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Opinion: County aims for court smackdown of Donald Trump’s sanctuary city attack

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a warning to local governments that don’t help enforce federal immigration laws on March 27 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Extortion. We expect to see it in a crime movie, not the Oval Office.

Unfortunately, President Trump believes the Constitution doesn’t apply to him. His actions demonstrate an arrogant disregard for core Constitutional principles that prevent the federal government from dictating policies to local jurisdictions.

But no president or administration is above the law. That is why the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has filed suit challenging President Trump’s “Sanctuary Jurisdiction” Executive Order.

The Executive Order threatens to withdraw all federal funds from any local government that does not do the federal government’s bidding on its brand of immigration enforcement.

The stakes for our community are huge. The county stands to lose $1.7 billion — 35 percent of our annual revenue. This would have devastating impacts on county residents and send our nation down a dangerous path.

Our Constitution does not give the president the power to use state and local governments as tools to implement its policies. In fact, the Constitution protects the county’s authority to enact policies that protect the health, welfare and safety of its residents.

Since our nation’s founding, local officials have had authority over the use of local resources. The Executive Order would gut that authority. It is being used, as President Trump stated, as a “weapon” against state and local governments for setting their own policies and using their own resources to protect all community members, consistent with local values.

The Executive Order is especially problematic because it tells the county to enforce immigration detainers, which courts have found to lack probable cause and thus violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

The President is essentially pushing the county to violate the Constitution and face potential liability.

Our nation’s founders did not give the federal government authority to dictate how to use state and local government resources. They certainly did not give the President the power of the purse. These core legal principles have been upheld in countless Supreme Court decisions.

The president’s willingness to jeopardize the health and safety of our 1.9 million residents by withholding federal funds for critical programs is shameful. Among the hardest hit services would be those provided by the county’s hospital, Valley Medical Center, which not only serves the neediest and most vulnerable community members but also provides critical services to all members of our community.

If you’re in a major car accident in the South Bay, chances are you will be transported to VMC for emergency trauma care. President Trump’s order will literally jeopardize your safety.

On April 14, a federal judge will consider the county’s motion seeking a nationwide preliminary injunction to prevent the Trump Administration from denying funding to communities. Dozens of cities, counties, sheriffs’ offices, school districts, non-profits and legal scholars from across the nation have filed briefs supporting our lawsuit.

It takes more than early morning tweets and divisive personal attacks to address the issues our nation faces. We’re hopeful that our system of checks and balances works as designed, and that the courts will prevent President Trump from trampling our Constitution.

Dave Cortese is president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, James Williams is the County Counsel and Jeffery Smith is the County Executive. They wrote this for The Mercury News.