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SF asks judge to block effort to withhold sanctuary cities’ funds

Dennis Herrera calls administration a bully with “contempt for judiciary”

Dennis Herrera at podium. Courtesy City Attorney

San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion on Wednesday asking the judge in the city’s suit against the Trump administration to declare White House efforts to cut federal funds over immigration disputes unconstitutional.

In January of this year, Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to cut off federal grants to cities the administration deemed inadequately cooperative with immigration enforcement agencies.

San Francisco responded by suing.

In April, Judge William H. Orrick issued an injunction barring the White House from enforcing the order, saying, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”

But Orrick based that April decision only on his judgment that the city was “likely” to make a persuasive legal argument that the order would violate its rights.

Wednesday’s motion asks Orrick to rule that the city actually has now made its case and make the injunction permanent. The motion reads in part:

While the Court has not yet had the opportunity to consider San Francisco’s claim that its laws comport with [federal law...] so long as President Trump and his Administration perpetuate uncertainty about what [the law] requires they can use threats to try to bully jurisdictions into submission.

To put an end to these unconstitutional threats and protect its legitimate local policy decisions, San Francisco moves for summary judgment and seeks declaratory relief and a permanent injunction against all Defendants.

Trump signs an order in February. (Not the same one in dispute here.)
Courtesy White House

Herrera’s suit—one of two the city is presently engaged in with the White House, the other targeting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department—claims that the White House immigration bid tries to improperly usurp spending power from Congress.

The suit also alleges that the order imperils the city’s Tenth Amendment rights, “which embody the basic principle that the federal government cannot compel state or local governments to enact or administer a federal regulatory program.”

In a statement on his office’s site, Herrera called Trump a bully with “contempt for the judiciary.”

He added, “San Francisco follows the law, [...] period. If the federal government wants San Francisco to hold [criminal suspects], all they need to do is get a criminal warrant from a judge.”

Immigration agencies like ICE often ask that cities hold suspects beyond their scheduled release date to give more time to check their immigration status and see if they can be detained for being in the country illegally.

Cities like San Francisco say that this would violate suspect’s rights and that the federal government can’t coerce local police into what lawyers like Herrera allege is an unconstitutional act.

Matt Wade