“Sanctuary Cities” land decisive blow in court battle

A federal judge in San Francisco (not some bullshit “island in the pacific” this time) has halted enforcement of Trump’s executive order to pull federal money from so-called “sanctuary cities.” These are cities that refuse to serve as a de-facto arm of federal immigration enforcement by declining to inquire as to the immigration status of crime victims and others who intersect with city government.

This case is literally titled “San Francisco vs. Donald J. Trump,” conjuring images of the most historically liberal city in the country squaring off against the greatest threat to progressive principles America has ever seen.

The Judge’s ruling awards San Francisco the equivalent of a total knock out. The court concludes that by attempting to control the way federal funding is distributed, the executive order is a clearly unconstitutional overreach.

The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds

. . .

Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.

Lawyers for the government were clearly aware they faced an uphill battle in this case. They tried to argue the scope of the order was limited to a few specific grants and not intended as a full-fledged withdrawal of all federal funding for “sanctuary cities.” The court responded by simply pointing out the public statements Trump and the steaming pot of old-fashioned sweet tea he appointed Attorney General have made on the matter.

If there was any doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments. The President has called it “a weapon” to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement . . . The Attorney General has warned that jurisdictions that do not comply with [the Order] would suffer “withholding grants, termination of grants, or disbarment or ineligibility for future grants” and the “claw back” of any funds previously awarded.

Ultimately, this case serves as yet another reminder to the President and his team that they exist within a system of checks and balances. Being elected to the White House does not mean that you control the entirety of the federal government. Congress retains broad control over spending, and judges–even those sitting in a liberal enclave 20 feet deep in marijuana smoke–have authority to interpret and enforce the Constitution.

The threat Trump represents to immigrant communities is real, but it is nice to know that he doesn’t have all the power he claims to. Score another win for the rule of law.

 

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