Judge issues surprise ruling on withholding funds for sanctuary state

If you are a noncompliant jurisdiction in terms of cooperating with immigration enforcement and you take the White House to court, demanding that you receive your Justice Department grant money anyway, be careful what you wish for. Sure, if you shop around for the right judge you can probably get a ruling in your favor, at least until it reaches the Supreme Court. But if your claim is outrageous enough, you never know what might happen.

That seems to be the case with California this week. They went so far as to declare that the entire state was a sanctuary for criminal illegal aliens but demanded that Uncle Sam keep dishing out the grant money anyway. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, a district judge in Northern California (!) has ruled that the government doesn’t have to pony up the cash until the matter can be hashed out fully in court. (Washington Times)

The Trump administration will not immediately have to award California a grant being withheld over concerns the state is a sanctuary for people in the country illegally, a federal judge said Monday.

The amount of money at issue – $1 million – was relatively small and was at this point only delayed, not denied, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said. While he rejected the state’s request for a preliminary injunction to turn over the money, he also rejected a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to dismiss California’s lawsuit.

The judge said the suit raised “weighty and novel constitutional issues” that would benefit from additional argument.

Judge Orrick is not only a District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, but he’s an Obama appointee to boot. If he’s concerned about the “weighty and novel constitutional issues” raised by California’s claim then the case is in serious trouble.

Of course, as I’ve opined here from the beginning, it’s difficult to imagine the Supreme Court siding with California or any of the sanctuary cities. We’re not talking about money appropriated specifically for individual states and cities which they’re “entitled” to. This is money appropriated for the Justice Department to issue in the form of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants. And the word “grants” is key here. As with any other grant program, there’s an application process with the applicants needing to meet certain criteria established by the agency issuing the funds. And not everyone who applies wins a grant, even if they meet all the qualifications. If the Justice Department decides that one criteria is that you must cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials to protect your citizens, that should really be the end of the conversation.

That wasn’t the only win that the Trump administration scored in court this week, by the way. In case you missed it, a judge in Maryland has ruled that the White House had the right to end DACA when Trump made the call. (Washington Examiner)

Judge Roger W. Titus, a Bush appointee, ruled late Monday President Trump acted within his authority in his plan to rescind an executive order former President Barack Obama announced in 2012 as a way to protect illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. Trump ended the order over a period of six months until Congress could legislatively solve the problem.

“This decision took control of a pell-mell situation and provided Congress — the branch of government charged with determining immigration policy — an opportunity to remedy it. Given the reasonable belief that DACA was unlawful, the decision to wind down DACA in an orderly manner was rational,” Titus wrote.

The entire DACA question should have been as clear-cut as the conversation over federal grants. It’s a matter of who holds the authority to do what between the federal and state governments or between the executive and legislative branches. In this case, DACA was an executive action summoned up by a president with no input from Congress. The idea that a subsequent president doesn’t have the authority to modify or even end that executive action is insane. And yet you can still find a judge willing to entertain the notion if you look in the right places.

In any event, it was a pretty good week for Trump in the courts. (Not that you’re likely to hear a lot about it on cable news.)

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David Strom 3:31 PM on February 02, 2023