Herrera filing: Trump trying to have it both ways on sanctuary city order

City’s response comes amid outpouring of legal support for San Francisco, including 13 police chiefs and sheriffs saying Trump’s executive order hinders law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe

City Attorney Dennis Herrera at a press conference on January 31, 2017 announcing his lawsuit against President Trump for his unconstitutional executive order targeting sanctuary cities.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera at a press conference on January 31, 2017 announcing his lawsuit against President Trump for his unconstitutional executive order targeting sanctuary cities.

SAN FRANCISCO (March 29, 2017) — President Donald Trump’s administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth as it threatens to withhold federal money in an illegal attempt to force cities and states to comply with an unconstitutional executive order on sanctuary jurisdictions, notes a reply brief City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed in court today.

On the same day this week that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated in public remarks that failure to comply with federal immigration detainer requests violates federal law and will render jurisdiction ineligible to receive Department of Justice grants, he also filed a brief in the Supreme Court of Massachusetts stating that detainer request are voluntary, not mandatory.

The Trump administration has also been inconsistent on the funds it is threatening to withhold, telling members of Congress they have not formed a position on the intended scope of the executive order, and then implying in court filings that only limited federal funds are threatened.

“You can’t have it both ways,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “The Trump administration is saying one thing to the public and something entirely different in court. Whether it’s the amount of money they’re threating to illegally deprive cities and counties of, or their unconstitutional demand to detain someone after their legal release date, the story keeps changing.  We’ve gone to court to get clarity and protect the people of San Francisco and the United States.”

Herrera’s lawsuit maintains that Trump’s executive order to deny federal funding to “sanctuary jurisdictions” ignores the separation of powers in our country, grants the president authority he is not entitled to under the Constitution, and tramples on state sovereignty.

Herrera’s filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California came as 13 individual police chiefs and sheriffs from California, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and other states filed amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs supporting San Francisco’s lawsuit.  The chiefs and sheriffs said:

Greater local involvement in immigration enforcement would cause community members to mistrust the police and result in a decrease in cooperation, hindering the ability of local law enforcement agencies to keep their communities safe.

The growing tide of support also included court filings from 42 cities and counties across the country, constitutional law scholars, schools, technology companies, advocacy groups and others. 

The cities and counties echo San Francisco’s argument that President Trump’s executive order is an unconstitutional effort to coerce local governments into becoming de facto federal immigration agents by threatening to defund them. Cities and counties also face the threat of losing vital federal funds for programs such as low cost housing, public transit, community centers, job training, and infrastructure improvements amidst budget season.

Amicus briefs filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Tahirih Justice Center and other similar organizations further emphasized that when local police become federal immigration agents, it degrades trust between the police and the communities they serve. The Southern Poverty Law Center brief cites a 2012 study that found that 44 percent of Latinos were less likely to contact the police if they were victims of crime due to the fear that the police would ask about their immigration status or that of people they know. The Tahirih Justice Center brief adds that by deterring immigrant women from reporting gender-based violence and accessing critical services, the Executive Order makes the broader communities of San Francisco, Santa Clara, and similarly situated jurisdictions less safe. As an example, it cites that in a 2015 survey of 800 Latinos and Latinas nationwide, 41 percent of respondents cited fear of deportation as the number-one barrier preventing Latino and Latina victims of domestic violence from seeking help.

Technology companies filed a brief asserting the executive order threatens the ability of U.S. tech companies to recruit talented employees on a global scale and to compete with technology companies abroad. Service Employees International Union and other unions in a separate brief discuss the potential impact on the public health care system and social workers.

San Francisco was the first city in the country to sue President Trump and his administration over executive order that threatened to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions.” San Francisco receives about $1.2 billion in federal funds for its annual operating budget, with about 92 percent of that going to entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs.  San Francisco also receives an additional $800 million in multi-year grants, which primarily fund capital projects that create jobs.

The city is seeking a preliminary injunction — a court order preventing the Trump administration from enforcing the executive order nationwide until the merits of the case are decided. A consolidated hearing on San Francisco’s motion for a preliminary injunction and one filed by Santa Clara County is scheduled for April 14.

The case is: City and County of San Francisco v. Donald J. Trump, et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 3:17-cv-00485, filed Jan. 31, 2017. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org


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