SF sues over Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a federal lawsuit against President Trump on Tuesday, calling his executive order that seeks to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities unconstitutional.
The legal action is the first lawsuit from a major sanctuary city under threat from Trump’s executive order that aims to supersede local immigration policy while ratcheting up enforcement.
“Not only is it unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” Herrera said at a City Hall news conference. “It is necessary to defend the people of this city, this state and this country from the wild overreach of a president whose words and actions have thus far shown little respect for our Constitution or the rule of law.”
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, cites the 10th Amendment of the Constitution that limits the federal government from interfering in powers reserved to states.
“The fabric of our communities and billions of dollars are at stake,” said Herrera, who was joined by Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen and several deputy city attorneys. “President Trump does not appear to understand the Constitution and the limits it imposes on executive power.”
The executive order, which includes pledging to build a wall along the Mexican border, aims to block federal grants to sanctuary cities while reviving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s controversial Secure Communities program phased out under President Barack Obama.
The program relied on local law enforcement agencies to detain immigrants in the country without documentation for federal agents to pick up for deportation.
San Francisco established its sanctuary-city policy in 1989 to protect victims of domestic abuse, families and other citizens, who feared deportation if they cooperated with law enforcement.
Lee on Tuesday restated his commitment to defy Trump’s executive order.
“We are ready to fight to keep our city safe, and today is a prime example,” he said. “The president’s misguided executive order makes our residents less safe, and as a city we will fight back — and today we fight back.”
The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the city’s opposition to Trump’s immigration policies after Herrera’s announcement Tuesday.
The resolution calls on philanthropic groups and the private sector to donate money for legal assistance to immigrants, including those affected by an order signed Friday, banning refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
At stake in San Francisco’s defiance is the roughly $1 billion it receives annually from the federal government, which accounts for a little more than 10 percent of the city’s budget.
Legal scholars have anticipated lawsuits by cities with sanctuary policies like San Francisco after Trump’s hastily drafted order.
“I think there is a clear violation of the 10th Amendment here,” said Bill Ong Hing, a professor of immigration law at the University of San Francisco. “The federal government cannot commandeer nonfederal officials to do its work.”
Withholding federal funds to states and cities probably qualifies as coercive, and therefore unconstitutional, Hing said.
He cited a Supreme Court ruling that found a provision of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional because it threatened to withhold federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid unless states expanded the programs.
San Francisco is one of more than 300 sanctuary cities around the country — including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — that restrict cooperating with federal immigration officials in certain circumstances. An estimated 11 million people without documentation live in the country, including 44,000 in San Francisco.
Trump pledged to deport millions of immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization and increase the number of deportation agents during his presidential campaign.
On Monday, he appointed Thomas Homan, ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement, to be the agency’s new director, after removing Acting Director Daniel Ragsdale without an explanation.
Maria Blanco, executive director of UC Undocumented Legal Services Center, contends Trump’s executive order was an attempt by the administration to carry out the deportations without the resources to do it alone.
“They need cooperation around the country, and this order is an attempt to bully jurisdictions into doing that for them,” she said.
Herrera’s lawsuit, Blanco hopes, will at minimum bring emotional relief to those impacted by the order.
“To know that the city of San Francisco is holding firm — not just for immigrants but for its constitutional rights — will give people not just comfort, but they will begin to understand there are limits on what the new administration can do,” she said.
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