Appeals court upholds injunction protecting SF from Trump sanctuary cities order

A federal appeals court today upheld an injunction protecting San Francisco and Santa Clara County from a presidential executive order that threatened federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said by a 2-1 vote that the 2017 order by President Donald Trump was unconstitutional because it intruded on the congressional power to determine federal spending.

Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas wrote, “The United States Constitution exclusively grants the power of the purse to Congress, not the president.”

“There is no reasonable argument that the president has not exceeded his authority,” the court majority said.

Trump issued the order on Jan. 25, 2017, five days after his inauguration. It said that cities and counties that allegedly illegally shield undocumented immigrants were not eligible for federal funding.

The court upheld the reasoning of an injunction issued last year by U.S. District Judge William Orrick in lawsuits filed by San Francisco and Santa Clara County.

But the panel said it was affirming the injunction only as applied to the two local governments. It said more evidence was needed as to whether a nationwide injunction was justified, and sent the case back to Orrick’s court for further proceedings.

Orrick had issued a nationwide injunction.

The use of nationwide injunctions by district judges has been challenged by the Trump administration in the sanctuary cities case and in several other cases concerning opposition to presidential orders.

The appeals court majority said nationwide injunctions are sometimes justified. As an example, it specifically cited the circuit court’s own rulings upholding nationwide injunctions issued in lawsuits by Hawaii and Washington state challenging various versions of Trump’s travel ban on visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Ultimately, the third revised version of the travel ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in June.

Thomas wrote, “We are unpersuaded by the administration’s arguments in favor of a blanket restriction on all nationwide injunctions.”

But he said more evidence was needed on whether a broad order was justified in the sanctuary cities case.

Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez said in a dissent that he believed the executive order should be upheld because it contained a qualifying clause directing implementation “to the extent consistent with law.”

The U.S. Department of Justice had no immediate comment on the ruling, which could be appealed to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit or the
Supreme Court.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement, “This is a victory for the rule of law. The Constitution is clear: Congress has the power of the purse and the power to legislate. The president does not.”

Both San Francisco and Santa Clara County contend that their policies don’t violate any federal laws.

-Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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