SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Lawyers for Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco asked a federal judge Friday to block an executive order by President Donald Trump that threatens to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities and counties.
John Kaker, representing Santa Clara County, argued to U.S. District Judge William Orrick at a San Francisco hearing that Trump’s Jan. 25 order violates the Constitution and federal laws.
“This unconstitutional order cannot be enforced, cannot be applied, and cannot exist consistent with law,” he told the judge.
Orrick took the case under submission after an hour-long hearing and said he will rule “as soon as I can” on the two local governments’ request for a nationwide preliminary injunction against implementation of the measure.
Trump’s order would withhold federal funding from local governments that his administration deems to be “sanctuary jurisdictions” that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation by federal authorities.
Santa Clara County receives $1.7 billion annually in federal funds and San Francisco receives $1.2 billion. They say the order could jeopardize all of that funding and that the lack of clarity harms them in planning their budgets.
But U.S. Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler, defending the order, said it should be interpreted narrowly to refer only to “a limited range” of criminal justice grants awarded by the Justice Department and Homeland Security Department.
Readler also contended there is no urgency for an injunction because the federal government has taken no actions to enforce the measure.
“There’s no enforcement action on the table,” he said.
But Keker claimed those arguments are contradicted by the wording of the executive order and by a March 27 statement in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will “take all lawful steps to claw back any funds awarded” to jurisdictions violating federal laws.
Keker said, “The government’s argument boils down to a hope that the government and the attorney general won’t do what they say they will in the executive order.”
Santa Clara County and San Francisco filed separate lawsuits challenging the order, but the two cases were assigned to the same judge for purposes of judicial efficiency. The city of Richmond has filed a similar lawsuit, which was also assigned to Orrick, but which has not yet had a hearing.
A number of cities and counties from around the country filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Santa Clara County and San Francisco.
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