It will at least temporarily block President Donald Trump’s executive order that denies federal grants to cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law:
Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday barring federal officials nationwide from carrying out the portion of a Jan. 25 Trump executive order aimed at cutting off grants to local governments that won’t provide assistance to federal authorities in locating and detaining undocumented immigrants.
Orrick cited public comments from Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in concluding that the order appeared intended to sweep more broadly than allowed by federal law. The judge, an Obama appointee, called “not legally plausible” the Justice Department’s arguments that Trump was simply trying to secure compliance with current law.
“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote. “The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”
The decision came about as part of a lawsuit filed by the local governments in San Francisco and Santa Clara County. So it appears as if California, with all of its fiscal problems, is determined to keep illegal immigration at levels that will only accelerate their insolvency. Then again, what else would you expect from the state that wants to spend billions of dollars it doesn’t have on high-speed rail that nobody wants?
Also on display here is a fair amount of judicial arrogance, with Judge Orrick citing the public statements of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions as justification for his ruling. We saw much the same thing with Judge Derrick Watson, when he blocked Trump’s suspension of travel from certain Muslim majority countries based on statements the president made during the 2016 campaign, so this is nothing new. What is a fair point on Orrick’s part, however, is his insistence that spending power is vested only in the Congress, which makes any order blocking federal grants to sanctuary cities beyond the scope of executive powers. I’m a firm believer that if these cities want to flout federal immigration law, they shouldn’t be allowed to have that cake and eat their federally-funded goodies too–but it also seems to me that, at least in this aspect, Orrick is on pretty firm constitutional ground here.
Which makes it all the more reason for Congress to act, and make federal funds conditional on upholding federal law.