Trump lashes out at wrong court after his effort to defund sanctuary cities is struck down

The president went after the court that will hear the case next.

President Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
President Donald Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The morning after a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to deny federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” President Trump threatened to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings,” Trump wrote as the first of a three-part Twitter rant Wednesday morning. “See you in the Supreme Court!”

Trump said that the Ninth Circuit — where he presumed the ruling was issued — has a “terrible record of being overturned.” But Judge William Orrick — a district court judge based in San Francisco who issued Tuesday’s injunction — does not sit on the Ninth Circuit, which is an appeals court. As Politico pointed out, the Ninth Circuit will be the next court that will hear the case if the Trump administration chooses to appeal the decision.

Orrick’s ruling on Tuesday blocked key parts of Trump’s executive order which would pull federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” or localities where local law enforcement can choose to limit cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency by not turning over suspected undocumented immigrants. As it stands, police department manuals in some current sanctuary localities still suggest officers establish whether people are in the country without authorization, which could encourage immigration enforcement.

In his ruling, Orrick argued that taking federal funding away from cities and counties like Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco, which challenged the law by not cooperating with federal authorities, could be unconstitutional. He pointed out that these localities would face “immediate irreparable harm” in part because federal grants that “support core services in their jurisdictions” could be cut off.

Late Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement attacking the decision as an “egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.” Spicer also decried the city of San Francisco as a place that ignores federal immigration law and puts the “well-being of criminal aliens before the safety” of U.S. citizens.

“San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands,” Spicer said in his statement. “This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.”

U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Ian Prior said in a statement that Orrick’s ruling didn’t prevent the federal government from enforcing rules to some grants in localities that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials.

“Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions,” Prior said.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus promised the administration would appeal.

“Again it’s the Ninth Circuit going bananas,” Priebus, who also mistook Orrick for a Ninth Circuit judge, said Tuesday. “It’s clear forum-shopping that’s going on. …We will win at the Supreme Court level.”

Trump previously slammed the Ninth Circuit when it upheld a lower court’s temporary injunction blocking his executive order to prevent immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.