Update on current sanctuary city litigation

On January 20, 2017, President Trump was inaugurated. Not even a week later, on January 25, 2017, he issued this third executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (Sanctuary City EO) on the grounds that “[s]anctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law” when they “attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”

(The first executive order, issued on January 20, 2017, was the Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal, and the second, issued on issued on January 24, 2017, was the Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects.)

The Sanctuary City EO purports to protect Americans by denying funding to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to “shield aliens from removal from the United States.” This, the EO declares, has caused “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”

Soon after the administration released the Sanctuary City EO, the City and County of San Francisco sued the president, and others, asking the court to bar enforcement of the Sanctuary City EO, on the grounds that it violates the Constitution in several ways. The County of Santa Clara, and the City of Richmond also filed lawsuits. In our blog post describing these actions, we noted that a federal court had preliminarily blocked the Sanctuary City EO from taking effect.

There has not been much action on these suits as of yet. However, on July 20, 2017, in the cases filed by Santa Clara County and the City and County of San Francisco, the court denied the motions that the government filed in both cases that asked the court to reconsider 1) its April 25, 2017 order blocking Section 9(a) of the Sanctuary City EO; and 2) its motion to dismiss the case.

Section 9(a) prohibits sanctuary cities from receiving federal funding when they willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S. Code § 1373. Generally speaking, 8 U.S. Code § 1373 provides that no governmental entity may prohibit or restrict the sending of information regarding citizenship or immigration status to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (ICE).

With respect to the government’s motion for reconsideration, the court reasoned that “[a] motion for reconsideration should not ‘be used to ask the Court to rethink what it has already thought,’ and is not a ‘substitute for appeal or a means of attacking some perceived error of the court.’”

As for the government’s motion to dismiss, the court analyzed the necessary elements and concluded that the plaintiffs “adequately stated all their claims challenging section 9(a) of the Executive Order.”

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