This morning, Mayor Durkan, City Attorney Holmes, King County Council President Joe McDermott, and City Council member Lorena Gonzalez held a joint press conference to double-down on their support for the city’s “welcoming city” policies, to release a letter sent to the DOJ on the topic, and to announce funding for programs to support Seattle’s immigrant community and DACA recipients.
The grants announced today, $58,000 in total, are from a fund of $150,000 announced by the city in September when the Trump Administration decided to end the DACA program:
- 21 Progress ($5,000)
- Entre Hermanos ($5,000)
- El Centro de la Raza ($25,000)
- Inter-Community Peace and Justice Center ($2,500)
- Korean Community Service Center ($8,000)
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project ($7,500)
- OneAmerica ($5,000)
The letter to the DOJ is a response to the DOJ’s letter last month questioning whether Seattle is compliant with 8 USC 1373, which prohibits the city from restricting its employees’ ability to share information with federal immigration officials related to a person’s immigration status. Compliance with Section 1373 is the central tenet of the Trump administration’s definition of a “sanctuary city.” One of President Trump’s first acts upon taking office was to sign an executive order withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities, though it didn’t actually define a sanctuary city until May. That executive order has been the subject of several lawsuits, including one in Chicago, two in San Francisco and Santa Clara, and one here in Seattle that was recently joined by Portland, Oregon. The farthest along are the San Francisco/Santa Clara ones, though preliminary injunctions barring the Trump administration from implementing the executive order have been issued in all four cases.
On November 20, Judge William Orrick, who presides over the San Francisco/Santa Clara cases, issued a summary judgment in favor of the cities, converting his preliminary injunction into a permanent, nationwide one; he officially entered that injunction yesterday, and the federal government is expected to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. As for Seattle’s case, both sides have agreed to stay further proceedings in the case until the 9th Circuit rules on the Northern California cases, since the issues are largely identical. Nevertheless, the city needed to respond to the DOJ’s letter.
The city’s response, first and foremost, declares that the city is in full compliance with Section 1373. It does some parsing of the language of the city’s ordinance and executive order prohibiting city employees from inquiring about immigration status, pointing out (as they have before) that whereas Section 1373 is concerned with sharing immigration with other government officials and maintaining that information, the local rules simply disallow inquiring about it. But the letter leans more heavily on the exceptions in the local ordinance, which exempts local law enforcement from the restriction under certain circumstances. Further, the ordinance has a broad “savings clause” which says that it applies “unless otherwise required by law or by court order.” Noting that this respects the supremacy of federal law over local law, the letter argues that this makes it impossible for the local ordinance to be in conflict with Section 1373.
But the letter goes on to push back hard on the assertion by the DOJ that it can condition federal funding grants on a city’s compliance with Section 1373. This is central to the lawsuits filed against the Trump administration, and the letter re-asserts the legal arguments made in court: that only Congress can set conditions on funding, not the Executive Branch; and that any conditions set on funding must show a connection between the intended use of the funding and the conditions being placed upon it. The DOJ has tried to narrow its original broad threat of withholding all federal funds down to just the funds granted through two law-enforcement related grant programs, but even then the courts have found that linking compliance with immigration laws to public-safety funding is not permissible.
The letter to the DOJ was lawyerly, respectful though assertive. But this morning Durkan, Holmes, McDermot and Gonzalez sounded a much angrier and combative tone.
- “We’re a city of hope and love. We will not be a city of hate.”
- “We will stand for love. We will stand for protection and freedom. We will not be bullied.”
- “This administration fears democracy. They fear hope.”
- “People have to remember: these are people’s lives… What we are saying to people is, ‘we will keep you safe.'”
- “We will not tolerate the bullying tactics of this president.”
- “We know that this bullying is a product of his racism.”
- “These actions are designed to compromise public safety in our communities.”
- “We cannot back down now. We cannot back down over the next three years.”
- “Seattle will not be pushed around.”
- “I stand here with Mayor Durkan and King County Council President Joe McDermott, wherever the fight will take us.”
- “Trump promotes fear and division within our country.”
- “This is not a serious attempt to have a policy discussion within King County.”
- “This is a clear, blatant attack that he is launching against our communities.”
From Estella Ortega, head of El Centro de la Raza:
- “In this time of anti-immigrant darkness, our light shines even brighter.”
- “We say no to these hate-inspired tactics.”
After the press conference, Holmes noted that he questions why the DOJ is pressing forward with enforcing 1373 compliance when there are injunctions in place prohibiting them from doing so. He said that his office is considering asking the court to hold the Trump administration in contempt of court for doing so.
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