9th Circuit Court Rules Executive Branch Can't Limit Federal Funding To Sanctuary Cities

According to Politico, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the White House cannot limit federal funding to sanctuary cities. Although President Trump signed an executive order in January of last year that moved to withhold money from cities that limit cooperation with ICE, the Circuit Court concluded that funding can only be suppressed with congressional approval.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel announced on Wednesday, "We conclude that, under the principle of Separation of Powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the Executive Branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization."

The Department of Justice, however, condemned the ruling, calling it a "victory for criminal aliens in California," and reiterating the department's own commitment to limiting the amount of undocumented immigrants in both the country and the state.

Devin O'Malley, the spokesperson for the Justice Department, issued a statement on Wednesday, claiming that the ruling will allow undocumented immigrants to "continue to commit crimes knowing that the state's leadership will protect them from federal immigration officers whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country."

Santa Clara County counsel, James R. Williams, however, lauded the court's conclusion, asserting that the 9th Circuit Court finally united with other "courts across the country in holding that the Trump Administration's unconstitutional abuses of power cannot stand," adding that Wednesday ruling is a triumph "for the Separation of Powers principles at the core of the Nation's Constitution."

"Put simply," Williams added, "the President cannot use the threat of defunding as a weapon to force local governments to abandon policies that make their communities safer."

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, concluding that only Congress can place restrictions on federal funding, claimed that Trump's "gesture without motion" defense of his executive order "stains credulity."

9th Circuit Court Judges
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

"Sanctuary policies make our city safer by encouraging anyone who has been a victim or witness to a crime to tell police," said San Francisco attorney Dennis Herrera. "We are a safer community when people aren't afraid to call the Fire Department in an emergency."

Meanwhile, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal foundation, Kent Scheidegger, voiced his disappointment and dissatisfaction with the circuit court's ruling, referring to the court's majority opinion as "deeply dishonest," and arguing that Trump's 2017 executive order complied with the law.