Trump’s Plan to Cut ‘Sanctuary’ Funds Threatens S.F., Santa Clara Counties, Judge Says

San Francisco city attorneys Mollie Lee and Sara Eisenberg seek to block President Trump's plan to defund sanctuary cities.

San Francisco deputy city attorneys Mollie Lee and Sara Eisenberg seek to block President Trump's plan to defund sanctuary cities. (Julie Small/KQED)

A federal judge says San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are at risk from the Trump administration’s threat to cut funding for local governments with sanctuary policies.

“San Francisco believes it has a target on its back,” San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg told U.S. District Judge William Orrick Friday during a hearing on legal challenges to President Trump’s executive order to slash federal funds from cities, counties and states that have so-called sanctuary policies.

“We know we don’t have to wait for that arrow to hit that target,” she said.

Attorneys for San Francisco and Santa Clara counties brought the complaint in U.S. District Court.

During the hearing in San Francisco, Orrick asked the counties to respond to the federal government’s main argument that the counties lack the right to challenge the order because, so far, neither has lost any federal funding.

“We believe that they are coming for San Francisco’s funds,” Eisenberg said.

San Francisco receives roughly $2 billion a year in federal funds. Santa Clara County relies on $1.7 billion.

The counties are seeking a nationwide injunction against parts of the Jan. 25 executive order that they say threatens all of that money and puts their fiscal health at risk.

But the government’s lawyer, Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler, refuted the claims. He said the counties were interpreting the executive order “in the broadest terms.”

Executive Order 13768

The order states that people who enter the United States or overstay visas present “a significant threat to national security and public safety,” a threat the Trump administration asserts is heightened by jurisdictions that shield immigrants from deportation.

The order instructs the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security to identify and penalize any jurisdiction that “prevents or hinders” enforcement of U.S. immigration law.

Readler asserted that the only federal funds that might be cut are grants from the Department of Justice to fund local policing initiatives, and only if jurisdictions violate a federal statute that says no local authority can hinder communication between law enforcement and ICE regarding a person’s immigration status.

Readler added that neither San Francisco nor Santa Clara had been found to violate that provision.

San Francisco’s laws prohibit law enforcement officers from responding with ICE detainer requests and limit when to give ICE advance notice of a person’s release date.

Santa Clara County adopted a “civil detainer policy” in 2011 that included a provision that the county would honor detainers for serious or violent felons only if ICE would agree in writing to reimburse all costs. ICE refused, and the county stopped honoring detainer requests in October 2011.

Attorneys for the counties said the executive order has to be considered in the context of threats by Trump, the White House press secretary and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to punish local jurisdictions that do not respond to detainer requests from ICE.

ICE issues these administrative warrants to get local law enforcement officials who are holding undocumented inmates in jail or prison to continue to hold them until federal agents can arrive to take them into custody.

Many jurisdictions, including some that do not identify as sanctuaries, refuse to honor these requests because courts have found them unconstitutional.

Attorney John Keker, arguing for Santa Clara County, told Judge Orrick the Trump administration is using the executive order in his own words “as a ‘weapon’ to deprive jurisdictions of the money they need to operate.”

But Readler put that down to the “heated political debate about immigration.” He said, “There’s no actual enforcement action on the table or even being threatened.”

Orrick disagreed. The judge labeled the threat to county budgets an indisputable fact.

“Is it true that every day you are owed millions of dollars by the federal government for services provided?” Orrick asked Santa Clara County counsel James Williams.

Williams answered that the county spends on average $4 million to $5 million a day that it relies on the federal government to reimburse.

Orrick said he would issue a ruling as soon as he can.

Constitutionality of Cuts May Come Down to Economic Impact

Both county’s lawsuits cite a U.S.  Supreme Court decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act that would have cut all Medicaid funding for states that refused to expand the program. The move would have cut an average 10 percent of state budgets. The court said that was too coercive.

Justice John Roberts called the cuts “a gun to the head”

But in the case challenging the administration’s crackdown on sanctuary cities, UC Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo thinks the government is well within its rights.

“It’s not unconstitutional for the federal government to place conditions on the use of funds, or to cut off funds altogether,” he said.

Yoo served in the Justice Department of President George W. Bush, and says in an earlier case out of South Dakota the Supreme Court ruled that it was OK to withhold highway funds to get state officials to raise the drinking age to 21. In that case the cuts represented a tiny share of the state budget — less than half a percent.

Trump’s Plan to Cut ‘Sanctuary’ Funds Threatens S.F., Santa Clara Counties, Judge Says 14 April,2017Julie Small

  • Dr. Chris Lee

    Hello, The majority of my neighbors, my self included do not want San Jose to be a sanctuary city!
    We are thinkng of creating a petition to show this! How many names would be required.
    We don’t know who created this sanctuary city nonsense and feel we should have a say?

    • Compassion HQ

      So you want to just absorb the 4 to 5 Million per day it costs to hold prisoners wanted by the feds? Because being a sanctuary city means you expect the feds to pick up that tab.

      • Delma Munoz

        What you just want to be home invaded, raped, robbed, tortured and watch your etc be cut into pieces. Its your Free Will…MEXICO doesn’t put up with pregnant whores walking onto their soil without proper documents and they have to have PHOTO ID’s to VOTE…send all back..see what transpires. IGNORANCE of the LAW which the LULACWHORES LaRaza & CAIR all know the laws…they are illegal from their birth…to death on their way to HELL…

        • Compassion HQ

          Oh please, most crime is American crime and you sound entirely unstable, either take your meds or go get some.

    • BAG510

      Other cities and states do not want them. Please start the petition. But, here is where I am confused. Many of these people work in homes in San Jose and other influential cities and neighborhoods. What makes you think that those who don’t , want them to live in their neighborhoods and snuggle up to them at night?

    • Delma Munoz


  • virgil

    I guess Judge Orrick missed the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s when he/she took HS American history….thankfully we have a new SCOTUS justice that does know the trends of US legal history. In case you don’t get it so called judge Orrick, SF is saying in effect that they nullify federal immigration laws.

    • Delma Munoz

      The blacked robbed will have a black hoodie on his empty overpaid Aidwhore Abettwhore SEDITIONIST this rate.

  • Mike Brosius

    Sanctuary Cities Suck (sibilance intended).
    Illegal is illegal. If you want to change the laws, then change the laws.
    Our country was founded on the rule of law, and continues to exist because of it.
    Maybe if S.F. loses its big federal paycheck, it’ll be shocked back into reality.

    • Dr. Chris Lee

      Whoever created this Sanctuary City B.S. should be held accountable! They should be arrested and incarserated. I am tired of arresting these illegal criminals.
      After 2-weeks the same illegals are back in my back yard. All my neighors are terrified, they all conceal and carry a pistol for protection.

      I think it starts at the top “Jerry Brown”. He should be indicted on criminal charges!
      The last time I checked, it is illegal to hide a criminal. Illegal aliens are criminals!

  • jskdn

    So the federal government says only a few law enforcement grants are at risk but the Obama-nominated Judge Orrick ignores that.

    “Orrick disagreed. The judge labeled the threat to county budgets an indisputable fact.

    “Is it true that every day you are owed millions of dollars by the federal government for services provided?” Orrick asked Santa Clara County counsel James Williams.”

    Why would the judge make an argument about withholding funds that the federal government stipulates in court is off the table instead of confining the realm to that which is actually in contention? That seems like judicial political grandstanding, creating a controversy that doesn’t exist.

    In fact much of the sanctuary arguments being made are political grandstanding implying that the issue is local law enforcement becoming immigration agents in the field when that’s not at issue. Really it amounts to simply not obstructing federal enforcement by withholding information from federal immigration authority and respecting federal detainers, de minimus requirements.

    The issue of detainers needs to revisited in the courts to overturn the rulings created by the Obama administration in collaboration with pro-illegal immigration litigators. Obama essentially said the courts detainers were voluntary and refused to defend the federal law. 8 C.F.R. §287.7(d): “such agency shall maintain custody of the alien for a period not to exceed 48 hours,”reversing the previous accepted understanding of the law. That resulted in rulings like a 9th circuit judge’s Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County and Galarza v. Lehigh County. In the later appeals court ruling, after the pro-illegal advocates lost at the circuit court trial level, the dissenting judge wrote:

    “I am deeply concerned that the United States has not
    been heard on the seminal issue in this appeal, an issue that
    goes to the heart of the enforcement of our nation’s
    immigration laws. And make no mistake about it. The
    conclusion reached by my friends in the Majority that
    immigration detainers issued pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 287.7 do
    not impose any obligation on state and local law enforcement
    agencies to detain suspected aliens subject to removal, but are
    merely requests that they do so, has enormous implications
    and will have, I predict, enormous ramifications.”

    Santa Clara’s policy that it would only respect detainers if the federal government would cover the costs of those is telling because it was the Obama administration who refused that request. The federal government has a program, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), intended to compensate local law enforcement for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants. Detainers by the federal government seem like the most appropriate reimbursement category, making far more sense than paying for other incarceration costs, especially in places that are essentially advocates for illegal immigration.

    • Delma Munoz

      So what makes a coward male think they are above the law…when they bow to EVIL as EVIL..appeaswhores…on parade…

      • Compassion HQ

        You have a liar and a fraud writing executive orders prepared by granny’s son from the Beverley Hillbillies. Of course all these executive orders are void and null after 10 minutes in court. You should have seen it coming if not for all the day drinking.

  • BAG510

    Who introduced the sanctuary bill? Why was it written? It makes me think California is afraid to say that they want them to leave. Is there some type of repercussion if they do not harbor these people?

  • Rational Male

    Businesses that hire illegals should be fined $100,000 per illegal they hire.
    There should be a national hotline to report probable illegal hiring so it can be investigated.
    This would solve the problem pretty fast I think.

  • Delma Munoz

    Draft dodging fantansylandwhores…self perpeteuating gov bureaucrats…think they are above the worker who must appear each day: provide multiple services and produce multiple products working til we drop dead for the images of yourselves whom support Aid Abettwhores SEDITION vs the USA…time for Guillotine..and NO RETIREMENT…for black robbed Anti USA et al cowards….overpaid blood sucking amoebic parasites. What ya fear LULACWHORES LaRaza and CAIR;..wait til they find out the majority of all of you elites no can get your hands dirty are HOMOS…whoopie – off you go straight down from the tallest point on the San Fran Bridge. Let me know so I can have my camera plus ready.

  • Dr. Chris Lee



Julie Small

Julie Small reports on criminal justice and immigration for KQED News. Before joining KQED, she covered California government and politics for KPCC (Southern California Public Radio).  Julie began her 15-year career in journalism as the deputy foreign editor for public radio’s Marketplace. Julie’s 2010 series on lapses in California’s prison medical care won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting and a Golden Mic Award from the RTNDA of Southern California. Julie earned a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School of Communication. She grew up in Los Angeles and now calls the East Bay home.  Contact:

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