President Trump signed an executive order to crack down on sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, vowing to yank federal funding from jurisdictions that don’t comply.
President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday meant to crack down on sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.
Trump vowed during his campaign to stop taxpayer dollars from going to jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
What does that mean for Seattle and King County, which consider themselves sanctuary governments because they limit local involvement in immigration enforcement? That’s not clear.
The politicized term sanctuary city has no official definition and is somewhat misleading.
On one hand, jurisdictions such as Seattle and King County aren’t true havens for undocumented immigrants because they lack the power to stop federal authorities from deporting people.
On the other hand, cities and counties can’t be required to enforce federal law themselves.
Trump’s order says, “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.”
The order calls for hiring 10,000 additional immigration officers and says the secretary of Homeland Security should seek agreements authorizing state and local officers to help with immigration-enforcement duties.
It says the secretary and attorney general “shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive federal grants.”
Seattle considers itself a sanctuary city because its police officers are prohibited from inquiring into a person’s immigration status, with some exceptions.
King County has the same policy and has enacted limits on when it will honor federal requests to hold immigrants in custody. Only King County, not Seattle, operates a jail.
There’s no federal law requiring police to ask about a person’s immigration status, so the assumption has been that Trump intends to target jurisdictions that refuse to comply with hold requests.
Most Read Local Stories
- Seattle mayoral matchmaker: Which candidate shares your views?
- A quiet rise in homelessness in northeast King County raises stakes in contentious council race
- How his twin brother's deathbed plea was a call to action for Washington state's insurance commissioner
- Seven rescued after vehicle goes off cliff near trailhead in Snohomish County
- What to know about Monday's COVID vaccine deadline in Washington state
Even then, courts have ruled that jurisdictions can’t keep people behind bars solely based on a hold request, said Matt Adams, legal director of the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Despite what Trump may claim, Seattle and King County aren’t flouting federal law, Adams said.
The law cited in the president’s order bars local governments from withholding immigration information from federal authorities, but it doesn’t bar local governments from opting to not gather such information in the first place, he said.
“He’s turning the basic principles of federalism on their head,” said Adams. “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.”
Rather than define what a “sanctuary jurisdiction” is, Trump’s order gives the secretary the discretion to decide which local governments to target, Adams noted.
‘City will not be bullied’
Surrounded by hundreds of supporters on the steps of Seattle City Hall, Mayor Ed Murray called Wednesday “the darkest day in immigration history in America since the internment of the Japanese Americans” and said he’s prepared to lose “every penny” of federal money the city gets.
Murray said he will direct city departments to reprioritize their budgets to prepare for possible budget cuts. He said he was prepared to go to voters, if necessary, to ask them for tax increases to replace lost federal funds.
“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.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine also doubled down on his stance Wednesday.
“We do not push children and families into the shadows, and sow fear among our neighbors who may look or speak or pray differently than the majority,” he said.
“We will work with local cities and other counties to establish stronger safeguards to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees.”
Metropolitan King County Council Chair Joe McDermott said Trump’s sanctuary cities order is “like others he’s issued, vague and inexact.”
He added: “Everybody has to be welcomed and accepted in our community.”
Whether and how the president can cut off funding is a matter of debate.
The Supreme Court has held that for Congress to impose conditions on the receipt of federal dollars by states, those conditions must be reasonably related to the purpose of the money.
In other words, it may be that immigration-related conditions must be linked only to immigration-related funding.
Most at risk, the mayor’s office said, may be about $10 million in federal funding for the Seattle Police Department. That money helps with hiring and goes to programs fighting human trafficking and Internet crimes against children and to a program assisting women transitioning out of prison.
Adams said any attempts to deny funding to sanctuary jurisdictions will likely be challenged in court.
U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal, a Seattle Democrat, 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.
Sen. Murray slams Trumps’ wall
Trump also signed an executive order Wednesday meant to jump-start construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement slammed the orders for “ramping up immigration raids that tear families apart, constructing a wall on the border … and punishing cities that prioritize local control of policing and public safety.”
She added, “There’s no question the U.S. immigration system is in need of a serious overhaul, 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.”
Jayapal questioned whether Trump will be able to build his wall.
“It’s not clear how that money is going to be appropriated,” she said.
Because appropriations are generally made by Congress, wall opponents like Jayapal could possibly derail the president’s plan, she said.
Jayapal said she believes the wall would be a waste of money, with no assurance of reimbursement from Mexico, as Trump has promised, in sight.
And Rich Stolz, executive director of immigrant-rights group OneAmerica, expressed concern about Trump’s moves to beef up border security, including adding detention space and ending the “catch and release” practice.
Stolz said it would interfere with the normal process of determining whether immigrants have a reasonable fear of returning to their home country and might qualify for asylum.
That and the president’s attack on sanctuary cities would help set up a “major expansion of detention and deportation,” Stolz said.
The Rev. Hilario “Larry” Garza, superintendent of the Assemblies of God’s Northwest Hispanic District, approved of Trump’s action on a wall.
“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 because the U.S. has so much opportunity, “It also attracts people that aren’t so great — and not just from Mexico,” he said.
While Garza said he hopes Trump will “do something for the students and their families already here,” even giving them amnesty, he said a wall to keep others out makes sense “for the same reason we have a lock on doors.”