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California County Files Lawsuit to Block Sanctuary City Defunding

News  |  By Doug Desjardins  
   March 06, 2017

President Trump's executive order would create budgetary 'chaos' and put thousands of residents' health, safety, and welfare at risk, the suit claims.

This story originally appeared in California Healthfax.

Santa Clara County (CA) officials have filed a lawsuit against the federal government over its proposal to reduce federal funding to "sanctuary" cities and regions, suggesting the plan would potentially cut millions of dollars in funding for healthcare and other services.

The suit, filed in federal district court last month, seeks a preliminary injunction against an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that would withhold federal funding from cities and counties that "willfully violate federal law" by shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The lawsuit states that the executive order "throws plaintiff county of Santa Clara’s budgetary process into chaos" and poses a risk to the health, safety, and welfare of thousands of county residents.

"The President’s order is an unconstitutional attempt to coerce state and local governments into assisting with mass deportation," said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams.

"We will resist any effort to illegally withhold funding for critical county services that support the health, safety, and well-being of our residents."

Disruption at Safety Net Hospital
The proposal to reduce federal funding to sanctuary regions by 35% would disrupt services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, a safety net hospital where the majority of patients are insured through Medi-Cal or Medicare, county officials said.

They estimated the hospital and related facilities receive nearly $1 billion per year in federal funding, primarily for Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Santa Clara County is one of 15 sanctuary counties in California on a list that includes Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco counties. State legislators in February introduced Senate Bill 54, which would make California a "sanctuary state."

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The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In a related matter, Los Angeles County supervisors last month approved a motion to direct county administrators to "develop options on how health insurance coverage could be maintained and/or extended within the County and the State given proposed federal legislation concerning the Affordable Care Act."

 "Should a repeal or any significant diminution occur, LA [County] needs to be at the forefront of helping to craft a way to protect those we serve," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

More than 1.2 million Los Angeles County residents have gained coverage under the ACA, with 900,000 acquiring coverage through Medicaid expansion and 300,000 receiving subsidies, according to data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

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