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U.S. judge blocks Trump order threatening funds for ‘sanctuary’ cities

Erica Leyva with the Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network of San Jose carries a sign outside a courthouse earlier this month when a federal judge heard arguments in the case. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)

A federal judge placed a nationwide hold Tuesday on President Trump’s order to strip funds from municipal governments that refuse to cooperate fully with immigration agents.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III, an Obama appointee based in San Francisco, said Trump’s Jan. 25 order, directed at so-called sanctuary cities and counties, unconstitutionally infringed on the rights of local governments.

The case was the first legal test of Trump’s order, which has left cities and counties across the nation fearful of losing massive amounts of federal funds.

The ruling stemmed from lawsuits by San Francisco and Santa Clara County challenging the order. The suits argued the directive violated the 10th Amendment, which protects states from federal government interference.

During an April 14 hearing, a lawyer for the Justice Department told Orrick that contrary to widespread impressions, the order would affect only limited law enforcement grants handed down by the Justice Department and the Office of Homeland Security — not all federal funding.

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Acting Assistant Atty. Gen. Chad A. Readler also said that counties could not be compelled to comply with federal requests to hold immigrants in the country illegally for immigration agents. Readler called those requests “not mandatory.”

Lawyers for San Francisco and Santa Clara County objected that Trump and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions had suggested the order was much broader and questioned whether Readler’s view reflected that of the administration’s.

Both Trump and Sessions have strongly criticized counties that refuse to hold immigrants in the U.S. illegally for possible deportation. No county in California complies with such requests because federal rulings suggest they could be liable legally if an immigrant later sued.

Trump’s order directed the attorney general and secretary for Homeland Security to ensure that sanctuary jurisdictions “are not eligible to receive federal grants,” a phrase that many cities and counties interpreted as a threat to withdraw all federal money.

The order left it up to the Homeland secretary to determine which governments were sanctuary jurisdictions. The term has yet to be defined legally, and policies differ among cities and counties that call themselves sanctuary jurisdictions.

Cities and counties around the nation have reacted differently to Trump’s order.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County immediately directed jail officials to honor all requests by immigration agents because he said he feared the county could lose $355 million a year in federal funding.

If only police grants are threatened, the county would lose $6.5 million over two years.

Santa Clara County officials had argued the order threatened $1.7 billion in annual federal funding. San Francisco said it stands to lose at least $1.2 billion a year.

This article will be updated.