Court Rules Against Trump in Lawsuit Over California’s Sanctuary Cities

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A federal judge on Friday ruled against the Trump administration over their opposition to California’s immigrant-friendly sanctuary cities. The ruling blocks the White House’s attempt to place conditions on public safety grants for cities that disagree with the administration’s anti-immigration agenda.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick was the latest to rule against the Trump administration on their attempt to block the public safety grants. So far, every court which has taken up the controversy has ruled against the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on this issue.

Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions proclaimed that local law enforcement would have to comply with federal immigration agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to receive funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Those grants were authorized by Congress in 2005, and comprise the main source of DOJ funding for states and cities.

In an October press release, Sessions threatened several, large sanctuary cities and counties over their pro-immigrant policies.

“Jurisdictions that adopt so-called ‘sanctuary policies’ also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law,” Sessions said. “I urge all jurisdictions found to be out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents. We urge jurisdictions to not only comply with [my order] but to establish sensible and effective partnerships to properly process [undocumented immigrants].”

In a lengthy 61 page opinion, Judge Orrick took stock of what the Trump administration was attempting to do by tying grant funding to cooperation with ICE and others. He wrote, “[The administration] has lost each time these issues have been raised thus far. It continues to withhold grant funding to six states and several local jurisdictions, including California and San Francisco, which it believes do not comply with the Byrne JAG program conditions for fiscal year 2017.”

Then Orrick notes that Sessions’ attempt to bypass already-enacted congressional funding grants is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers.  The order continues:

California and San Francisco have shown that [Sessions’ failed order] is unconstitutional and that the challenged conditions violate the separation of powers.In consideration of the factual record, including the structure of the Byrne JAG program and the harm to jurisdictions across the country, I find that this case justifies nationwide relief…

Orrick also ribs the Trump administration for its losing track record on the issue, noting, In agreement with every court that has looked at these issues,I find that…the challenged conditions violate the separation of powers; [Sessions’ order] is unconstitutional; the Attorney General exceeds the Spending Power in violation of the United States Constitution by imposing the challenged conditions; [and] the challenged conditions are arbitrary and capricious…both parties are entitled to a permanent injunction.

In finding for California, however, Orrick stayed his own injunction–essentially blocking it from taking effect–until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has a chance to rule on the issue.

In a Friday statement cited by The Hill, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “Today’s ruling is a victory in our fight to protect the people of California, We will continue to stand up to the Trump administration’s attempts to force our law enforcement into changing its policies and practices in ways that that would make us less safe.”

[image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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