SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to withhold funding from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration officials, saying the president has no authority to attach new conditions to federal spending.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued the preliminary injunction in two lawsuits — one brought by the city of San Francisco, the other by Santa Clara County — against an executive order targeting communities that protect immigrants from deportation.
The injunction will stay in place while the lawsuits work their way through court.
The judge rejected the administration’s argument that the executive order applies only to a relatively small pot of money and said Trump cannot set new conditions on spending approved by Congress.
Even if the president could do so, those conditions would have to be clearly related to the funds at issue and not coercive, as the executive order appeared to be, Orrick said.
“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” the judge said.
It was the third major setback for the administration on immigration policy.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus described the ruling as another example of the “9th Circuit going bananas.”
The administration has often criticized the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Orrick does not sit on that court but his district is in the territory of the appeals court, which has ruled against one version of Trump’s travel ban.
“The idea that an agency can’t put in some reasonable restriction on how some of these moneys are spent is something that will be overturned eventually, and we will win at the Supreme Court level at some point,” Priebus said.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera praised the ruling and said the president was “forced to back down.”
“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it,” Herrera said in a statement.
Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said the ruling will allow cities and counties across the country to prepare budgets without the “unconstitutional threat of federal defunding hanging over our heads.”
A Justice Department attorney, Chad Readler, previously defended the president’s executive order as an attempt to use his “bully pulpit” to “encourage communities and states to comply with the law.”