Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

36 Cities & Counties Ask Federal Judge to Halt Trump Administration’s Threats Against “Sanctuary Jurisdictions”

A Diverse Coalition of Jurisdictions Says President Trump’s Executive Order Threatening Withholding of Funds is Unconstitutional

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — (BusinessWire) —Thirty-six cities and counties across the country are asking a federal court to halt President Trump’s executive order threatening the withdrawal of federal funds from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions.” The coalition filed an amicus brief in San Francisco federal court today to support the City and County of San Francisco’s lawsuit against the President, arguing the executive order is unconstitutional and that the public would suffer irreparable harm unless the order was halted nationwide. The case, City and County of San Francisco v. Trump, Case No. 3:17-cv-00485, is currently pending before the Honorable United States Judge William H. Orrick. Last week, a very similar group of thirty-four cities and counties filed an amicus brief in support of the County of Santa Clara’s lawsuit against the President, also seeking to halt the executive order nationwide. That case is County of Santa Clara v. Trump, Case No. 5:17-cv-00574, and is also pending before Judge Orrick.

Today’s coalition of concerned local governments appear as amici curiae (“friends of the court”). The cities and counties argue that the Executive Order impermissibly intrudes on the independence of local governments by threatening to withhold funding authorized by Congress if they do not follow the President’s unilateral instructions. They say that the loss of funding would risk public health and safety, and would shift the federal government’s unpaid tab to local residents. Some amici, for example, have concluded that victims of domestic violence or witnesses to crime will leave crimes unreported rather than risk going to local authorities if they face a risk of detention by federal immigration authorities.

Notably, the coalition includes many cities and counties who do not consider themselves to be “sanctuaries,” but who nevertheless agree the Executive Order is unlawful and unconstitutional. All amici agree that local authorities, not distant federal officials, should be making policy judgments that affect the interests and safety needs of their local communities. Local governments are responsible for the health and safety of their residents, from fighting crime and fires, preparing for natural or medical disasters, providing clean drinking water, maintaining streets and sidewalks, removing trash, and building and maintaining parks, among many other public services. Because of their crucial role and on-the-ground experience, they, not the President, should decide how to deploy their limited resources.

The coalition’s brief asks the Court to halt enforcement of the Order nationwide, not just in San Francisco, because a cut in funding to one city or county results in greater burdens on the services provided by nearby jurisdictions, and increased risks to public safety broadly. While the amici are not parties to this litigation, they believe that their combined experience and position will aid the Court in coming to a just, constitutional ruling.


New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “First and foremost, New Orleans is not a sanctuary city and our police department’s policy on immigration complies with federal law. The NOPD’s policy makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime, and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status. We are focused on fighting crime, and we will not move officers off the street to join President Trump’s deportation force. This Executive Order is unconstitutional, and denying critical federal funding to cities will only make us less safe.”

“Today, 36 cities and counties across the nation, representing over 24 million people, joined together to stand up for the health and safety of their communities and oppose President Trump’s ill-conceived and unconstitutional Executive Order that would require local jurisdictions to perform federal immigration work or risk losing unrelated federal funding,” said Kelly Dermody, Managing Partner of the San Francisco Office of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein, LLP, counsel for Amici. “Local jurisdictions are in the best position to set these priorities and they understand that driving some residents underground in fear of any interaction with local authorities makes every resident in that community, and those adjacent, less safe.”

The cities that have joined the amici coalition are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Berkeley, California
  • Cathedral City, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Denver, Colorado
  • East Palo Alto, California
  • Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Menlo Park, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Oakland, California
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Princeton, New Jersey
  • Sacramento, California
  • Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Salinas, California
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Santa Ana, California
  • Santa Clara, California
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Syracuse, New York
  • West Hollywood, California

The counties that have joined the amici coalition are:

  • County of Alameda, California
  • Cook County, Illinois
  • King County, Washington
  • Los Angeles County, California
  • Marin County, California
  • Monterey County, California
  • Santa Cruz County, California
  • Sonoma County, California
  • Travis County, Texas

A copy of the brief is available online.


Dean M. Harvey
(415) 956-1000 or
Partner, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
San Francisco, CA