“Unlike some in the Trump administration, Seattle respects the rule of law,” said the mayor, a former U.S. attorney. The exchange dates to November, when the DOJ sent letters to 29 cities, counties and states, warning it could rescind grant money.
Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a defiant statement Friday in response to new pressure by President Donald Trump’s administration over Seattle’s immigration policies.
“Unlike some in the Trump administration, Seattle respects the rule of law,” said the mayor, a former U.S. attorney. “Our city is tasked with protecting public safety for all people who call Seattle home. We will also protect our residents from unjust law-enforcement actions.”
Durkan was replying to a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday requesting certain documents and threatening to subpoena them if need be.
The exchange dates to November, when the DOJ sent letters to 29 cities, counties and states, including Seattle and King County, warning it could rescind grant money to the so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
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There’s no single definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction, but the term is generally used to refer to those with policies that limit cooperation with immigration enforcement.
Many local law-enforcement officials say taking part in immigration enforcement can undermine their work by causing communities to distrust them.
The initial letter to Seattle cited a city ordinance that forbids police and other city employees from asking about a person’s immigration status — except for certain people suspected of felonies — unless otherwise required by law or court order. Then-mayor Tim Burgess said the grant program at issue was providing Seattle with about $255,000.
Mayor-elect at the time, Durkan vowed Seattle would remain a sanctuary city and told Trump, “Keep your hands off Seattle.”
She and City Attorney Pete Holmes replied to the DOJ in December, saying Seattle was in compliance with federal law. To withhold the grant money would be unconstitutional, they added.
In February, Durkan issued a directive requiring that any and all requests for city information or access by immigration authorities be routed through her office.
Thursday’s DOJ letter requests various documents, giving the city a May 14 deadline.
In a news release Friday announcing the Seattle missive along with letters to Oakland and Vermont, U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions accused the jurisdictions of an “intentional effort to undermine public safety and the rule of law.”
In her reply, Durkan said, “The federal government does not get to run our cities or convert our local law-enforcement officials into immigration cops.
“We will keep working together, including with law enforcement, to ensure that immigrants and refugees who believe in the promise of America are made to feel welcome here in our community.”