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Executive Order To Strip Funding From Sanctuary Cities Faced First Legal Challenge

Credit: Associated Press

Above: President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 1, 2017.

President Trump’s executive order to strip funding from sanctuary cities faced its first legal challenge Friday in San Francisco. The city and Santa Clara County went to federal court to block the order, contending it is unconstitutional.

Both President Trump and opponents of his sanctuary city order have generally discussed it the same way: as an effort to de-fund cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents. San Francisco and Santa Clara say that is more than a billion dollars in their budgets.

RELATED: San Diego Area Mayors Organize Opposition To 'Sanctuary State' Bill

Labor unions and immigrant aid groups protested early outside the U.S. district court.

But inside the courtroom, justice department lawyers offered a very different interpretation of the order.

RELATED: State Senate Approves Bill To Make California A ‘Sanctuary State’

They said, despite the political rhetoric, the agency agrees with the plaintiffs — it cannot strip all funds — it has identified three law enforcement grants it could legally withhold — representing hundreds of thousands to a few million dollars for the largest cities — not billions.

After the hearing, San Francisco deputy city attorney Sara Eisenberg called it a modest victory.

"What we did see today was a significant backing down at least on the part of the attorney that was in court from the broader position the Administration seems to be taking. We are not confident that is going to stick," Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg also said the city will continue to push to strike down the order. The judge said he will rule soon on whether to grant a preliminary injunction, which would block the order as the case proceeds.

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