Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called Wednesday “the darkest day in immigration history” since the internment of Japanese Americans as President Trump signed an order cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called Wednesday “the darkest day in immigration history” since the internment of Japanese Americans as President Trump signed an order cracking down on so-called “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants.

Trump vowed during his campaign to stop taxpayer dollars from going to jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement, and the executive order warns that such jurisdictions will be cut off from grants.

But Murray, surrounded by hundreds of supporters on the steps of City Hall, said Seattle won’t back down. The mayor said he’s prepared to lose “every penny” the city receives from the federal government. That amounted to about $85 million in 2015.

“The executive order signed today by the president has put our nation toward a constitutional crisis,” Murray said, promising to use any legal means to fight it.

“This city will not be bullied by this administration into abandoning our core values, and we believe we have the rule of law and the courts on our side,” the mayor said.

Murray is taking Trump seriously. City departments will reprioritize their budgets to prepare for possible cuts, and voters may be asked to approve local tax hikes, he said.

For a number of reasons, however, the ultimate effects of Wednesday’s order on Seattle, King County and other Washington jurisdictions that limit local involvement in immigration enforcement are far from clear.

“The president is clearly committed to carrying out his promises, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be able to get it done,” said Angelica Chazaro, an assistant professor at the University of Washington who specializes in immigration law.

“I look at this order as an expression of intent, an attempt to bully cities and states that have resisted being part of the deportation dragnet,” Chazaro said, noting that one of President Obama’s first executive orders was the closure of the still operating Guantánamo Bay detention camp.

“Trump may not be able to force cities and states to do his will,” she said.

The politicized term “sanctuary city ”has no official definition and is somewhat misleading. Jurisdictions aren’t truly havens for undocumented immigrants because they lack the power to stop federal authorities from picking up and deporting people.

Seattle considers itself a sanctuary city because it bars its employees, including police officers, from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, unless otherwise required by law or court order.

Cops are exempted when they have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person has been previously deported and has committed a felony. The idea is to make immigrants feel safe cooperating with police.

King County has a similar policy and has enacted restrictions on when it will honor federal requests to hold immigrants in custody.

The county limits its immigration holds to people previously convicted of serious crimes and has made criminal warrants a requirement. Only King County, not Seattle, operates a jail.

Other jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, go further than Seattle and King County in restricting their own involvement in immigration enforcement.

One might assume cities and counties must always do Washington, D.C.’s bidding. But they can’t be compelled to enforce laws that are the responsibility of the federal government, Chazaro said.

Trump’s order on “enhancing public safety in the interior” includes various provisions related to immigration.

For example, it calls for hiring 10,000 additional immigration officers and says the Homeland Security secretary should seek new agreements authorizing local officers to help with immigration-enforcement duties.

It prioritizes new categories of people for deportation, saying, “Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”

And the order says the Homeland Security secretary and the U.S. attorney general “shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply” with a particular immigration laware not eligible to receive federal grants.

Despite what the order implies, Seattle and King County aren’t breaking the law, said Matt Adams, legal director of the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

The law cited in the order bars local governments from withholding immigration information from federal authorities, but doesn’t require them to gather such information in the first place, Adams said.

Because there’s no federal law requiring police to ask about a person’s immigration status, the assumption has been that Trump would target jurisdictions that turn down some hold requests.

Even then, courts have ruled that jurisdictions can’t keep people behind bars solely based on a hold request, Adams said.

“He’s turning the basic principles of federalism on their head,” the lawyer said. “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.”

Which local governments will be considered sanctuary jurisdictions? The order seems to give the Homeland Security secretary the discretion to decide, Adams noted.

Seattle’s mayor wasn’t alone Wednesday in his pledge to defy Trump. King County Executive Dow Constantine also said his administration would stand firm.

“We do not push children and families into the shadows, and sow fear among our neighbors,” he said in a statement. “We will work with local cities and other counties to establish stronger safeguards to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees.”

Trump can try to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions whether they’re breaking the law or not. But the extent to which he can succeed is a matter of debate.

The Supreme Court has held that for Congress to impose conditions on federal funds to states, the conditions must be reasonably related to the purpose of the money.

And it slapped down President Obama when he attempted to force states to expand their Medicaid programs by threatening to take away Medicaid funds, Chazaro noted.

She and Adams said any attempts to deny funding to sanctuary jurisdictions will likely face legal challenges.

Seattle’s mayor is most worried about the $10 million the federal government sends annually to the city’s police department, his office said.


U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said she’s waiting to see what funding Trump intends to slash.

Because Congress generally controls appropriations, only certain pots of money are available to the president, she said.

In a separate order Wednesday, Trump sought to jump-start construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.


In a statement, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. slammed both executive orders.

The United States immigration system needs an overhaul, Murray said, “but targeting hardworking families, constructing an extremely costly wall, and burdening law enforcement in cities in Washington state and across our country does not even begin to address the complexities of this issue and in fact could set us back.”

Gov. Jay Inslee called Trump’s orders “mean-spirited, unnecessary and contrary to our values as Americans.”


The Rev. Hilario “Larry” Garza, superintendent of the Assemblies of God’s Northwest Hispanic District, offered a different opinion.

“I think it’s necessary to protect our borders,” said Garza, who lives in Kennewick and supervises Spanish-language churches in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

Many good people come to this country, said Garza, whose father emigrated from Mexico as a child, and probably crossed the border illegally the first time.

But a wall makes sense “for the same reason we have a lock on doors,” he said.