Classify this under “More reasons I am proud to be a Californian!"
Looking at articles today from the New York Times and the Washington Post, I am so encouraged that U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary injunction on Trump’s executive order that would withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities. Orrick ruled that a case could be made that the executive order violated the U.S. Constitution.
Orrick’s injunction applies nationwide until the judge can rule on the underlying constitutional issues, but he indicated strongly that he leaned against the Trump administration.
Trump’s order, signed on Jan. 25th, threatens to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money. Orrick found the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on all their claims.
But the reasoning behind the ruling is very interesting. It focuses largely on an all-too-familiar theme for the new administration: the consequences of bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.
Similar to the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Orrick looked at the vast discrepancies between a) what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order have argued in court, and b) what administration officials have said about the order in public.
In court, the government has tried to make the case that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment, because the administration has yet to define what exactly a sanctuary city is or to threaten any particular jurisdiction with a loss of funds. It was a way for the administration to try to convince the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered harm.
But in public, administration officials have boasted and blustered about how the order “would force sanctuary cities to their knees,” and have singled out particular jurisdictions for punishment. In news conferences, briefings, and in television interviews, the administration has zealously promoted the order as a “powerful tool” to protect the public from “dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by wayward cities and counties.”
Orrick did not buy the government’s arguments, and ridiculed the government’s position as “schizophrenic."
“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments.”
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because other federal judges reached very similar conclusions about the administration’s credibility in lawsuits challenging Trump’s prior travel bans.
So when the president says that he is going to “ban Muslims,” it matters. When says that he is going to "force American cities to their knees,” it matters.
Jayashri Srikantiah, an immigration law professor at Stanford Law School states, “It’s hard to imagine not seeing more of these kinds of legal challenges. The president is the president and the attorney general is the attorney general, and we have to take seriously what they say about an executive order with such sweeping implications.”
Orrick’s ruling puts the sanctuary city executive order on hold while he weighs the full evidence in the case. At issue is whether or not the order violates the Constitution by giving the president spending powers reserved for Congress, and by infringing on state sovereignty by “commandeering” local officials to enforce federal immigration laws.
Under normal procedures, Orrick’s ruling would have to be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which would rule before it could be brought to the Supreme Court.
The take-away for Mr. Trump and the White House? Maybe they should tone down the hate-speak and the bluster.
The take-away for us? It’s far more significant. These court cases are textbook examples of the importance of the checks and balances and division of power written into our constitution.
Let’s send a lot of love to the California Federal District Courts, and to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
You go, Golden State!