Donald Trump

Why the Trump Administration Keeps Losing in Court on Sanctuary Cities

It's all about the Constitution.

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Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com

In January 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order granting the attorney general of the United States broad discretion "to ensure" that "sanctuary jurisdictions…are not eligible to receive federal grants." Six months later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wielded that power by declaring the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides a wealth of federal dollars to local law enforcement agencies, to be off-limits to any jurisdiction that refuses to "comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities."

It was an aggressive move. Unfortunately for the Trump administration, it also happened to be an unconstitutional one. The executive branch, of which the attorney general is a part, has no lawful authority to unilaterally impose such conditions on federal spending. The federal spending power rests in Article I of the Constitution, which is the section that lays out the enumerated powers of Congress. The enumerated powers of the executive are spelled out separately in Article II. Sessions' maneuver, in other words, usurped congressional authority and thus violated the separation of powers. Trump can issue all of the executive orders he wants, but he cannot alter this basic fact about the American constitutional system.

In a ruling issued last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit recognized the Trump administration's malfeasance for what it is. "The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement," the 7th Circuit observed in Chicago v. Sessions. "But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds. In fact," the court pointed out, "Congress repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies." To allow the Trump administration to act in this manner, the 7th Circuit concluded, would be to remove a "check against tyranny."

This was not the first time that the Trump administration's attack on sanctuary cities has received a well-deserved judicial rebuke. In November 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found Trump's executive order to be in violation of both the separation of powers (because it sought to expropriate congressional spending authority) and the 10th Amendment (because it tried to force local police into administering a federal regulatory program).

Make no mistake, these cases are about much more than just immigration policy. The Trump administration seeks to impose its will on this issue by aggrandizing the executive, trashing federalism, and subverting the separation of powers. Such unconstitutional tactics should always lose in court.

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  1. The Trump administration seeks to impose its will on this issue by aggrandizing the executive, trashing federalism, and subverting the separation of powers.

    OK…. I’m just wondering how that makes him different from any other politician.

    1. Nothing. But we go through this with every President.

      When Obama was in office it was 8 years of ‘but Bush too!’ with every article criticizing him.

      1. Ah, yes. Principals, not principles. I forgot.

  2. Needsmoredalmia.

    1. Needsmorespaces. 🙂

  3. Make no mistake, these cases are about much more than just immigration policy. The Trump administration seeks to impose its will on this issue by aggrandizing the executive, trashing federalism, and subverting the separation of powers. Such unconstitutional tactics should always lose in court.

    Nah man, this is 4-dimensional chess. See, by doing this stuff, Trump is forcing the courts to set precedents favorable to limiting the power of the executive. He’s working slyly to destroy the unitary executive we’ve built up over the last century by making the courts continually issue edicts striking down Presidential actions.

    As such, Trump is the most libertarian President ever.

    1. Libertarian-ish.

    2. That’s the theory, at least. In practice, when another President decides to do the same thing, the Courts will approve, because that President isn’t Trump…unless the Courts don’t like that President, and so on, and so forth….

  4. “The federal spending power rests in Article I of the Constitution, which is the section that lays out the enumerated powers of Congress. The enumerated powers of the executive are spelled out separately in Article II. Sessions’ maneuver, in other words, usurped congressional authority and thus violated the separation of powers.”

    The power to set the rules of naturalization is enumerated to congress is Article I, section 8, as well–rather than with the states or the cities. Because the executive has no business unconstitutionally usurping the enumerated powers of congress certainly doesn’t mean that local municipalities have the authority to defy congress’ enumerated power to set the rules of naturalization.

    I remember when Prop 187 was shot down in the courts. The last ruling I saw had it that Prop 187 was unconstitutional because it was usurping the U.S. congress’ enumerated power to set the rules of naturalization. The states have no business setting such rules–or even enforcing them. Funny how the Constitution always seems to be interpreted in such a way that no matter what it says, what it really means is that no one can do anything about our lawless border.

    If people are becoming increasingly frustrated with the governments’ [sic] unwillingness and inability to defend our border, I can hardly blame them. It’s a recipe for populism if ever there were one.

    1. I really don’t think Reason quite grasps how much they are pushing 50% of the country to conclude we no longer have a rule of law.

    2. No fair pointing out the “heads I win, tails you lose” logic of Reason’s apparent editorial stance on federalism with regard to immigration issues.

    3. Let’s not forget that part of the law passed by California was to prohibit private employers from voluntarily cooperating with the feds or providing them with information.

      Speaking of unconstitutional, that provision absolutely is.

      California can tell it’s own state controlled entities not to cooperate with the feds but it has no authority to tell private businesses or citizens that they cannot.

    4. If you want the current 10th amendment jurisprudence thrown out the window so that the federal government can force states to enforce immigration law, be prepared for everything that comes along with that

      1. How is this a 10th Amendment issue? Immigration law is something that’s clearly enumerated in the Constitution as a Federal power.

  5. Trump could have simply cut grants to cities for zero reason when the grant is at the discretion of the Executive Branch to issue.

    Trump wanted to get more Americans aware of sanctuary cities, which he did.

    Now more Americans than ever are for securing the borders and putting American first ahead of non-Americans. Some people know how to play ‘n’ th D chess and others don’t. Damon concentrates on still pushing the narrative that Trump is worse than Hitler never seeing that Trump’s plan worked perfectly to get more Americans against sanctuary cities.

    1. Did they give you pom-poms when you became a Nativist cheerleader?

      1. Americans control their immigration policy, not non-Americans [period]

        MAGA!

    2. To that point, something like 40 municipalities in California have joined the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s sanctuary laws

  6. unconstitutional tactics should always lose in court.

    You a funny guy, Damon.

    1. “unconstitutional tactics should always lose in court.”

      I guess Damon slept through history class when they were discussing FDR’s “New Deal”

      1. I guess Gilbert slept though the fourth grade reading class when they were teaching “should.”
        Then the fifth. sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth. eleventh and twelfth, when everyone else was using the word.
        Properly..

  7. Congress was given the enumerated power to regulate immigrants after 1808, and then gave some of that discretion on who to let in to the Executive Branch.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 9:
    The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.

    1. “US Constitution, Article I, Section 9:”

      By most historical accounts, that clauses is/was primarily about regulating the slave trade, not immigration.

      1. “Migration” or importation. Slaves may be imported, but they do not “migrate”. Thus it is clear that it does have to do with immigration as well as slavery.

        1. migrate
          verb mi?grate \ ?m?-?gr?t , m?-? \
          intransitive verb
          1 : to move from one country, place, or locality to another

      2. It really doesn’t matter.

        Giving slaves citizenship was not intended to provide anchor babies citizenship as well, but here we are.

      3. MatthewSlyfield
        By most historical accounts, that clauses is/was primarily about regulating the slave trade, not immigration.

        By ALL historical accounts. But goobers gonna bellow their ignorance to the world, anyhow.
        Two (so far)

  8. The utopia imposed upon us by others is intolerable, therefore we must impose our utopia on others before it is too late and folks revert to behaving in an uncivilized manner.

  9. ” The executive branch, of which the attorney general is a part, has no lawful authority to unilaterally impose such conditions on federal spending. The federal spending power rests in Article I of the Constitution, which is the section that lays out the enumerated powers of Congress. The enumerated powers of the executive are spelled out separately in Article II. Sessions’ maneuver, in other words, usurped congressional authority and thus violated the separation of powers”

    Unless of course, it was used to do something like withhold federal highway funds from states that didn’t adopt a 55 mph speed limit.
    In that case, it was perfectly A-OK according to the court.

    1. It was Congress that did that, not the executive, I’m pretty sure.

      1. If the Constitution were actually being upheld, most of those federal grants/payments to states would never have existed to begin with as they are not pursuant to any enumerated power delegated to the federal government in the text of the Constitution.

        1. You’ve screwed up on “”unconstitutional tactics should always lose in court.”
          Then the 55 mph speed limit.
          And now the entire constitution (enumerated powers)
          Oh wait, I haven’t read the entire page yet.

    2. “Unless of course, it was used to do something like withhold federal highway funds from states that didn’t adopt a 55 mph speed limit.”

      Or discriminate against transgender restroom choices.
      Or arrest too many high schoolers who committed crimes.
      Or not expand state Medicaid coverage.
      Or allow non-union employment.

  10. My guess is that not only was high school civics a long time ago for Trump, but that he wasn’t paying attention. However, neither were the members of Congress, so you never can tell which way it will go. Good thing the Court reads and considers these things.

    1. Checks and balances — despite what Ron Paul bleats from his KKK hovel.
      IMissItToo

  11. Federalism, yet another GOP constitutional hypocrisy.. Do they have ANY values at all now?

    Left – Right = Zero

  12. I can recommend a resource where essay on nursing profession

  13. I agree that he is over stepping his constitutional authority in that he cannot authorize who receives funds and who doesn’t. But isn’t there also a conflict with the 14th Amendment. Prior to 1868, the states had the power to authorize citizenship, or with hold it as in the case of slaves. With the 14th, the Federal Gov’t captured and defined the function of citizenship as being a Federally controlled responsibility. The states no longer have an immigration function or a responsibility for policing the borders as that falls under Homeland Security (the former Department of immigration). So with respect to immigration, the States should be neutral and in affect sanctuary’s of citizens and residents, and yes even illegals. It has become a Federal responsibility to police the borders and arrest and detain.

    1. It was the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. The 14th amendment went back and said anyone born here is a citizen — to reinforce that. And abolished states rights (somebody tell Ron Paul)

      The 14th has nothing to do with immigration, and states never had their own immigration policies, now were there any federal immigration policies at the time.

  14. I think we’d all be better off without federal tax dollars corrupting local PD’s.

  15. Seriously? You are going to claim that decisions in solid blue areas are somehow representative of the Constitution? If the author wants to talk about the Constitution, he might consider the President has sole discretion on how immigration is managed. When Federal judges again and again declared the travel ban “unconstitutional” based on comments the President made during the campaign, rather than the actual wording for the document, they were no longer fulfilling their role outlined in Article III because they had moved far beyond interpreting the law to writing it. The entire Federal court system is out of control because more often than not today, judges act as super-legislators and change laws based on their decisions rather than return the issue back to Congress and is supposed to happen. Congress represents the people and we, not unelected, un accountable Federal judges, are the government.

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