Judge blocks Trump's order defunding 'santuary cities'

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, April 26 (IANS) A judge in San Francisco dealt the US administration another legal blow by blocking President Donald Trumps threatened suspension of unspecified federal funding from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities.

US District Judge William H. Orrick on Tuesday blocked Trump's January 25 executive order on what are called "sanctuary cities" and said lawsuits by Santa Clara county and San Francisco challenging the order were likely to succeed, the Washington Post reported.

The White House blasted the decision in a scathing statement that said officials behind sanctuary city policies had "the blood of dead Americans on their hands".

Judge Orrick pointed to discrepancies in the administration's interpretation of the executive order, which broadly authorised the Attorney General to withhold federal funding for "sanctuary cities" that do not cooperate with immigration officials.

At the same time, the judge said the Justice Department may hold back funding that is awarded with immigration-related conditions, if those conditions are violated.

The White House described Judge Orrick's decision as a gift to the criminal gangs and cartels active in the US, adding that it empowered those involved in human and sex trafficking and put thousands of innocent lives at risk.

The ruling, which applies nationwide, was another judicial setback for the Trump administration, which has now seen three immigration orders stopped by federal courts in its first 100 days, the daily reported.

The judge's ruling is effective on the national level and affects all sanctuary cities, comprising about 200 local entities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, that protect undocumented migrants from deportation.

Orrick, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, ruled that Trump's order violated the Constitution by trying to punish local governments by seeking to "deprive local jurisdictions of congressional allocated funds without any notice or opportunity to be heard".

However, the ruling was not definitive and the Department of Justice could resort to the 9th District Appeals Court to try and get it overturned, the Washington Post reported.

The White House said it would pursue all legal options, but lamented that the incident was "yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge".

The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups said the injunction offered a clear warning that Trump's order is illegal.

The Trump administration had given several ultimatums to "sanctuary cities" to try and force them to inform immigration agents about the immigration status of people arrested there.

It also sought help from "sanctuary cities" for facilitating the deportation of those migrants who are living in the US illegally or who have committed a crime.

The latest such ultimatum was delivered last Friday when the Justice Department threatened to cut funding for nine jurisdictions if, by June 30, they did not provide documentation showing cooperation with federal authorities to facilitate deportations.

--IANS

soni/vt