Earlier today, the Second Circuit reversed a decision by Judge Ramos that had invalidated an executive order targeting “sanctuary cities” that did not cooperate with federal law enforcement on immigration issues (see our previous coverage here).

Judge Ramos had held that the order was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act, and impinged on the powers of state and local governments.  The Second Circuit disagreed, noting that the federal government has broad power to enforce immigration policy:

[W]e cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue. These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight.

Nor can we agree with the district court that the challenged conditions impermissibly intrude on powers reserved to the States.  As the Supreme Court has repeatedly observed, in the realm of immigration policy, it is the federal government that maintains “broad” and “preeminent,” power, which is codified in an “extensive and complex” statutory scheme.  Thus, at the same time that the Supreme Court has acknowledged States’ “understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration,” it has made clear that a “State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote over 200 years ago, “the states have no power, by taxation or otherwise, to retard, impede, burden, or in any manner control, the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by congress to carry into execution the powers vested in the general government.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 436 (1819). This fundamental principle, a bedrock of our federalism, is no less applicable today. Indeed, it pertains with particular force when, as here, Congress acts pursuant to its power under the Spending Clause.