Donald Trump

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Enforcing Executive Order on Sanctuary Cities

The order's "facially unconstitutional directives and its coercive effects weigh heavily against leaving it in place."

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Gage Skidmore

Today Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump administration from enforcing President Donald Trump's executive order denying federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. "The confusion caused by [the executive order's] facially unconstitutional directives and its coercive effects weigh heavily against leaving it in place," Judge Orrick wrote. "The balance of harms weighs in favor of an injunction."

Today's ruling came in the matter of County of Santa Clara v. Trump and in the related matter of City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, a pair of constitutional challenges filed against the president's executive order. In brief, Santa Clara and San Francisco argue that the Trump administration's threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities violates multiple constitutional provisions, including the separation of powers, the Spending Clause, and the 10th Amendment. They asked for the order to be put on hold while their legal challenges proceed in federal court.

"To succeed in their motions," Judge Orrick wrote today, "the Counties must show that they are likely to face immediate irreparable harm absent an injunction, that they are likely to succeed on the merits, and that the balance of harms and public interest weighs in their favor. The Counties have met this burden." The Trump administration is now blocked from enforcing the executive order anywhere in the country while the constitutional challenges move forward.

The Trump administration may not want to hear it, but sanctuary cities are protected by both the Constitution and by Supreme Court precedent. As Justice Antonin Scalia observed in his 2007 majority opinion in Printz v. United States, "the Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program." Furthermore, as the Supreme Court held in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), the threat to withhold existing federal funds from a state in order to coerce that state into doing the bidding of the federal government is an unconstitutional act of "economic dragooning." Finally, it should be noted that the federal spending power is located in Article I of the Constitution, among the enumerated powers of Congress; it is not located among the enumerated powers of the president in Article II.

Judge Orrick's opinion in County of Santa Clara v. Trump is available here.

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  1. “the threat to withhold existing federal funds from a state in order to coerce that state”

    A state is sovereign. Local governments don’t retain sovereignty.

    1. However, they are subordinate units of the states, not the Federal government.

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    2. Every individual is sovereign. I AM THE LIVING MAN!

    3. Correct, but pointless.

      Local governments are under the jurisdiction of state, not the feds. Yes, think it through

  2. “The two jurisdictions argued that the Trump administration has had conflicting rhetoric on which funds apply.

    Judge Orrick agreed, saying that the language of the order attempts to reach all grants, not just the limited number mentioned by Justice Department lawyers in court.

    Public comments from the Trump administration have also confused the issue, Judge Orrick said. “The president has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement,” he wrote.”

    This was a bad ruling overall. Regardless of the policy, should judges be determining the legality of government actions based upon the statements of politicians? If so then how can Blaine Amendments be defended?

    1. “This was a bad ruling overall. Regardless of the policy, should judges be determining the legality of government actions based upon the statements of politicians? If so then how can Blaine Amendments be defended?”

      But there’s precedent here, the previous immigration ruling.

      1. It’s a rather convenient new method of judicial review that has just been discovered after we were informed that a ‘penalty’ actually meant a ‘tax’ after being repeatedly told by politicians that that was not the case

    2. You cannot consider public political comments in a judicial ruling. Otherwise the Obamacare “tax” would not be a tax, and Obamacare would be unconstitutional.

    3. should judges be determining the legality of government actions based upon the statements of politicians?

      You ask that as if considering the motives and intent of the defendant was some newfangled concept instead of, you know, a basic aspect of our legal system.

      Trump’s public statement that he issued the order for illegal reasons certainly has bearing on the plaintiffs’ claim that the order was issued for illegal reasons!

      1. Trump’s public statement that he issued the order for illegal reasons certainly has bearing on the plaintiffs’ claim that the order was issued for illegal reasons!

        Well, that’s certainly a new concept; we should have applied that to ACA.

        We’ll certainly apply it next time a Democrat is in office.

        1. Oh certainly – without a doubt.

  3. “facially unconstitutional directives and its coercive effects weigh heavily against leaving it in place.”

    Never has a court been more straight-forward.

  4. In brief, Santa Clara and San Francisco argue that the Trump administration’s threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities violates multiple constitutional provisions, including the separation of powers, the Spending Clause, and the 10th Amendment.

    Where the fuck were these people when the national drinking age that’s technically not a national drinking age was born?

    1. The federal highway funds at issue in South Dakota v. Dole were to be withheld entirely prospectively: that is, Congress enacted a whole new statute saying “if you don’t change your drinking age, you won’t get money that we appropriate in the future.” The executive order at issue here purports to revoke funding prospectively based on existing law: that is, “if you are a sanctuary city, we will withhold funding you are by law already eligible for.” That’s not okay under NFIB v. Sebelius, where the Obama admin threatened to take away existing Medicaid funds if a state didn’t do Medicaid expansion.

      1. This. If it were Congress altering funding that would one thing. The Executive trying to hold appropriated monies hostage is another.

        1. If this is the case how did the Obama administration get buy with threaten to withhold education money over Title IX?

          1. My opinion is that you are correct there is a double standard. Partially because college administrators were all too willing to be thrown into that briar patch, so had no incentive to challenge Obama.

            But also because that’s how the statist ratchet works. If the Feds didn’t throw money around in the first place they wouldn’t be able to use it as strings to make people dance. But the strings only work when pulled left. Try anything else and some judge somewhere will shoot it down.

            More broadly speaking, should we look at these things based on preferred outcome or on the rule of law? Because today I’ve just read that this ruling might be an overreach – something about the Feds being able to request/compel information from the localities not rising to the level of commandeering, or some such. Which is interesting, but not something I’m at all versed in, and seems like a stretch, even if it is a principle applied before.

            So now I’m in wait and see mode.

        2. And how did the federal government get away with threatening to withhold highway funds from any state that did not pass mandatory seat-belt laws years ago?

    2. Exactly. I’m sure we’ll see a brazenly partisan about face if someone were to raise a new challenge to laws like .08 BAC, drivers license suspension for child support delinquents, 21 drinking age, .02 for people under 21, etc.

      1. Don’t be crazy. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says you’re an adult at 18, or have a right to drink alcohol.

        1. Can’t. tell. if. sarcasm…

  5. So states can now make their drinking age anything they want without losing their highway funding?

    1. NO! Drinking is icky- Unless its wine. Weed is the new cool thing to intoxicate on, so don’t fuck with that.

      Just cut all the federal budgets and the political maneuvering will become less of a thing. The cut the state budgets and see the same magical shift from political cronyism to market forces.

      1. Amen. These are entirely foreseeable consequences of Federal ‘largesse.’


  6. Today Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump administration from enforcing President Donald Trump’s executive order denying federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities.

    I’m curious, if a state or even a city suddenly starts declaring that they aren’t going to follow American law anymore what is the recourse of a President?

    Well, to answer my own question, if you go by historical precedent it would be Civil War.

    Weird!

    1. What is the recourse of a state or city if the President stops following American law? Civil War, of course.

      1. It’s true from both sides, for sure. I don’t think I’m prepared for how deep this rabbit hole might go.

      2. The states and cities are following American law. Under American law, federal immigration enforcement is done by the federal DHS.

        Trump’s just whining that left-wing cities and states aren’t spending their local tax dollars to do jobs federal tax dollars are supposed to pay for.

        1. “Trump’s just whining that left-wing cities and states aren’t spending their local tax dollars to do jobs federal tax dollars are supposed to pay for.”

          That’s the ignorant viewpoint of the hard lefties promoting the sanctuary concept. Law enforcement reciprocity is a long standing tradition among Fed-State-Local agencies. If we wish to abolish that, then do it across the board, but then state lines will become instant immunity zones and extradition a thing of the past as warrants are ignored by local LEOs. What right does a PA trooper have to hold a man wanted for mass murder in NJ?
          Illegal immigrants committed a Federal crime when they crossed the border. The Feds have every right to expect reciprocity. The whole concept of Sanctuary areas is that the local LEOs refuse reciprocity specifically for immigration. It’s not about enforcement, or any tax dollar expense, but rather the active refusal to communicate to the Feds.

        2. Another way to look at it, is that the States/Cities are selectively chosen which Federal laws they wish to abide by. This has been going on with pot for a while, but the vast majority of citizens think that pot is a victimless crime and that outside of trafficking, it is not within the scope of the Feds. Large public support for the Feds to just go away and the Feds certainly know this. They have no real reason to push the issue.
          ‘Sanctuary’ however is the States specifically refusing to follow what is clearly a Federal issue. The vast majority of citizens agree that immigration is a Federal issue and that the States have no business in this area. They may seriously disagree on the policy, but clearly aligned that this is Federal. That’s the core of the problem….the States are treading in an area they shouldn’t and the Feds know that any backlash with solely be partisan based on policy, not legality. It is setting up a very dangerous confrontation…one that we haven’t had since Federal troops were sent in enforce desegregation.
          Sanctuary cities are daring the Feds to send in troops and if people think that won’t happen they are desperately na?ve.

    2. A better example than this story would be the legality of pot, specifically, but there’s a definite trend towards States and Cities trying to break away from the FedGov. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but it did lead to a Civil War that one time.

      1. The people handing out doobies in DC on 4/20 learned the hard way that Federal law still applies regardless of what D.C. law says.

      2. The closest comparison is the use of Federal troops to enforce desegregation in the South. We are lucky that didn’t lead to armed rebellion then.

        I would be very concerned about an escalation to the use of Federal troops to enforce immigration law. That is essentially what the Sanctuary cities are pushing towards. There are only three options…the Feds back down and we have complete immigration lawlessness. Immigration reform/amnesty makes the ‘sanctuary’ concept meaningless. Trump sends in troops.

        I would bet on Trump pulling out a Reagan-like amnesty plan after securing the border. But if the open borders loons and racialists block those efforts, then it is difficult to see how it doesn’t devolve to armed conflict.

    3. Section 1076 is titled “Use of the Armed Forces in major public emergencies.” It provided that:

      The President may employ the armed forces… to… restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition… the President determines that… domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order… or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such… a condition… so hinders the execution of the laws… that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law… or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.
      The condition you suppose is “other condition”.
      The “part or class of its people” would be those who follow federal immigration law.
      (If you are less than sixty years old, google Little Rock Integration crisis for pictures of the 101st airborne at work.)

    4. Depends on who the president is, if we’re being honest

  7. 10 Amendment? Are you serious?
    Between the ninth and tenth, 90% of Federal law is unconstitutional.

  8. We live in a judicial dictatorship. As another example, a federal judge recently ordered this to a civil litigant before illegally confiscating all of his property and terminating his civil rights, stating:

    “You are a fool, a fool, a fool, a fool to screw with a federal judge, and if you don’t understand that, I can make you understand it ? I have the full force of the Navy, Army, Marines and Navy behind me,”

    http://dailycaller.com/2016/08…..-millions/

  9. I’d ask why we have DISTRICT courts since the judges have a new hard on for national injunctions. I hope to see conservative jurists return the favor.

    1. I hope to see conservative jurists return the favor.

      Trump first needs to appoint some.

  10. From what I can tell the court actually upheld that Trump could withhold federal grant money from the cities.

  11. Well, one good thing from this presidency is that blue states will finally love the tenth amendment and the red states will start hating it.

  12. So, the federal government can force universities (including public universities) to impose punishments that violate the 4A under Title IX and it’s A-OK.

    But withholding law enforcement funds in order to force police departments to do their job, that’s unconstitutional?

    Trump obviously needs to do some housecleaning at the federal court level.

    1. Can any Esq. chime into this issue in particular – the distinction of entitled funds for public universities and Title IX and funds for municipalities and non-compliance to immigration policy.

  13. David French has a column describing this as a meaningless injunction against a meaningless executive order. It is all legalistic preening by the administration and the judge and neither really changes anything.

    1. Ah yes, but in the court of public opinion, the judiciary keeps demonstrating how partisan they are. It’s not a good look for them.
      Everyone expects the Rs and Ds to push their agendas, however extreme they may be. Judges are supposed to be impartial. These EOs keep highlighting how severely partisan they have become.

  14. William Orrick III
    Yale, Boston College Law School
    Georgia Legal Services Program 5 yrs
    Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP; made partner in 4 years, 25 years total
    Federal DOJ 4 yrs
    Appointed by Obama to district court 2012
    Additional data:
    His daddy was also at Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP, also at DOJ under Kennedy, also appointed to No Cal district court.
    Oh, by the way, according to the Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group, William H. Orrick III, who was employed by the law firm Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass, raised at least $200,000 for Barack Obama and donated $30,800 to committees supporting him.
    On July 31, 2015, Orrick blocked the release of videos of Planned Parenthood.

  15. But Obama deciding how every school’s bathroom facilities should function is constitutional? Leftist hypocrisy that “Libertarians” are willing to go along with in the their mindless support of open borders.

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