Federal Judge William H. Orrick ruled on Monday that President Donald Trump's executive order stripping sanctuary cities of federal funding was unconstitutional. The judge handed sanctuary cities like San Francisco and San Jose another legal win and the presidential administration another setback in a nearly yearlong standoff over San Francisco’s budget.
A January executive order threatened to hold up as much as $1.2 billion in federal funding from SF if the city did not agree to work more closely with federal immigration agents, possibly endangering moneys devoted to homeless issues, transit, law enforcement, street upkeep, and airport maintenance, among others.
The city responded by suing. City attorney Dennis Herrera argued the executive order violated the city’s rights under the 10th Amendment, by assuming federal powers not specifically granted by any existing law.
In April, Orrick ruled in favor of the city and of Santa Clara County (which was partner on the suit), blocking the order from taking effect because the judge ruled that it was “likely” that the suit had merit.
The two Bay Area counties petitioned for summary judgement in August. And Monday’s ruling favored the request by declaring the executive action unconstitutional:
[The order] is overbroad and coercive that even if the President had spending powers, the Executive Order would clearly exceed them and violate the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition against commandeering local jurisdictions.
It is so vague and standardless that it violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and is void for vagueness.
And because it seeks to deprive local jurisdictions of congressionally allocated funds without any notice or opportunity to be heard, it violates the procedural due process requirements of the Fifth Amendment.
Orrick cited his previous judgment that the federal government’s defense “was not legally plausible in light of the executive order’s plain language, as confirmed by the administration’s many statements.”
In a written statement, Herrera said, “President Trump might be able to tweet whatever comes to mind, but he can’t grant himself new authority because he feels like it.”
This win seems to relieve much of the tension and anxiety over what the city might do if deprived of such a large portion of its budget.
But the order may be revived on an appeal in the future, and the executive branch can try to use other legal tools not covered by this ruling to the same effect.