9th Circuit Rules White House Can’t Withhold Money from Sanctuary Cities

President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court on August 1, 2018.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that federal funding could be withheld only with congressional authorization. The appeals court also noted that the U.S. District Court went too far by blocking the policy nationwide, and sent back the case for “reconsideration and further findings.”

“We conclude that, under the principle of Separation of Powers and in consideration of the Spending Clause, which vests exclusive power to Congress to impose conditions on federal grants, the Executive Branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization,” a three-member panel of the 9th Circuit said in its 2-to-1 ruling.

President Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that dealt with interior immigration enforcement. The 9th Circuit ruled against a provision that limited funding to jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement — also known as sanctuary cities.

The executive order focused on a federal statute that prohibits federal, state and local officials from restricting the sharing of information related to an individual’s immigration or citizenship status. While the appeals court didn’t rule on that statute, U.S.C. 1373, a Chicago-based federal judge in late July found it unconstitutional in separate lawsuit over withholding of federal grants over immigration enforcement. That ruling was limited to the city of Chicago, the plaintiff in the case.

The Justice Department issued a statement condemning the ruling as a “victory for criminal aliens in California” and said the department will continue to be committed to “keeping criminal aliens off the streets.”

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