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Judge blocks Trump order seeking to strip funds from sanctuary cities like Philly

The federal judge called the executive order an “ominous, misleading, and ultimately toothless threat.”

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Update, 7 a.m.

A federal judge has blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order seeking to withhold funds from sanctuary cities like Philadelphia.

The judge, William Orrick of Northern California, essentially ruled Congress and not the federal government had spending power via the Constitution. He also wrote that the executive order could be considered as coercive and that there was no feasible way to connect the funds and the policies of a sanctuary city.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick wrote.

The federal government’s defense of its policy left the sanctuary city section of the order as an “ominous, misleading, and ultimately toothless threat,” Orrick wrote.

The injunction, which Orrick ruled to be nationwide, comes hours after a meeting about sanctuary cities between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several mayors across the country. Taken together with the ruling, the odds of federal funds being withheld from Philly appear to be shrinking.

After the meeting, mayors said Sessions told them the only law at issue in the Trump administration’s attempt to punish sanctuary cities was a law that forbids municipalities from interfering with communications with federal officials.

“Based on what we’ve heard, I don’t know of any cities that are out of compliance with that at the moment,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told Politico.

Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” policy involves detainer requests. Philly police have a policy of not holding inmates who are eligible for release that ICE asks to be held for up to an extra 48 hours — unless ICE has a warrant. Austin Mayor Steve Adler told Politico the AG’s staff said declining to honor such requests would not lead to sanctions by the federal government.

The Mayor’s Office provided a statement, saying “Although we are gratified with the federal courts ruling, we will need to continue to work in order to prevent our local law enforcement officers from being forced to adopt policies that would make our city less safe and worsen community relations.” The Office pointed out the ruling didn’t impact the Attorney General’s Office or Department of Homeland Security’s guidance on defining what a sanctuary city is.

Philadelphia still faces the risk of two bills in the Legislature that aim to withhold state funding from sanctuary cities. The bill, proposed by Philly Rep. Martina White, could strip Philadelphia of hundreds of millions of dollars.