U.S. federal judge overturns Trump’s fund-cutting order to sanctuary cities

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SAN FRANCISCO, (Xinhua) — A U.S. federal judge Monday permanently blocked an executive order by President Donald Trump to punish some sanctuary cities by cutting funds over their alleged non-compliance with the government.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick of San Francisco said Trump acted unconstitutionally when he threatened to strip billions of U.S. dollars in federal funding from San Francisco and Santa Clara County in the western U.S. state of California, the so-called “sanctuary cities and counties” which were said to have refused to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities.

“Sanctuary” is used for cities that do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status, or for funds to be applied to enforce federal immigration laws.

Orrick said in the final ruling that the president had committed multiple constitutional violations — usurping Congress’ power over federal spending and trying to defund programs unrelated to immigration and coercing local governments to change their policies.

“The president has called (his February order) ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement,” Orrick said.

The judge had ruled in April that a temporary hold should be put on president’s executive order targeting the sanctuary cities.

Orrick’s ruling followed by earlier lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara county.

San Francisco has an annual budget of 9.6 billion U.S. dollars and receives about 1.2 billion dollars every year from the federal government, local media quoted statistics cited in Orrick’s ruling.

Meanwhile, about 35 percent of Santa Clara County’s total revenue came from the federal government between 2015 and 2016, which stood at 1.7 billion dollars.

“The president does not have the power to place conditions on federal funds” that Congress has not already imposed, Orrick said.

Trump’s administration has accused cities and counties like San Francisco and Santa Clara of refusing to comply with federal immigration law enforcement authorities and offering protection to undocumented immigrants.

In response to Orrick’s ruling, Department of Justice Spokesman Devin O’Malley criticized late Monday the District Court for exceeding its authority when “it barred the president from instructing his cabinet members to enforce existing law.”

“The Justice Department will vindicate the president’s lawful authority to direct the executive branch,” he said.

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