SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A permanent injunction will likely block one of President Donald Trump’s first executive orders aimed at cutting off funds to sanctuary cities, a federal judge signaled Monday.
Little has changed since a temporary ban was issued to block a key section of Trump’s Jan. 25 directive in April, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III said during a summary judgment hearing Monday.
“I enjoined it because it violates a fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers – spending powers that belong to Congress – in a manner that is overbroad and coercive,” Orrick said. “The government has not identified any material facts in dispute or any new law, so I’m inclined to issue a permanent injunction.”
Section 9(a) of Trump’s executive order sought to withhold funds from sanctuary jurisdictions that “willfully refuse to comply” with 8 U.S. Code § 1373, which requires that local governments not restrict employees from sharing a person’s immigration status with federal authorities.
Within days of Trump issuing the order, San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County sued, calling it an unconstitutional abuse of power that threatens local sovereignty.
San Francisco maintains it complies with federal law because its sanctuary city ordinance does not bar city employees from sharing a person’s immigration or citizenship status with immigration agents.
But the city’s ordinance does limit cooperation with immigration authorities in other ways.
Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Chad Readler argued Monday that San Francisco’s policy violates the law because it bars city employees from disclosing the release dates of undocumented immigrants in its jails to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“The city cannot have a policy that restricts the sharing of that information if ICE requests it,” Readler said.
But San Francisco says the Justice Department is using an overly broad interpretation of the law to force it and other jurisdictions to bend to the will of the federal government.
“There’s no way to read release status as equivalent to immigration status information, but that’s the way they read it here,” San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Molly Lee contended.
Orrick said he is likely to delay ruling on whether San Francisco complies with that law because the same issue is disputed in a separate case challenging the Justice Department’s withholding of funds through a specific grant program.
San Francisco and the state of California sued the Justice Department in August over its decision to cut off $385 million in grants to cities and states that won’t let immigration agents access local jails and give 48-hour notice before releasing undocumented immigrants.
“Why should I rule on this now when I have the second lawsuit, where I’ll get a better record on the issue of 1373 compliance,” Orrick asked.
Lee urged the judge to resolve the Section 1373 compliance issue now, arguing failing to do so would leave the city in an “untenable position.”
“The court should hold that Section 1373 means what it says and only covers sharing of immigration and citizenship status information,” Lee said.
Orrick suggested he is likely to defer ruling on San Francisco’s compliance until the issue is addressed in the separate lawsuit over criminal justice grants.
After the hearing, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said resolving the compliance issue is critically important for the city as the federal government continues to place its funding at risk.
“The uncertainty the city continues to operate under because of the expansive position the federal government continues to take” demands “a resolution that San Francisco laws are in compliance to make sure San Francisco doesn’t have a Sword of Damocles hanging over our head every day,” Herrera said.