The White House lashed out Tuesday night against the federal judge who blocked President Trump’s anti-sanctuary city executive order, and said sanctuaries like San Francisco have “the blood of dead Americans on their hands.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the ruling by Judge William H. Orrick misconstrued U.S. immigration laws and undercuts Americans’ faith in government.
“This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,” Mr. Spicer said in a scorching statement. “But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.”
The statement was all the more striking because it conflicted with the Justice Department’s take on the case. Department spokesman Ian D. Prior said rather than blocking Mr. Trump, the key part of Tuesday’s ruling actually endorsed the administration’s current approach to sanctuary cities.
Judge Orrick, who sits in San Francisco, ruled that Mr. Trump overstepped his bounds by trying to impose new restrictions on federal grants issued to states, counties and cities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation agents.
The judge said Congress, not Mr. Trump, has the power of the purse and gets to decide what strings are attached.
Judge Orrick issued an injunction against part of Mr. Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order threatening to withhold potentially tens of billions of dollars from sanctuary cities. But the judge said in instances where Congress has already approved strings — such as three Justice Department programs — Mr. Trump can withhold the money.
The Justice Department said those programs — the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, COPS funding and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program — were the ones they had planned to target anyway.
Mr. Spicer, though, appeared to read the decision as blocking, not empowering, enforcement of that part of the law.
He delivered a withering attack on Judge Orrick, and attacked Santa Clara and San Francisco, the two counties in California that had sued to halt Mr. Trump’s executive order.
“San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands,” Mr. Spicer said.
San Francisco became the chief target in the sanctuary city debate after the 2015 slaying of Kate Steinle. The man standing trial for her killing is an illegal immigrant shielded from deportation by the city’s policies.