Lawyer: Little money involved in sanctuary order

Fighting an executive order that could strip federal funds from sanctuary cities, a San Francisco city attorney on Friday urged a federal judge not to accept the Justice Department's new interpretation of the controversial policy.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler made the comments during a court hearing on lawsuits filed by the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County against Trump's order targeting so-called sanctuary cities.

But Keker claimed those arguments are contradicted by the wording of the executive order and by a March 27 statement in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will "take all lawful steps to claw back any funds awarded" to jurisdictions violating federal laws.

John Keker, an attorney representing Santa Clara County, said the order refers to all federal funding and is a threat to local governments.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick has scheduled a hearing on Friday.

"President Trump's executive order threatens to take away badly needed resources to keep our neighborhoods safe and provide quality programs and services for our residents" said Mayor Kirsten Keith.

"This is a perfectly legal use of the bully pulpit", Readler said.

Lawyers representing San Francisco and Santa Clara County argued on Friday that the Trump administration is now trying to newly interpret the order to save it from being blocked by the courts. The city and Santa Clara County went to federal court to block the order, contending it's unconstitutional.

Both counties have asked for a nationwide preliminary injunction to halt Trump's order, which Orrick is scheduled to consider on Friday.

The sanctuary city order was among a flurry of immigration measures the president signed in January, including a ban on travelers from seven majority Muslim countries and a border security directive calling for a wall along the Mexico border.

Two California jurisdictions faced off with the Department of Justice in federal court over immigration on Friday. The administration then revised it, and the new version is also stalled in court.

Trump's order would withhold federal funding from local governments that his administration deems to be "sanctuary jurisdictions" that shield undocumented immigrants from deportation by federal authorities.

The Trump administration says sanctuary cities allow risky criminals back on the street, and the president's order is needed to keep the country safe. San Francisco and other sanctuary cities say turning local police into immigration officers erodes trust that's needed to get people to report crimes. The city of Richmond has filed a similar lawsuit, which was also assigned to Orrick, but which has not yet had a hearing. A California judge is to hear the cases Friday.

"The Trump administration tried to hold a gun to the head of local governments across this country saying, 'We're going to pull the trigger unless you break the law.' San Francisco is not going to lock people up illegally, even at the federal government's direction", the statement read.

The administration has not suspended any funding yet, but the two local governments say the order is making it hard for them to plan their budgets.

  • Arturo Norris