The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the Trump administration’s 2017 executive order that freezes federal funds to “sanctuary” jurisdictions that decline to hand over information about individuals’ immigration status to the federal government.

The court ruled Wednesday that under the Separation of Powers doctrine and the Spending Clause, Congress—not the executive branch—has the sole authority to withdraw or impose conditions on federal grants. Several counties in California brought the lawsuit against the Trump administration, and won a nationwide injunction in a lower court. In the 2-1 ruling, the 9th Circuit upheld the injunction, but limited it to California.

The executive order has been met with lawsuits from multiple cities, counties and states. The 7th Circuit upheld an injunction in April, limiting it to Chicago, and a U.S. District Court in Philadelphia enjoined the executive order in June. (That decision is on appeal to the Third Circuit.) New York city and state have sued the administration over the withholding of millions in federal public safety grant funding.

BAL Analysis: Thus far, the courts have been unanimous in striking down the Trump administration’s efforts to defund local and state jurisdictions that refuse to assist federal immigration enforcement policy. For further analysis of the legal arguments, BAL Senior Counsel Jeff Gorsky looked at “How the Trump administration lost its sanctuary city case” in this Law360 article.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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