Federal Appeals Court Rules President’s “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” Executive Order is Unconstitutional

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Bars De-Funding Anywhere in California


SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – In a forceful rebuke to the Trump Administration, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday August 1st that the President’s attempt to strip funding from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions” violates the Constitution.  The ruling permanently bars the Trump Administration from enforcing a key provision of the President’s “Sanctuary Jurisdictions” Executive Order against the County of Santa Clara or anywhere in California.

In today’s decision, the Court affirms that the Executive Order’s key provision is unconstitutional, noting: “Not only has the Administration claimed for itself Congress’s exclusive spending power, it has also attempted to coopt Congress’s power to legislate.”  The Court concluded: “[T]here is no reasonable argument that the President has not exceeded his authority.” 

“This is a victory for taxpayers,” said Board President Joe Simitian. “Santa Clara County taxpayers send their dollars to Washington with the reasonable expectation that those dollars will come back from the federal government to do good work here. Withholding federal funds to which folks are otherwise entitled, simply to punish or threaten jurisdictions with a different point of view, is patently unlawful.” 

“The County’s diversity is our strength, and we are proud to stand firm against threats to local health and safety, no matter where they come from,” said County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Member Dave Cortese.  “We are steadfast in our commitment to serving our community and protecting the constitutional principles underpinning our democracy.

“Today, the Ninth Circuit joined with courts across the country in holding that the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional abuses of power cannot stand,” said County Counsel James R. Williams.  “The Ninth Circuit decision is a victory for the Separation of Powers principles at the core of our Nation’s Constitution.  Put simply: the President cannot use the threat of defunding as weapon to force local governments to abandon policies that make their communities safer.”  

The Ninth Circuit also affirmed an injunction against implementation of the Executive Order defunding provision anywhere in California and has asked the District Court to consider additional facts regarding whether a nationwide injunction should be granted. 

Background on the Case

The Executive Order, issued by President Trump on January 25, 2017, commands federal officials to designate certain state and local governments as “sanctuary jurisdictions” and to deny them federal funding or take other actions against them.  With this unlawful command, the County faced the threatened loss of over $1.7 billion in federal funding that it relies on each year to provide essential services and safety-net assistance to its residents. 

The County of Santa Clara was the first jurisdiction to seek emergency relief from the Executive Order.  In November 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California issued an injunction permanently blocking implementation of the Executive Order’s key provision.  The Trump Administration appealed, and counsel from the County of Santa Clara argued the appeal before the Ninth Circuit on April 11, 2018.