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Five days after taking the oath of office in 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would have suspended federal funding for cities and counties across the US, including Santa Clara County, that had declared themselves legal sanctuaries to protect undocumented immigrants from arrest by federal agencies.


Santa Clara County and San Francisco County sued the new administration over the President’s executive order, and on Aug. 1 2019, the Ninth District Court of Appeals in California ruled that the funding could not be withheld in California, and declared Trump’s order unconstitutional.


The county had said that if the order had been successful, the county would have lost $1.7 billion in federal funds, or 35 percent of its annual revenue.


In the final order of the federal appeals court, which dismissed the Trump administration order “without prejudice,” the federal government and the two counties agreed that the case would not be pursued any further in California, but added in the agreement that the ruling would not prevent the President from pursuing the order in other states.


So-called “sanctuary city” laws have been a topic of debate within the county and the federal government. In February 2019 a Santa Clara county resident, Bambi Larson, was murdered by an undocumented immigrant just days after he had been released from a county jail. This incident sparked the county to reconsider its policies, but ultimately maintained its sanctuary ordinances.


Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman said previously at an event in Gilroy that the county complied with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) seeking to arrest individuals in the county’s custody when the agency followed a specific protocol.


Wasserman said if ICE offered a judge’s warrant, individuals would be turned over to the agency, but said the county does not respond to ICE detainers, which are not judicial warrants.


The county released a statement regarding the court decision, declaring it a victory for California and the county.


“The county’s immigrant population and diversity only make us stronger, and we are proud to stand firm against threats to local health and safety services, even when they come from the sitting President of the United States,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese in the statement. The final order “affirms the county’s litigation strategy to hold the Trump administration accountable for its conduct,” he said.

County Attorney James Williams said the appeals court order “affirms a basic principle of American constitutional law—that no president may usurp powers not given to him, and that the federal government cannot use the threat of withholding federal funding to coerce local governments into participating in federal immigration enforcement.”

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