SEATTLE – Seattle City leaders are promising to fight back against President Trump’s immigration related Executive Orders issues Wednesday, including one that takes aim at so-called Sanctuary cities.
The new administration’s action promises to strip federal grant money from cities that harbor illegal immigrants.
“This is the darkest day in immigration history in America since the internment of the Japanese Americans since the Second World War. Mr. President, I have a message for you. Seattle has been here before, we’ve experienced this dark history before and we have no intention of going back there again,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray during a news conference. “We will not be intimidated by federal dollars, and we will not be intimidated by authoritarian message coming from this administration.”
Seattle’s policy mandates that local police officers do not inquire or report immigration status of criminal suspects or victims. Once a suspect is booked into King County Jail, federal agents can search a public database, but it’s up to them to find possible violations.
“What the city of Seattle does with its long held don’t ask, don’t tell policy, for instance, is absolutely a legal exercise of this city’s policy making authority decision on how we allocate our resources. And it’s not only geared toward fundamentally fairness, but for public safety,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the policy is designed to foster trust and cooperation across all citizens, including the vulnerable immigrant community. She said major city police chiefs are united in their belief that local law enforcement should not enforce federal immigration law.
While it’s not completely clear which federal funding could be put at risk by the executive order, city officials believe it will likely be the ten million dollars in grant money allocated for law enforcement. However, the exact sources and amount are still being reviewed.
“The federal government can’t simply on a whim yank federal funding,” said Holmes. “There are procedures and there standards, fortunately, that the courts will enforce. We are spending great deal of time examining ways that spending could be implicated.”
Holmes also says his office is looking into possible preemptive action that could be taken by the city; they’ve only just begun to review the new executive orders.
“I forsee some real problems,” said former U.S. attorney Mike McKay who served under the first Bush Administration.
“Instead of issuing executive orders, and expecting the cities to fall into line, it requires a lot of work and collaboration like previous administrations did,” McKay said, recalling his relationship and collaboration with the city of Seattle when he served decades ago.
“Right now there isn’t a common goal, and to issue edicts from Washington D.C., that’s not going to be successful, and frankly it’s inconsistent with Republican principles,” McKay told KING 5. “The real power does lie locally and should be, and the federal government should be empowering the local governments to do what everyone agrees should be done. There’s a difference of opinion right now, and an executive order from Washington DC isn’t going to change that.”
Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, a former King County Sheriff, who has voted in the past against punishing Sanctuary Cities, issued this statement to KING 5:
“We need an immigration system that keeps our communities safe, treats families with dignity, and benefits our economy. We can and should allow families to pursue and achieve the American Dream while increasing border protection and strictly enforcing our laws. I am still reviewing the order to understand exactly how it affects our region, particularly with respect to funding for important public safety programs and the treatment of young children who were brought here outside of their control.”
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington, the fourth ranking Republican in the House said:
“It is the federal government’s responsibility to protect the American people, and the Trump administration is following through on that responsibility. I support efforts to strengthen border security as the first step in developing a fair and workable immigration system that will protect the American people, enforce our nation’s laws, and strengthen our economy.”
The order was not popular with advocacy groups around the region. Jorge Baron, executive director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which helps immigrants who don’t have lawyers, said because of the campaign’s rhetoric, today’s moves aren’t a surprise.
“People expected that things would be coming,” he said of the executive actions. “I do think there’s generally a high level of anxiety about what’s coming and about how this is going to impact their own families.”