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Trump’s Order Attacking Sanctuary Cities Ruled Unconstitutional


In a historic ruling issued today, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick declared unconstitutional the key provision of the Trump Administration’s Executive Order targeting “sanctuary jurisdictions,” and permanently enjoined its enforcement nationwide. Lawyers from the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office and its outside counsel, Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP, argued the case before Judge Orrick on Monday, October 23. The court, in April, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the provision. Today’s ruling makes that order permanent.

The County of Santa Clara was the first jurisdiction in the nation to seek emergency injunctive relief based on the immediate harms and unconstitutional coercion caused by Executive Order 13768, which President Trump issued on January 25, 2017. The Executive Order purported to grant Trump Administration officials the power to declare state and local governments “sanctuary jurisdictions,” and to deny them federal funding or take other enforcement actions against them on that basis.

As a direct result of the executive order, the County of Santa Clara risked losing roughly $1.7 billion in federal funds—representing nearly 35% of its annual revenue—for critical County services such as medical care, urgent mental health services, public safety, and basic food and nutrition programs.

County Counsel and Keker, Van Nest & Peters lawyers argued that the order violated basic separation of powers principles, coerced local jurisdictions into acting as federal immigration enforcement officers, and denied due process. Today, the court agreed, and granted summary judgment on all of the County’s claims.

“This is a clear rebuke of the Trump Administration’s illegal effort to take away federal funding for critical County health, safety, and emergency services,” said County Counsel James R. Williams. “Today’s decision affirms that the President cannot use federal funding to threaten local governments’ right to establish policies that best protect the safety and wellbeing of our residents.”

“The Court’s ruling vindicates important constitutional principles,” said Cody S. Harris, a partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters. “An executive order that so flagrantly violates the constitution cannot stand. Indeed, during the hearing, the federal government made no attempt to defend the executive order as written. It was the Court’s duty to strike down the order, and we are extremely gratified that it did so.”