The San Francisco Chronicle reports City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday, amid overwhelming outrage in the famously progressive city over what many residents believe is a racist, xenophobic policy targeting poor people of color. Last week, Trump signed directives to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and calling for the withholding of federal funding from sanctuary cities — municipalities that welcome and protect undocumented immigrants, and in many cases refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials.
“Not only is [the executive order] unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” Herrera, who was flanked by Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials, told reporters at City Hall. “It is necessary to defend the people of this city, this state and this country from the wild overreach of a president whose words and actions have thus far shown little respect for our Constitution or the rule of law.”
“The fabric of our communities and billions of dollars are at stake,” added Herrera. “President Trump does not appear to understand the Constitution and the limits it imposes on executive power.”
“Strong cities like San Francisco must continue to push the nation forward and remind America that we are a city that fights for what is right,” Mayor Lee declared.
The city’s complaint cites the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which grants states power over matters not mentioned in the Constitution. Many legal experts argue Supreme Court precedent, the separation of powers and federalism would be undermined by the executive branch unilaterally inventing and imposing new conditions on states and cities.
Many of California’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Ana and Berkeley, have officially declared sanctuary policies. Many other municipalities have partially adopted sanctuary policies. California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has also spoken strongly about the need to “defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”
Most San Franciscans are proud of their city’s stand for immigrant rights. City officials even created a public service announcement (PSA) broadcast on local television and radio stations informing undocumented immigrants that they were welcome to live in San Francisco and to take advantage of many of the social services the city offers.
Opponents of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy point to high profile — but relatively rare — cases of undocumented immigrants who kill or harm Americans like Kate Steinle, the young woman shot dead on a San Francisco pier in 2015, allegedly by a Mexican man who had entered the country illegally five times. However, studies show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than the general population. Many of the safest cities in the nation are also located on or near the Mexican border — including El Paso, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin and Tucson, a fact acknowledged by even some leading conservative voices.
The stakes are high for San Francisco. The city could lose more than $1.2 billion in annual federal funding, most of which is spent on healthcare, nutrition and other programs for mostly poor residents, the Los Angeles Times reports.
San Francisco isn’t the only place fighting back against Trump’s anti-sanctuary policies. New York, Massachusetts and Virginia joined lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the president’s sanctuary city order. Democratic lawmakers in California are also advancing multiple bills aiming to make theirs the first sanctuary state in the nation.
“We need to stand up for every man, woman and child who has contributed to our community,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), who introduced one of the bills and is co-sponsoring another, told the San Jose Mercury News. “That is under full-frontal attack by the federal administration now.”