The city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County took on the Trump administration, and they won. 

At issue: Cities and counties, particularly in light of President Donald Trump's pledge to beef up immigration enforcement against people in the U.S. illegally, have been declaring themselves sanctuary cities, which generally means they will not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

The president, in a Jan. 25 executive order, pledged to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities and sanctuary counties, leaving some—including Salinas—feeling cornered. 

Faced with losing some $13 million a year in federal funds, Salinas City Council declined to declare itself a sanctuary city. But Salinas, as well as Monterey County, each signed on in support of the Santa Clara lawsuit.

In an April 25 decision, U.S. District Judge William Orrick sided with the cities, and issued a nationwide injunction against the federal government, blocking the feds from withholding funds from cities the president disagrees with. 

"The defunding provision is entirely inconsistent with law in its stated purpose and directives because it instructs the Attorney General and the Secretary to do something that only Congress has the authority to do—place new conditions on federal funds," Orrick wrote. 

In his decision, Orrick goes on to dismiss the federal government's argument, writing that they downplayed how much the executive order would actually do, but he agreed it could cause significant harm—in the billions of dollars of revenue—to Santa Clara County and to the city of San Francisco.  

"If there was doubt about the scope of the [executive] order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments," Orrick wrote, turning Trump's own words against him.

"The President has called it 'a weapon' to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that 'counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cites don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.'"

Attorneys for the government made the case during oral arguments that the executive order was simply the enforcement of existing law, and wouldn't actually have much effect in practice. 

Orrick disagreed with that interpretation, based largely on Trump's own public remarks, but added that if that was so, his injunction wouldn't really effect the implementation of the order anyway:

"This injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the government’s flawed interpretation of the order," he wrote.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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