Court Grants County Motion to Permanently Block Trump Administration from Stripping “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” of Federal Funds

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SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.  – In a historic ruling issued November 20th, 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 historic victory, protecting residents of the County and jurisdictions across the nation from President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional abuse of power,” said County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese.  “Our County will continue to welcome and embrace all people, no matter how much this Administration tries to threaten or divide us.”     

“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 vindicates a core constitutional principle—that the President cannot use federal funding to threaten local governments.”

Twenty amicus briefs were submitted in support of the County’s motion for a permanent injunction. Combined, the amicus briefs represent a diverse group of individual and entities, including the State of California and other States; cities, counties, sheriffs and police chiefs from around the United States; California community colleges and school districts representing over one million California students; civil rights, immigrant’s rights, and LGBTQ rights groups; unions; law scholars, non-profit service providers; faith-based organizations; and technology companies.