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Federal Judge Delivers Another Blow to Trump’s Immigration Policies

Yesterday (April 25), U.S. District Judge William Orrick III issued a nationwide preliminary injunction to block a portion of President Trump’s January 25, 2017 executive order on interior immigration enforcement. Santa Clara and San Francisco counties filed a lawsuit in March challenging the constitutionality of the executive order which includes a section that empowers the federal government to withhold funds from jurisdictions that refuse to comply fully with immigration enforcement.

President Trump’s executive order affected many self-described sanctuary cities around the nation that are refusing to provide the federal government with immigration information about people apprehended by local law enforcement. Others are not complying with requests by federal immigration authorities to hold certain immigrants for additional time in local jails. Despite the increase in sanctuary cities around the nation, the punitive nature of Trump’s executive order has also served as a disincentive for cities that are concerned about losing access to federal funding if they failed to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Orrick’s decision may give jurisdictions on the fence a push towards sanctuary declarations. In his ruling, he noted that the power to place new conditions on the allocation of federal funds rests with Congress, not the executive branch. He also rejected arguments that the reach of the executive order was narrow. Orrick pointed to public statements of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as evidence of the Administration’s intent to deny sanctuary jurisdictions access to federal funds that are even unrelated to immigration enforcement.”Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick wrote in his decision.

While Orrick has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the executive order, the preliminary injunction presents another rebuke to the Administration’s immigration policies. In March, the Trump Administration suffered losses over its Muslim and refugee bans in federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland. The White House issued a statement denouncing Orrick’s decision, claiming that “an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our nation.”

Community-based organizations are pleased by Judge Orrick’s ruling. “We will not give in to the false narrative of public safety versus immigrants rights,”says Charisse Domingo of Silicon Valley De-Bug/ Santa Clara County FIRE Coalition, one of several groups that filed an amicus brief organized by Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. “Rather, it is through immigrants’ rights that we can achieve public safety. This principle is what has led us to this moment.”

Jayashri Srikantiah, director of Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, agrees. “In Santa Clara County, like many other counties across the country, the lives of immigrants and citizens are intertwined. This means that any policy that affects immigrants affects us all. When the federal government tries to force local authorities to act like immigration agents, it harms community trust and safety, and results in racial profiling.”

Maricela Gutierrez, executive director of Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)/Santa Clara County FIRE Coalition, also considers Orrick’s ruling a win. “It’s a victory for immigrant families nationwide who fought for strong local policies treating all individuals with the due process they deserve,” she says. “This Administration now knows that forward-thinking counties like ours will not be held hostage by funding threats.”

Just last week, the Trump Administration began to threatening to deny several of these “forward-thinking” jurisdictions federal funds if they did not prove their compliance with immigration enforcement. On April 21 the Department of Justice put nine cities, including New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, and Sacramento, on notice that their federal grants would be endangered if they failed to comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Thanks to the ruling in California, these cities can breathe a bit easier today.

Deepa Iyer

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