S.F. Files Suit Against Trump, Saying Punishing Sanctuary Cities Is Illegal

U.S. President Donald Trump displays one of the two executive orders on immigration he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security in January.

U.S. President Donald Trump displays one of the two executive orders on immigration he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security in January. ( Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The city of San Francisco filed suit Tuesday against President Trump and his administration, charging that Trump’s order to strip funding from sanctuary cities amounts to an invasion of the city’s sovereignty, a violation of the 10th Amendment.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor Ed Lee announced the lawsuit (embedded below) at City Hall, arguing that previous court decisions over states’ rights issues prevent the federal government from enacting policy like last week’s executive order.

“This is not a step I take lightly, but it’s one that’s necessary to defend the people of this city, this state and this country from the overreach of a president who has shown little respect for our Constitution, states’ rights or the rule of law,” Herrera said. “The fabric of our communities and billions of dollars are at stake.”

A spokesman for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s executive order directs the U.S. attorney general and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to take federal grants away from jurisdictions that refuse to comply with a U.S. law that requires local governments to communicate with the federal government about undocumented immigrants.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the order stated. “Tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country, solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation. Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our federal, state, and local jails. The presence of such individuals in the United States, and the practices of foreign nations that refuse the repatriation of their nationals, are contrary to the national interest.”

But the lawsuit states that San Francisco’s sanctuary laws don’t prevent the city from communicating with federal officials — and Herrera said city officials do that regularly. The city attorney wants a court to rule that San Francisco’s sanctuary policies and ordinances comply with that federal code, or to decide that the relevant federal law is unconstitutional.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera says not only is President Trump's executive order to strip funding from sanctuary cities illegal, but that it also undermines local communities by 'sowing distrust of law enforcement.'
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera says not only is President Trump’s executive order to strip funding from sanctuary cities illegal, but that it also undermines local communities by ‘sowing distrust of law enforcement.’ (Ryan Levi/KQED)

“President Trump’s executive order tries to turn city and state employees into federal immigration officers. That is unconstitutional,” Herrera said. “No president can commandeer the local police force and turn it into the deportation arm of the federal government.”

Herrera argued that the order undermines local communities by “sowing distrust of law enforcement,” and that far from making cities safer — as Trump and supporters of the order claim — it will make them less safe. He cited a report, released last week by a pro-immigration group, finding that there’s less crime in sanctuary jurisdictions.

“Sanctuary policies encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes so that cities can investigate and prosecute. These policies get violent criminals off the street who might otherwise not have been reported,” he said. “Many people think that sanctuary city policies protect criminals, but that is wrong. If the federal government has a criminal warrant, we honor that.”

Herrera said the city has been gearing up for a legal fight since Trump’s election, given his campaign promises to target sanctuary cities. And both he and Mayor Lee said they would welcome the participation of other sanctuary cities and the state of California in the lawsuit.

“We are ready to fight to keep our city safe,” Lee said. “As a city we will fight back, and today we fight back.”

Lee and Herrera downplayed the possibility that the suit would make San Francisco even more of a target for the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.

“It’s no secret San Francisco has been a target, as it were, from well before the filing of this lawsuit today, and we owe it to our residents to make sure we are protecting their interests, protecting taxpayer dollars,” Herrera said. “We are going to use every tool at our disposal to make sure that the rule of law is followed, our residents are protected and they know they have an entity here that will fight on their behalf.”

Asked if he has a message for the new president, Herrera didn’t mince words.

“Obey the rule of law. Abide by the Constitution. We are a nation of laws, not of men, right? And there are processes and there are legal structures there that give a level of predictability that we all have to live by,” Herrera said. “You’re not emperor who rules by fiat. We all have to abide by the rule of law, and we are going to make that clear.”


  • Fess12

    It is not clear at all to Trump that the Constitution or Laws apply to him. Everything he’s done in the last week seems aimed at redefining the 3 arms of government into a redirection of all power to the Executive branch, namely him personally. A chunk of both Congress and the Senate seems to be going along with this. His biggest problem will be with the Judiciary. He’s working on how to neuter that branch.

    • Robert Wilson

      President Trump and the Republicans control the house, senate, and soon to be Supreme Court (after one more nomination with others to come over the next EIGHT years). Also…President Trump will appoint 1000s of Federal Judges across the country…CONSERVATIVE judges. So yes, LIBERAL JUDICIAL ACTIVISM WILL BE DEAD…and the Democratic Party soon to follow. Good riddance! HAIL TO THE CHIEF, PRESIDENT TRUMP! But don’t worry, after 8 years we’ll finally put a female in the White House…IVANKA TRUMP, first female President of the United States! I’M LOVING IT!!! 🙂

    • Delma Munoz

      Twit picturing an animal that has more grey matter than thyself: did you just drop out of something…what have you been doing for 8 years. Utilize the computer..for something else other than to garner attention your sperm donor via your heathen breeder VOIDED. And your basis for your statements are what legal reference; statue, law, code? When you post like that you show the world that you are a mere piece of trash being shoved through USA mandatory education system…then thrown on your head..

  • Sey Iris

    Hopefully, Trump will countersue this idiot for aiding ILLEGALS andexpecting payment to do so.

    • virgil

      Yeah hopefully. Herrera is a total hypocrite….he has always supported expansive central government but now he tries to sound like Jefferson promoting local rights~~Herrera is a total hypocrite.

  • Wunder

    There are levels of hierarchy in the legal system. The State cannot violate Federal law. A law is made to ensure Americans and American rights are protected. I am a legal immigrant who became a US citizen. Harboring illegals is unlawful.

  • love trumps hil™

    “… we owe it to our residents to make sure we are protecting their interests, protecting taxpayer dollars,”

    Wasting my tax dollars on illegal migrants is neither protecting my interests nor my dollars. I didn’t vote for this clown but I hope the idiots who did finally see the error of judgements, and vote these morons out next November.

    • Delma Munoz

      First of all they are not illegal migrants…they are illegal alien foreign invadwhores.. We have legitimate migrants who work…and have gone through the process to do so.. They honor our legal system.

  • Pierockit

    Three cheers for San Francisco! Let’s make Donald a 0 term president.

    • Delma Munoz

      Pierockit..perhaps you should have become the recipient of the illegal alien foreign invadwhores bullet!

  • virgil

    Doesn’t the fed government coerce local governments all the time? Didn’t Obama and Co in DC threaten to cut off fed money to North Carolina over its bathroom laws? So SF and Herrera are now advancing the same claim as North Carolina?

    • Delma Munoz

      Bathroom wasn’t even a Constitution issue..just a forced left/dem/ perverts on parade..

  • Dana Garcia

    San Francisco has learned nothing from the preventable death of Kate Steinle, who was shot by a multiple-time-deported alien, who said in a jailhouse interview that he went to the city because of its sanctuary policy.

    In 2008, Tony Bologna and his two sons were shot dead by an illegal alien gangster that San Francisco protected despite acts of violence in the city.

    What kind of law enforcement is that? Foreign criminals are protected while innocent citizens are killed as a result.

  • Margaret Mulqueen Kapranos

    Trump is used to fighting lawsuits and has deep pockets to do this. He’s used to living in chaos. Let’s hope we have the pockets ready to fight this. Donations anyone?

  • Lulu Jade

    I am sorry but California is an embarrassment. I live in California and the decisions the lawmakers are making without the public’s vote is not good.The law (as it has always stated) states that if you have an illegal immigrant IN JAIL (they have committed a crime) that you need to report it to receive federal funding. That is it! This was in place before Trump, he is just enforcing it. So now, the federal government will cut off Federal grant money to people who live here and need it so we can protect illegal criminals. PLEASE get a grip people. The media is so destructive and leaves out half the info. Read the law!

Author

Marisa Lagos

Marisa Lagos reports on state politics for KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk, which uses radio, television and online mediums to explore the latest news in California’s Capitol and dig deeper into political influence in the Golden State. Marisa also appears on a weekly podcast analyzing the week’s political news.

Before joining KQED, Marisa worked  at the San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Times, and, most recently, for nine years at the San Francisco Chronicle where she covered San Francisco City Hall and state politics, focusing on the California legislature, governor, budget and criminal justice. In 2011, she won a special award for extensive and excellent work in covering California justice issues from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and also helped lead the Chronicle's award-winning breaking news coverage of the 2010 San Bruno Pacific Gas & Electric explosion. She has also been awarded a number of fellowships from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Marisa has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She and lives in San Francisco with her two sons and husband. Email: mlagos@kqed.org Twitter @mlagos Facebook facebook.com/marisalagosnews

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