Mayor: Seattle could lose $85 million by remaining a sanctuary city

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The Trump administration plans strip federal grant money for so-called sanctuary cities for refugees.

Interpretations vary for the term "sanctuary cities." It generally refers to rules restricting state and local governments from alerting federal authorities about people who may be in the country illegally, according to the Washington Post. In Seattle, it means there is a city law that says police and government agencies do not ask immigration status of people seeking services.

Trump used his executive authority on Wednesday to jumpstart construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and target sanctuary cities in potentially restricting the flow of refugees to the United States. White House Press secretary Sean Spicer announced the curbing of funds for sanctuary cities on Wednesday morning.

 

What Trump's actions mean for Seattle

After Trump’s election win in November, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Seattle will remain a sanctuary city even at the risk of millions of dollars in federal money. 

Murray stayed true to that statement on Wednesday, speaking about support for both immigrants and refugees.

“Seattle is prepared to take any legal avenues that we need to – to ensure that immigrants regardless of their documentations remain in the city and that the US constitution is not violated. We will not as we did in World War II, allow our police to be deputies of the federal government and round up the immigrants in this city. We will fight any attempt by the federal government to strip federal funding in this city,” he said in a news conference.

Murray said that the city of Seattle could lose $85 million of federal funds under Trump’s planned cut. The city operates on a $5 billion budget. 

Murray said he will give a directive to his departments in preparations for any budget cuts. 

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole spoke after the mayor, sharing that federal funding to support local efforts in internet crimes against children, aid the human trafficking task force, and assist women who come back to the city after incarceration.   

Under the sanctuary, police are prohibited from asking immigration status during stops unless they have a reasonable suspicion the person is here illegally.

“Of course, we are concerned about people, who carry guns, who are involved in drugs, who are involved in gangs, who are involved in trafficking, and if they’re undocumented we’re going to enforce the law against them as we would anybody else. But the vast majority of undocumented people in our community are law-abiding people, and we need to work with them as a police service,” O’Toole said. 

On the campaign trail, Trump referenced a 2007 Seattle homicide in his dislike for sanctuary cities.

On April 2, 2007, Rebecca Griego was killed by her ex-boyfriend on the University of Washington campus. Her killer, Jonathan Rowan, had an expired 90-day visa and was wanted by immigration authorities. Neither they nor Griego knew where to find him. 

Seattle police stopped him months before the fatal shooting, but did not know he was wanted by immigration authorities. Seattle officers are prohibited by law from asking if a subject is here legally without a reasonable suspicion. 

Speaking at Seattle University on January 11, Murray was asked about sanctuary cities and what plans he had if federal funding was stopped.

He initially didn’t answer the question, but after being called out by an audience member Murray spoke about increases in property taxes.

“If the federal government fails to come forward, if the state continues to be paralyzed maybe we’ll have to go back to the voters again,” he said.

Go to the 59-minute mark in the video below to watch.

Murray, who was speaking at a discussion about homelessness, pointed out significant increases in residential and commercial property taxes for homeless funding – funding that was passed with 70 percent of the vote after strong campaigning by Murray.

“We have competing needs in this city,” he said in his answer about sanctuary cities. “We have other issues of poverty and racism that we need to deal with, so it’s a balancing act. But certainly as I said earlier or late last year, another funding proposal to the voters on homelessness is certainly something I would consider. But I think we need to acknowledge a 40 percent increase in the doubling of taxes. The city has been incredibly generous.”

Murray first made the promise in November to a huge crowd that filled city hall. Leaders and advocates vowed that Seattle will continue to welcome undocumented immigrants who need sanctuary.

“We have some of the best immigration rights here in the country here in our city and our state and we know that we can win even when the struggle seems hard,” said 7th District Representative Pramila Jayapal.

Jayapal founded the immigration rights group One-America. She said Seattle was the first in the nation to say it would not ask the immigration status of people seeking city services. See video of that rally below.

Washington state’s stance on refugee

In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris in 2015, more than a dozen state governors said they would not allow thousands of refugees seeking sanctuary to relocate in their states.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was not among them.

"I stand firmly with President Obama," Jay Inslee said of Obama's pledge to accept thousands of Syrian refugees. "We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.'"

Authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors' office said fingerprints from the attacker matched those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

"Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice," Inslee said.

Inslee told KIRO Radio after the election that he will also not back down under the Trump administration.

3,907 refugees resettled in Washington during federal fiscal year 2016.

Inslee released the following statement today.

“The state of Washington has a proud history of inclusivity, tolerance and compassion for all residents. Our diversity of people and cultures is a critical part of who we are, both as a state and as a nation. We will not let President Trump’s orders break faith with our state’s fundamental values.
“The president’s executive orders on immigrants signal that the better angels of our nature will not be realized. These actions, if implemented, would be mean-spirited, unnecessary and contrary to our values as Americans.
“We will not be intimidated or divided. The president this week has reminded us that people’s voices are more important than ever. Together, we will resist any effort that would violate Washington’s values, take away the opportunity for higher education or break up hard-working families.
“We will not stand by and allow Huskies and Cougars, and so many others to be turned away from their campuses and our state. They are dreamers and we will not allow this order, or any order, to keep them from their dreams.
“We are not powerless. We will resist any attempt to reduce our nation’s already small contribution to aiding people and families who fall victim to global humanitarian crises.
“Any attempt to compromise the ability of our law enforcement agencies to focus on their job of keeping our communities safe will be resisted.
“It is unclear at this point what these executive orders will really mean, or how much the president can implement without approval from Congress. What we do know is this is just the start of our efforts, not the end. This is the time for people to stand up, speak out and demand action from our representatives in D.C. Each of us has a voice and we will use them.”

About Trump’s action

Read about the wall here. Read about refugees below. 

Trump is expected to wield his executive power again later this week with the directive to dam the refugee flow into the U.S. for at least four months, in addition to the open-ended pause on Syrian arrivals.

A draft order shows Trump plans to suspend issuing visas to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 30 days.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday morning that it appears as though the refugee restrictions are still being finalized. The person briefed on the proposals said they included a ban on entry to the U.S. for at least 30 days from countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, though the person cautioned the details could still change.

There is also likely to be an exception for those fleeing religious persecution if their religion is a minority in their country. That exception could cover Christians fleeing Muslim-majority nations.

As president, Trump can use an executive order to halt refugee processing. Bush used the same power in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Refugee security vetting was reviewed and the process was restarted several months later.

The president also moved to restart the "Secure Communities" program, which was launched under President George W. Bush and initially touted as a way for immigration authorities to quickly and easily identify people in the country illegally who had been arrested by local authorities.

The program helped the Obama administration deport a record high of more than 409,000 immigrants in 2012. But Obama eventually abandoned the program after immigration advocates and civil libertarians decried it as too often targeting immigrants charged with low-level crimes, including traffic violations.

Among those in the audience for Trump's remarks at DHS were the families of people killed by people in the U.S. illegally. After reading the names of those killed, Trump said, "Your children will not have lost their lives for no reason."

Trump's actions on halting all refugees could be announced as soon as Thursday. Administration officials and others briefed on the plans cautioned that some details of the measures could still be changed, but indicated that Trump planned to follow through on his campaign promises to limit access to the U.S. for people coming from countries with terrorism ties.