The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit yesterday dealt another blow to President Trump's plan to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal grant money. In a 2-to-1 decision, a 9th Circuit panel ruled that the threat against cities that do not help the feds enforce immigration law is unconstitutional.
Although the appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge William Orrick's legal analysis in a ruling he issued last April, it concluded that he went too far by imposing a nationwide injunction. Since the challenge was brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, the 9th Circuit narrowed the injunction's scope from the entire United States to just California.
Justice Department spokesperson Devin O'Malley said the ruling was 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 whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country."
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera had a different perspective. "When a president overreaches and tries to assert authority he doesn't have under the Constitution," Herrera said, "there needs to be a check on that power grab."
In March 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would withhold $4.1 billion in federal grants from sanctuary cities. That September, a federal judge in Illinois granted a temporary injunction that halted the administration's imposition of the penalties on Chicago.
As Reason's Scott Shackford reported, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber concluded that Title 8, Section 1373 of the U.S. Code, the law on which the administration was relying, is unconstitutional. "In the end," Leinenweber wrote, "Section 1373 requires local policymakers to stand aside and allow the federal government to conscript the time and cooperation of local employees. This robs the local executive of its autonomy and ties the hands of the local legislature. Such affronts to State sovereignty are not countenanced by the anticommandeering principle of the Constitution. Section 1373 is unconstitutional and cannot stand."