Seattle defies Trump, vows to remain a sanctuary city

Seattle will defy executive orders from President Donald Trump to cooperate with federal immigration officials —  retaining its sanctuary policies and remaining a city that welcomes all immigrants.

Trump, who ran on a platform to restrict immigration, issued executive orders Wednesday that target sanctuary cities and the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

One of the directives allow federal dollars to be withheld from cities that do not comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Mayor Ed Murray said Seattle was prepared to lose all that money, and vowed to go to court to fight what he said was an order in violation of the federal Constitution.

“We will not be intimidated by federal dollars and we will not be intimidated by the authoritarian message coming from this administration,” Murray said in a press conference with multiple city council members and city officials, hours after the Trump administration issued the orders on immigration. He said other mayors, including in Anaheim and Providence, R.I., were making similar promises to retain their sanctuary policies.

In Trump’s executive order on “public safety,” he ordered all “agencies to employ all lawful means to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.”

The document singles out cities and jurisdictions with sanctuary policies — policies that shield the public from questions about immigration status.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” the document said.

Murray took exception to this.

“We will not — as we did in World War II — allow our police to be deputies of the federal government and round up immigrants,” he said.

He said that immigrant communities were among the safest and that immigrants were “our friends, our neighbors, our families.”

Other speakers at the press conference included Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Debora Juarez and Lisa Herbold, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Executive Director Jorge Baron.

Other local jurisdictions that have adopted sanctuary city policies include Burien and King County.

There’s no strict definition for “sanctuary cities,” but the two sanctuary policies that are most common include a ban on city employees — including police officers — from asking residents about their citizenship or immigration status. The second most common policy is called “detainer reform,” which blocks local law enforcement from working with ICE agents to funnel detainees into deportation centers.

Matt Adams, legal director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project told The Seattle Times that in his view neither policy actually violated any federal laws.

“[Trump is] turning the basic principles of federalism on their head,” Adams told the Times. “He’s accusing local governments of violating the law for not agreeing to have foisted upon them duties and costs that belong to the federal government.”

Regardless, the local sanctuary policies do not bar ICE agents from doing their own enforcement within Seattle, Burien or any other city with such policies.

Seattle’s sanctuary policies were adopted in 2003 and 2004.

Carino Barragan from Casa Latina helped King County pass its policies in 2013 and was present when Burien’s city council passed their sanctuary policies on Jan. 9.

Barragan said while she was working with King County, she found federal funding that the county could lose.

“Yes, there are sources that are at risk, but I think that for a lot of immigrant advocate groups the policies that we are working on are important to be passed and we can find other solutions,” Barragan said.

Burien City Councilwoman Lauren Berkowitz sponsored her city’s version of the policy although the word “sanctuary” was removed from the approved ordinance.

Before the Trump administration issued its order, Berkowitz told the Globalist she believed the federal government is limited in its powers over cities.

“The federal government cannot be overly coercive in how it gives out its funds,” she said. “This means two things: it can’t be unreasonable in denying funds [and] there must be a rational reason to deny funds.”

Yakima also considered similar policies earlier this year, but they were rejected in a 4-3 vote.

Yakima’s spokesperson Randy Beehler said the City Council received memorandums prepared by Burien’s city attorney reviewing the possibility of loss of federal funds.

“Whether or not federal funds could be denied to cities that pass these kind of policies is an open question,” said Beehler.

Wednesday’s executive orders include new policies on increasing detention centers, increasing the number of immigration agents and redirecting money in the Department of Homeland Security toward Trump’s promised “border wall.” The order also directed federal agencies to release a weekly list of criminal actions committed by immigrants and uncooperative cities and counties.

At the press conference Wednesday, Murray showed disdain for Trump’s wall.

“As Donald Trump builds his wall, our cities will build a bridge between our peoples,” Murray said.

Seattle Globalist Editorial Director Venice Buhain contributed to this story. This post has been updated.