USA Politics First Look

Hearings begin on California counties’ challenge to Trump ‘sanctuary city’ order

Two California counties are trying to win an injunction against President Trump's executive order, saying it has interfered with budgetary planning.

President Trump holds up a pen he used to sign one of various bills in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on March 27, 2017.
Andrew Harnik/AP
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  • Robin Respaut, Dan Levine
    Reuters

A California federal judge is set to hear arguments on Friday in a case brought by two large counties requesting the suspension of President Donald Trump's executive order that seeks to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities for immigrants.

As part of a larger plan to transform how the United States deals with immigration and national security, President Trump in January signed an order targeting cities and counties that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Santa Clara County, which includes the city of San Jose and several smaller Silicon Valley communities, sued in San Francisco federal court in February, saying Mr. Trump's plan to withhold federal funds is unconstitutional. San Francisco filed a similar lawsuit.

US District Judge William Orrick III is hearing both cases.

Both counties have asked for a nationwide preliminary injunction to halt Trump's order, which Judge Orrick is scheduled to consider on Friday. Santa Clara County receives roughly $1.7 billion in federal and federally dependent funds annually, about 35 percent of its total revenues, according to court filings.

The county argued that its budgetary and planning process had been thrown "into disarray" by the executive order, because the county often spends money up front and then is reimbursed by the federal government.

The US Department of Justice said a federal court should not suspend the executive order, because "government budgeting always suffers from some amount of uncertainty."

To win a nationwide injunction, the local governments must demonstrate a high level of harm, and mere budget uncertainty does not meet the bar, the Justice Department noted last month in court filings.

Sanctuary cities in general offer safe harbor to illegal immigrants and often do not use municipal funds or resources to advance the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Sanctuary city is not an official designation.

Trump has vowed to get tougher on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States than his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Protesters have taken to the streets in opposition to Trump's plans and organized events such as "A Day Without Immigrants" to highlight the importance of foreign-born people to the US economy.

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