by Brian T. Lynch
President Donald Trump is fomenting a constitutional crisis that he cannot be allowed to win. In an official White House press release today, Donald Trump's Administration said elected officials in San Francisco "... have the blood of dead Americans on their hands" for opposing the Sanctuary Cities Executive Order that would strip away the city's federal funding for not fully engaging in federal immigration enforcement efforts. The press release said, "Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation."
The press release was a response to a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and other county officials requesting an injunction against enforcement of financial sanctions against them. They argued that the Executive Order is unconstitutional.
After hearing both sides of oral arguments in federal court, Judge William H. Orrick granted the injunction against the Administration, barring it from withdrawing any federal funding to cities and counties until after the issue can be adjudicated in a trial. In the judges legal opinion, the merits of the case presented by the city and counties would likely prevail at trial.
Judge Orrick's goes on to detail the substance of this federal court hearing:
- Trump's lawyers said at oral argument the Sanctuary Order is merely an exercise of the President’s “bully pulpit” to highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement. Administration lawyers didn't even respond to the constitutionality of the order itself, but instead argued that the Counties lack any standing in the court as the Executive Order didn't change existing law
- Under the Administration's interpretation of the Order, as presented by Trump Administration's lawyers in court, Section 9(a) applies only to three federal grants in the DOJ and DHS, and provisions to withhold federal funding under those three grants can already be enforce under existing law.
- Trump's own lawyers in court disavowed the Government's right to affect most of the billions of dollars in federal funds that sanctuary cities receive every year
- Yet other language the Executive Order tries to include all other federal grants, and all federal funding as subject to sanctions against municipalities that don't comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
- President Trump called his Order “a weapon” to use against these jurisdictions.
- The Attorney General warned that jurisdictions that do not comply with Section 1373 would suffer “withholding grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants,” and the “claw back” of any funds previously awarded
- The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Sanctuary Cities Executive Order cannot place new conditions on federal funds
- The Tenth Amendment requires that federal funds be unambiguous, must bear some relationship to the funds purposes and that the financial incentive cannot be coercive.
- Federal funding that bears no relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened because a city has chosen an immigration enforcement plan which is at odds with the Administration's plans
- Judge Orrack therefore granted the County's request for an injunction to prevent the Administration from withholding federal funding until after full hearing on the matter determines whether the Order is constitutional, saying "... this injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the Government's flawed interpretation of the Order."
Trump's outrageousresponse to the Sanctuary Cities injunction sets up a serious constitution crisis. His Administration is at war with another co-equal branch of government and the checks on his executive powers that were built into our constitution. We can't allow him to win this fight in the courts or in the court of public opinion.
Here is the Administration's outrageous press release printed in full:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate ReleaseApril 25, 2017
Statement on Sanctuary Cities Ruling
Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation. Federal law explicitly states that “a Federal, State or Local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S.C. 1373(a). That means, according to Congress, a city that prohibits its officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities -- a sanctuary city -- is violating the law. Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation. These cities are engaged in the dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders.
Once again, a single district judge -- this time in San Francisco -- has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the 5-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father's arms. San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. This San Francisco judge's erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.
This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping. But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.
In the meantime, we will pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens, and continue our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country. Ultimately, this is a fight between sovereignty and open borders, between the rule of law and lawlessness, and between hardworking Americans and those who would undermine their safety and freedom.