, which has positioned stringent immigration reform as one of its top priorities. And the administration this month increased its pressure on sanctuary cities, so-named because they limit cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in order to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In a letter last week, Sessions demanded nine cities — including Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago — produce evidence to show they’ve been cooperating with federal authorities.

The Trump administration has not reacted favorably to other judges who have blocked or limited the president’s executive orders, including two failed attempts to enact a travel ban against several predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump personally referred to the judge who overturned his first travel order as a “so-called judge” in February, and after a Hawaii judge blocked Trump’s latest attempt last week, Attorney General Sessions publicly questioned why a judge so far from the central United States should be able to enforce the constitution.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power,” Sessions said at the time. He has declined to apologize for demeaning the state of Hawaii, arguing that “nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”