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A federal court has blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities, marking yet another legal setback for the new administration.

The nationwide injunction granted Tuesday by a federal judge in San Francisco will prevent the executive order, signed just days after the president’s inauguration in January, from being enforced while its legal merits are debated.

That order threatened to cut federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, as part of the president’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration.

The decision marks another courtroom defeat for the president and his attorney general Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor and US senator. Like earlier court rulings rejecting the president’s controversial travel ban, the sanctuary cities decision underscores the damage Mr Trump’s own words have done to his legal position.

Government attorneys argued that the executive order, despite its broad wording, should be interpreted narrowly to represent no change in existing law and to apply only to a handful of Justice Department grant programs. US Judge William Orrick rejected that argument, citing Mr Trump’s public description of the funding cutoff as “a weapon” and his aides’ remarks about administration enforcement plans.

“The statements of the president, his press secretary and the attorney general belie the government’s argument in the briefing that the order does not change the law,” the judge ruled. “They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the executive order.”

James R. Williams, counsel for Santa Clara, a California county that challenged the ban, said:

“Today’s decision is a historic affirmation of the US Constitution’s core principles – that the President cannot usurp power not given to him, and that the federal government cannot use federal defunding to coerce local governments into becoming federal immigration enforcers,” said .

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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