SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The Department of Justice on Monday asked a federal judge to reconsider an injunction against President Donald Trump’s executive order on sanctuary city funding, after the attorney general issued a memo narrowing the scope of the grant money at stake.
The Monday memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed positions taken by Justice Department lawyers at an April court hearing: that Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order would authorize withholding only a small pot of grants tied to immigration enforcement.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick blocked part of the executive order on April 25, finding the plain language of the directive “attempts to reach all federal grants, not merely the three mentioned at the hearing.”
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office on Monday called Sessions’s guidance memo “a self-serving document.”
“We can’t rely on it, and we can’t trust it,” City Attorney Dennis Hererra’s office said in a statement Monday. “It is trying to blunt the resounding loss the Trump administration suffered on our motion for a preliminary injunction, but the memo doesn’t change the constitutional problems of the executive order.”
The memo defines sanctuary jurisdictions as those that “willfully refuse to comply” with 8 U.S. Code § 1373, which requires that no state or local government shall restrict its employees from communicating an individual’s immigration status with federal authorities.
San Francisco says it complies with that, because it does not bar sending or receiving information about people’s immigration status. The city merely refuses to share the release dates of undocumented inmates or hold those prisoners after their release date so Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take them into custody, with exceptions for certain violent and high-level offenders.
Sessions also said in his Monday memo that Trump’s executive order would apply only to grant funds issued by the Departments of Justice and of Homeland Security, but all jurisdictions must certify that they comply with Section 1373 to be eligible for the funds.
Sessions also left open the possibility of taking further actions to punish sanctuary cities for refusing to help federal authorities detain undocumented immigrants.
“Nothing in the Executive Order limits the Department’s ability to point out ways that state and local jurisdictions are undermining our lawful system of immigration or to take enforcement action where state or local practices violate federal laws, regulations, or grant conditions,” Sessions’s memo states.
The Justice Department on Monday asked Orrick for permission to file a motion for reconsideration of his April 25 order enjoining Section 9(a) of Trump’s executive order, which empowered the government to withhold federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions.
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office said the federal government should not be allowed to dictate how local governments deploy their limited law enforcement resources to protect their communities.
“The federal government can’t force local governments to do its job for it,” the City Attorney’s Office said. “We want to use our law enforcement resources to fight violent crime, not take hard-working mothers away from their children.”
The withholding of grants from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would mean less funding for police officers, programs for trauma victims in communities of color, and substance abuse programs for young adults convicted of drug crimes, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
“Harming the broader community in an effort to target undocumented immigrants is a repulsive form of hatred and xenophobia,” the district attorney’s office said.
Also Monday, San Francisco filed a second amended complaint in which it dropped its challenge to the constitutionality of Section 1373, which the Justice Department is using as a basis to identify sanctuary jurisdictions. The city still maintains that it complies with that law.
Orrick had indicated that he considered the constitutionality of Section 1373 a separate issue from the constitutionality of Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order.
“We are streamlining the case to focus on the issues that are most central to this litigation,” City Attorney John Cote said Monday of city’s decision to drop that claim from its lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office accused the president of burying in his budget proposal a major expansion of the federal law that local governments must comply with in order to avoid being classified as sanctuary jurisdictions.
The changes, in an appendix on page 544 of the proposed budget released Monday night, would require local jurisdictions not restrict employees from sharing the jail release dates, home addresses and contact information of undocumented immigrants, instead of only sharing their immigration status as the law currently requires.
“Once again, this administration has demonstrated why they can’t be trusted,” Herrera said in a statement Tuesday. “They are trying to sneak major changes in the law through the back door because they cannot get them through the front. These proposed changes would fly in the face of the Constitution.”