On April 25, a federal district court judge in California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the “sanctuary jurisdictions” provisions of the Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.
The injunction was issued in response to separate lawsuits brought by San Francisco and Santa Clara County shortly after the order was signed on Jan. 25. After the court’s ruling was handed down, President Trump expressed his administration’s intent to appeal the ruling.
In a preliminary injunction ruling, the suing parties must demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge, that they will likely suffer irreparable harm without an injunction and that the balance of public interest weighs in their favor. The district court in this case found that San Francisco and Santa Clara County met this burden, and given the executive order’s national scope, issued a nationwide injunction against the order’s sanctuary penalties.
The court will return in the coming weeks to the merits of the case, with the preliminary injunction set to remain in effect throughout that litigation barring a successful appeal from the administration. Even if the administration foregoes such an appeal on the preliminary injunction, it will almost certainly appeal a ruling on the merits of the case if the district court decides in favor of the suing localities. Appeals to the court’s rulings will be heard first by the Ninth Circuit, and further appeals will likely be heard by the Supreme Court.
In assessing the appropriateness of a preliminary injunction against the ruling, the court’s analysis partially focused on whether the suing parties were likely to prevail on the merits of the case. After a lengthy discussion, the court found that success on the merits was likely for San Francisco and Santa Clara County, and outlined the below issues with the executive order:
Separation of powers issues: “the [executive order’s] attempt to place new conditions on federal funds is an improper attempt to wield Congress’s exclusive spending power and is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers principles.
Spending Clause “nexus” issues: “the executive order’s attempt to condition all federal grants on compliance with Section 1373 clearly runs afoul of the nexus requirement: there is no nexus between Section 1373 and most categories of federal funding, including without limitation funding related to Medicare, Medicaid, transportation, child welfare services, immunization and vaccination programs, and emergency preparedness.
Spending Clause “coercion” issues: “the executive order threatens to deny sanctuary jurisdictions all federal grants, hundreds of millions of dollars on which the counties rely. The threat is unconstitutionally coercive.”
Tenth Amendment “commandeering” issues: “the executive order uses coercive means in an attempt to force states and local jurisdictions to honor civil detainer requests, which are voluntary “requests” precisely because the federal government cannot command states to comply with them under the Tenth Amendment.”
Fifth Amendment “void for vagueness” issues: “[The executive order’s] expansive, standard less language creates huge potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, leaving the Attorney General to figure out what “appropriate enforcement action” might entail and what policies and practices might “hinder the enforcement of federal law.”
Fifth Amendment “due process” issues: “the executive order purports to make the counties ineligible to receive these funds through a discretionary and undefined process…” and, “this complete lack of process violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process requirements.”
Based on these statements, the district court clearly seems to believe that the executive order, when properly analyzed on its merits by federal courts, will be judged to violate the constitution. The Ninth Circuit’s opinion on this matter, and a subsequent review of that opinion by the Supreme Court, will likely determine the extent to which the executive order can be used to withhold federal funding from jurisdictions deemed to be sanctuaries.Hero 1