Seattle officials announced Wednesday that they were suing the Trump administration for its efforts to strip sanctuary cities of their federal funding. City Mayor Ed Murray said that the executive order directing the Justice Department to withhold funds was an unconstitutional breach of federal authority.
Murray said in a press conference that Trump was constitutionally forbidden from using the federal government to force cities into compliance, “yet that is exactly what the president’s order does. Once again, this new administration has decided to bully.”
The mayor insisted that by stripping Seattle of DOJ grants, Trump was only making life more dangerous for the citizens he claims to want to protect.
“Things like grants helping us with child sex trafficking are not connected to immigration,” Murray said. “It is time for cities to stand up and ask the courts to put an end to the anxiety in our cities and the chaos in our system.”
The lawsuit comes only days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement threatening to pull federal funds from cities that do not cooperate with deportation efforts.
The Justice Department responded to the lawsuit in a statement, insisting that the administration is both legally and morally correct in their position.
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses makes our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets,” said a DOJ representative.
We’d love to be confident about the administration’s chances here, but on what basis would we draw that confidence from? Every time this administration has been challenged in court, the decision has gone to the plaintiffs. And with the travel ban, any sensible scholar can tell you that the president is firmly within his constitutional boundaries. So any ruling to the contrary is a political joke.
Trump’s threats to defund sanctuary cities are on much shakier ground than his travel ban. There is a legitimate “states’ rights” argument here, even if there are federal funds – dependency, in other words – hanging in the balance. And if Seattle wins this lawsuit, it will nullify Trump’s attempts to get those sanctuary cities to comply with ICE agents.
Who knows? Maybe the Justice Department has a really strong legal argument to make in this case, but we’re not holding our breath for a favorable judgement.