Sanctuary cities Trump appeals: withhold funds from California ‘sanctuary’ cities.
A federal appeals court decided Wednesday that the Trump administration may not withhold federal funds from California’s immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” cities and counties.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a district judge’s ruling in favor of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, which sued over the administration’s threats to withhold money to jurisdictions that have passed laws limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The ruling was a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to punish cities and states that fail to help enforce federal immigration law, a goal President Trump announced shortly after he was sworn in.
The administration did not comment on whether it intended to appeal the decision.
But the 9th Circuit handed Trump one victory. It removed a nationwide injunction against his directive, concluding there was not enough evidence presented in the case so far to support blocking it beyond California.
Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, called the ruling a “a victory for criminal aliens in California, who can continue to commit crimes knowing that the state’s leadership will protect them from federal immigration officers.”
O’Malley also declared that the removal of the nationwide injunction amounted to “another major victory for the rule of law.”
The case stemmed from an executive order issued by Trump shortly after taking office. He directed his administration to withhold federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions.
The 9th Circuit said Trump exceeded his authority because only Congress can put conditions on federal funds.
“The United States Constitution exclusively grants the power of the purse to Congress, not the President,” wrote Chief 9th Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas, a Clinton appointee.
The administration argued that the order was “all bluster and no bite, representing a perfectly legitimate use of the presidential ‘bully pulpit,’ without any real meaning — ‘gesture without motion,’ as T.S. Eliot put it,” Thomas wrote.
But that explanation “strains credulity,” Thomas said.
The ruling quoted Trump expressing his opposition to sanctuary cities in a television interview after issuing his order.
“If we have to defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California…. California in many ways is out of control,” the court quoted Trump as saying.
The Justice Department later issued a memorandum interpreting Trump’s order as affecting only three law enforcement grants historically conditioned on compliance with immigration law.
But the 9th Circuit said that interpretation was unreasonable and inconsistent with the executive order.
The court left the injunction in place for California because it found there was sufficient evidence that the counties and the state were “particular targets.”
But there was little to no evidence presented on the impact of the executive order outside California, the 9th Circuit said.