LOS ANGELES: A US judge heard arguments from lawyers representing two so-called sanctuary cities that are challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order stripping such jurisdictions of federal funds.
The outcome of the high-profile case in US District Court in San Francisco could impact more than 300 cities and counties across the United States that have denounced as unconstitutional Trump’s order to withhold funds from cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.
The federal judge in the case, William Orrick, said he would issue his decision “as soon as I can” after he heard arguments from lawyers representing San Francisco and Santa Clara County.
Both jurisdictions have sued the administration and are seeking an injunction against Trump’s order which calls for money to be taken away from local governments that refuse to share information with federal authorities about undocumented immigrants.
The case bears similarities to the court challenges faced by the Trump administration over its two travel bans targeting Muslim-majority countries.
Santa Clara officials say the county stands to lose nearly $1.7 billion in federal funds because of the executive order aimed at sanctuary jurisdictions.
San Francisco receives up to $2 billion a year in federal funding.
Lawyers for the Trump administration told the judge on Friday that neither jurisdiction was at immediate risk of losing the federal funding, adding that the order was simply aimed at coercing them to comply with immigration laws.
‘Don’t mess with us’
“There’s been no action threatened or taken against the cities,” acting assistant attorney general Chad Readler told the judge.
He said Trump’s order was “narrow” and would affect a limited number of grants from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
However attorneys representing Santa Clara and San Francisco in their landmark lawsuits urged Orrick to block the order nationwide on grounds it is unconstitutional.
They also said the judge in making his decision should take into account comments made by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions against sanctuary jurisdictions.
Dave Cortese, president of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Clara County, told Agence France-Presse that it was clear Trump’s order was “hastily” put together and was unlikely to stand up in court.
“He (Trump) has got two choices—he can just continue to be a bull in a china shop and continue to put forward executive orders and other initiatives that don’t pass constitutional muster and that are refuted by the courts or he can get better advice and be more thoughtful in what he’s doing,” Cortese said.
He added that local governments across the country would dig in their heels should the administration push forward with any decisions that adversely affect them.
“The message we are trying to send to them is—and I hope he gets this—we have a very large governmental operation here… and we have some of the best attorneys in the country,” Cortese said.
“Don’t mess with us unless you’ve got the legal standing to do so because you’re gonna have a fight on your hands.
“They need to know in the West Wing of the White House that we have the capability of defending ourselves.”