By United States District Court for the Northern District of California [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
November 21, 2017; Washington Post

Yesterday, San Francisco District Judge William H. Orrick made permanent the temporary injunction he issued in the matter of President Trump’s January executive order that would have withheld federal funds from sanctuary cities.

The opinion backing the permanent injunction is comprehensive in its rejection of the administration position, noting that to withhold federal funds to cities for their decision to become sanctuary cities violates the US Constitution’s Fifth and Tenth Amendments as well as its “separation of powers” doctrine.

“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Executive Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds. Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that they not be unduly coercive,” the judge wrote. “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.”

Orrick also used statements made by president and others in the administration to discern the true intent and purpose behind the order.

“And if there was doubt about the scope of the Executive Order, the President and Attorney General erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote. “The President has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary reiterated that the President intends to ensure that ‘counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cities don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.’”

The US Department of Justice has not yet disclosed whether it will file an appeal.—Ruth McCambridge