Days after deciding to sue Donald Trump over his controversial immigration executive order, Santa Clara County followed through.
County officials on Friday officially filed a lawsuit against the new leader of the United States, citing the order's "unconstitutional" methods as well as arguing that the ban harmfully targets jurisdictions classified as "sanctuary cities" by pulling federal support funds.
"The President’s order is an unconstitutional attempt to coerce state and local governments into assisting with mass deportation," County Counsel James R. Williams wrote in a statement. "We will resist any effort to illegally withhold funding for critical county services that support the health, safety, and well-being of all our residents."
Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese offered a similar sentiment.
"Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley, is a welcoming community that embraces immigrants and we will resist any effort to divide us," he said in a statement. "Immigrants contribute to the very fabric of our nation and we will not stand by while the Trump administration seeks to impose un-American and illegal policies that undermine our values."
After a brief closed-session meeting last Tuesday, Santa Clara County leaders announced the decision to file a lawsuit against Trump.
The Board of Supervisors discussed possible legal action against the federal government behind closed doors in the afternoon, then approved the lawsuit Tuesday evening in open session. Supervisors are upset with Trump's signed executive orders that require compliance with federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials and other security agencies in order to receive $300 million in promised federal funds.
Supervisors said they've been preparing for some time for such an action.
"We've been gearing up for the last two months, anticipating this kind of coercion, almost extortion, from the federal government," board President Dave Cortese said earlier this week. "You know, 'We're going to hold your $300 million, we're going to starve out your citizens in terms of federal money if you don't behave the way we want you to behave.'"
Cortese compared the legal action to what the ACLU did when it sued the Trump administration after the president's immigration ban.
"I know it sounds unorthodox that a little county like Santa Clara County could get a restraining order to stop the federal government from doing something like an executive order," Cortese said. "The fact of the matter is the judicial branch is available to us, and it's a very effective way to slow things down and get a neutral party to start looking at what's going on here before all hell breaks loose."
The board president also pointed out that the action isn't designed as a political statement, saying the loss of $300 million would impact programs that affect almost everybody.
County officials said later Tuesday the loss could be up to $1 billion when matching funds are considered. And if the county does lose that money, there would be cuts to services from hospitals and parks to employees in the county building.
Fariba Nejat of the Iranian federated women's club said she can't imagine the impact the budget cuts would have on the quality of life in the county.
"It's about people's lives, the heart of the people who built this county, and it's going to be a real disaster," she said.
It could come down to this for Santa Clara County: Go along with the president or lose all that money, according to legal experts.
"I'm hoping that they stay strong and protect people and the pressure from the federal government doesn't cause them to wobble at all," said Ruth Silver Taube of Santa Clara University Law School.
Cortese said the cost of the lawsuit will be minimal. Pro bono law firms and the county Impact Litigation department will handle it, and they may join with lawsuits from other government entities down the road.