Federal judge: withholding funds from ‘sanctuary cities’ is unconstitutional
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Federal judge: withholding funds from ‘sanctuary cities’ is unconstitutional

A judge for the US District Court of the Western District of Washington ruled Thursday that part of President Donald Trump’s executive order to end federal grant funding for sanctuary cities is unconstitutional.

The order, which was signed by Trump days after his inauguration in early 2017, allowed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withhold safety grant funding from “sanctuary cities” where the local government authorities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement to detain people solely based on their immigration status.

The city of Seattle, which was joined by the city of Portland, filed the lawsuit in March 2017, naming Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as defendants. The defendants argued that funding would be withheld due to the cities violations of federal statute 8 USC § 1373, which restricts any government agent from inhibiting Immigration and Naturalization Service from collecting information on the immigration status of any individual. The plaintiffs contend that they are not in violation of the code because local governments are not obligated to enforce federal law. They also argue that the federal government cannot add new conditions to grants already appropriated by Congress.

The district court’s ruling is in line with a decision that came from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in August that found the same section of Trump’s order unconstitutional in a case brought by the city of San Francisco.