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Salinas, Monterey County join coalition supporting lawsuits against 'sanctuary city' funding cuts

Greta Mart/KCBX
Representing Salinas residents, the city attorney's office says the executive order is unconstitutional for several reasons.

The City of Salinas and Monterey County - along with 50 other cities and counties around the country - are among the official supporters of two lawsuits filed against President Donald Trump and his executive order to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary” jurisdictions. On Friday, attorneys gave oral arguments before a federal judge in the cases City and County of San Francisco v. Trump and County of Santa Clara v. Trump.

Sanctuary jurisdictions are cities or counties unwilling to assist federal immigration authorities in enforcing immigration laws. While Salinas’s city council opted not to formally declare itself a sanctuary city, officials there say Salinas’s policy is to “encourage residents to communicate and cooperate with law enforcement without fear of immigration consequences.”

Salinas City Attorney Chris Callihan said Trump’s executive order is unconstitutional because, among other reasons, it “attempts to co-opt for President Trump the power of the purse, which is expressly reserved for Congress in the U.S. Constitution.”

Callihan said for the 2015-16 fiscal year, Salinas received over $45 million in federal funding, and that funding paid for things like fire response, home investment partnerships, emergency shelters, highways and public transportation.

Salinas and Monterey County joined a coalition of American cities and counties that filed amici curiae (“friends of the court”) briefs in support of San Francisco and Santa Clara's lawsuits.

Capital Public Radio’s state government reporter Ben Bradford was in the courtroom Friday. 

“The [U.S. Justice Department's] attorney minimized the order’s impact, compared to the president’s suggestion he could defund entire cities. Under questioning by the judge, the attorney said there are only three grants the Justice Department has identified for removal—totaling hundreds of thousands or millions, rather than billions of dollars for cities,” Bradford said.

The judge says he will issue a ruling soon on whether to block the executive order, Bradford said.

In his statement, Callihan said many people are confused whether Salinas is a sanctuary city or not. Earlier this year, the Salinas City Council voted against declaring it so, but that doesn’t mean it will willingly partner with ICE agents.

“Neither federal law nor the executive order defines the term "sanctuary jurisdiction." Rather, the Trump administration has left the term undefined in order to allow it to choose, indiscriminately, which jurisdictions to deprive of federal funding,” Callihan said in the statement. “According to the executive order, any jurisdiction that does not allow its law enforcement departments to be entirely co-opted into the enforcement of federal immigration law can be added to the administration's list of bêtes noires at any time. The administration's failure to define the term sanctuary jurisdiction is one of the factors that renders the executive order unconstitutional.”

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