A King County judge said a Burien anti-sanctuary initiative was invalid, saying it exceeded the scope of its authority and violated state regulations “for the contents and form of a petition.”
King County Elections is pulling an anti-sanctuary city initiative off the Nov. 7 Burien ballot, following a Thursday court ruling.
The initiative calls for repealing a city ordinance, passed by the City Council in January, that bars police officers and other city employees from asking about a person’s religion or immigration status.
King County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Berns issued a preliminary injunction Thursday morning declaring the ballot measure invalid on several grounds, including that it exceeded the scope of authority granted to initiatives and deviated from state requirements “for the contents and form of a petition.”
“It was a little overwhelming to get to this point,” said Hugo Garcia, a member of Burien Communities for Inclusion, the group that sought the injunction. “But yeah, I’m very happy.”
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The initiative, pushed by the organization Respect Washington, sparked a fierce immigration debate in Burien that mirrored the national one prompted by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans being criminals and stealing American jobs.
Burien Communities for Inclusion cited language in Respect Washington’s petition to argue that it used inflammatory language that misrepresented the ordinance it sought to repeal.
The petition said the ordinance “threatens the safety of every Burien citizen and legal resident by allowing criminal aliens, like the one who shot Kate Steinle in San Francisco, to prey upon others inside our once peaceful town.”
The plaintiffs also successfully argued that the petition intruded upon the city’s rights to govern its own affairs.
“It tells the city of Burien what kind of instructions to give its employees,” said Dmitri Iglitzin, a lawyer for Burien Communities for Inclusion, which includes city residents and other immigrant advocates.
Neither Respect Washington nor its lawyer could be reached for comment.
Janine Joly, senior deputy King County prosecutor, said Thursday she had not yet heard of an appeal filed by the group. If Respect Washington did appeal, and won, she said a court would have to issue emergency relief to get the initiative back on the ballot.
The deadline for sending ballots to the printer is Thursday, said King County Elections spokeswoman Kafia Hosh. “Our team is working right now to create new ballots without the measure,” she said.
The county is required to send ballots to overseas residents and service members by Sept. 23.
Garcia said the initiative had created a lot of fear in Burien, even for him, a naturalized American citizen who came here from Mexico when he was 8.
“As a Latino male, I don’t know that cops are going to be able to differentiate whether I’m documented or undocumented,” he said.