Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday the city will not give up its sanctuary city status in order to prevent a loss of federal funding as dictated in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier today.
Murray said a contingency plan will be developed that includes identifying legal actions the city can take to prevent the loss of federal funding, and he will be directing Seattle department heads to make budget cuts in order to create reserve funding should such a loss occur.
Trump’s executive action Wednesday directs the government to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities — a term not actually defined by law that applies to more than 300 communities in the United States that refuse to assist in attempts to identify, arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. It was one of several actions the president took Wednesday regarding immigration policy.
Trump also ordered the construction of a Mexico border wall, ramping up border patrols and staffing for increased deportations, and a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants coming into the U.S.
Murray referred to the president’s actions Wednesday as the darkest day in immigration history since the creation of Japanese internment camps during World War II.
“The executive order signed today by the president has put our nation on the pathway for a constitutional crisis,” Murray said.
The mayor said he believes the Constitution and courts will side with Seattle and other sanctuary cities that will be joining Seattle in fighting the president’s executive order.
“We will fight any attempt by the federal government to strip federal funding from this city,” Murray said.
Seattle hosted an immigrant rights workshop during Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Murray said about 1,500 immigrants attended.
“That’s the kind of aid that we will continue to do,” he said.
Murray said Trump’s actions represent a civil rights issue and violation of the constitution, and he will not turn people over to the government for money.
“I’m willing to lose every single penny to protect those people,” he said.
With an annual budget of $5 billion, Murray said about $75 million of that is from federal funding. He said there doesn’t appear to be legal recourse for the government to take away funding for programs that do not correlate with immigration enforcement efforts, stating about $10 million in federal funding to the Seattle Police Department appears to be the biggest threat the city faces.
City attorney Pete Holmes said his office will be thoroughly analyzing language in the executive order to determine what actions can be taken.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said the department receives federal funding for the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, stopping human trafficking, hiring crime prevention coordinators, assisting women with reintegration following prison terms and additional hiring.
O’Toole challenged arguments that rounding up undocumented immigrants is necessary for increasing public safety, adding a vast majority of immigrants in Seattle abide by the law.
“Today’s executive orders are being sold to the American people as necessary to public safety,” said Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, “but let me be clear, these orders do not make us safe.”
The actions taken by Trump Wednesday represent prejudice and isolationism, said Gonzalez, a former civil rights attorney and daughter of Mexican immigrants, who were once undocumented.
Gonzalez announced her intent to introduce a “Welcoming City” resolution to the city council on Monday, Jan. 30, with support from the mayor and Seattle’s Immigrant and Refugee Commission.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold pointed out that “civil rights” were removed from the White House’s website around the same time as the Women’s March on Washington and sister marches around the country — Seattle’s attendance was the largest demonstration in the city’s history. She said Trump, “surrounded entirely by men,” also recently signed an order banning federal funding to international groups that provide abortion services and information. Everyone will have to fight to prevent civil rights from being stripped away, said Herbold, who chairs the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee.
Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said during Wednesday’s news conference he is confident city leaders will defend the values that define Seattle.
“I want to state very clearly, I’m an immigrant, I’m a city of Seattle resident,” he said, “and I must say that I’m so proud to say both those phrases today.”
King County Council Chair Joe McDermott told the Capitol Hill Times that Wednesday was about affirming the county’s values.
“Our value is to remain a safe place for all immigrants and refugees,” he said.
King County committed last year to creating a new Office of Refugees and Immigrants, McDermott said. Prior to that, in 2009, the council passed a mandate that government services be made available to all immigrants, regardless of legal status.
McDermott said the impact of the president’s executive action is still being assessed, as well as any potential legal action the county might take.
“Part of it is having to wait to see what happens with implementation,” he said, "when we learn more specifics about what (Trump) intends.”