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The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously authorized its legal staff to participate in a lawsuit challenging the authority of the Trump administration to withhold federal funds from "sanctuary cities."
The suit, filed by Santa Clara County, is one of several to challenge a Jan. 25 executive order declaring that sanctuary cities "have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our republic."
The lawsuit calls the executive order an "unprecedented" and unconstitutional attempt to expand executive power.
If the Trump administration carried out its threat — and interpreted it broadly — L.A. Unified could be at risk. The nation's second largest school system received more than $585 million from the federal government last year, a substantial portion of its $7.15-billion general fund revenues.
The board discussed the issue and voted in closed session, then reported the action just prior to a public meeting.
"We have authority to submit a brief in support of Santa Clara County," general counsel David Holmquist told The Times. "We may prepare our own, or choose to join an existing one. We expect to make that decision this week."
The district has not declared itself a "sanctuary school district." Similarly, Los Angeles, under Mayor Eric Garcetti, has not formally declared itself a sanctuary city, a term for which there is no clear legal definition. Both the city and the school system, however, have immigrant-friendly policies.
Leaders in Los Angeles and other California cities have repeatedly said they will not allow their local law enforcement officers to act as de facto immigration agents.
Courts have upheld the right of all students to attend public schools, L.A. Unified officials noted.
"The executive orders on immigration do not change L.A. Unified’s commitment to providing a free quality education to all district students, regardless of immigration status," the district stated in information posted on a web page for affected families.
Holmquist said he is "not aware of any discussions between the district and the Trump administration on funding."