Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 7 News List

US judge blocks Trump’s order on sanctuary cities

AFP, LOS ANGELES

A US judge on Tuesday blocked an executive order by US President Donald Trump that could deny billions of dollars to so-called sanctuary cities as punishment for harboring illegal immigrants.

Dealing a fresh setback to Trump’s pledged crackdown on undocumented residents, Judge William Orrick of San Francisco’s federal court issued a preliminary injunction barring any attempt to implement the Jan. 25 executive order.

“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 said.

The decision — which could impact more than 300 cities and counties that have denounced the president’s order — is another blow to the White House following successful court challenges to its two travel bans targeting Muslim-majority countries.

Trump’s order threatened the transfer of about US$1.7 billion to Santa Clara County and US$1.2 billion for San Francisco.

The White House issued a scathing statement claiming that “the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy.”

The judge’s “erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country,” and is “one more example of egregious overreach” by a single judge that “undermines faith in our legal system.”

Nevertheless “we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court,” the statement read.

Santa Clara counsel James Williams described it as “a historic affirmation” of the constitutional principle that Washington cannot “coerce local governments into becoming federal immigration enforcers.”

Orrick said that the government’s lawyers had sought to avoid arguing the issue of whether the Trump administration had the right to take such steps.

Instead, they weakly challenged the right of San Francisco and Santa Clara County to fight the order because neither had been formally declared “sanctuary jurisdictions” — a phrase that remains vague in the law.

The judge said the key issue remained Trump’s repeated statements that funding is a “weapon” to use against cities that resist his policies. That demonstrates the government’s intent, he said, and is unconstitutional.

“The constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” he said.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortes, said the decision had dealt a “major setback” to the politics of fear.

“Millions of people across the country can continue to receive essential medical care, go to school and remain active members of their communities without fear that their local governments are being forced to work against them, rather than for them,” he added.

The decision was being closely watched in Seattle, which filed its own lawsuit against the order last month.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued a statement welcoming the ruling as “yet another rebuke” of Trump’s “dangerous overreach.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced Trump’s “illogical and unconstitutional desire to scapegoat immigrants.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that his administration would not “sit idly by while President Trump threatens American cities because he doesn’t share our values.”

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