• Timeline of 'sanctuary cities' conversation in Seattle, King County

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    Seattle and King County leaders are fighting the Trump administration after the Department of Justice sent letters to both governments in November – warning their willingness to provide sanctuary to immigrants in the country illegally could cost the region federal funds.

    Joe McDermott, Chair of the King County Council, received a letter directly from the Department of Justice threatening to withhold federal funding because of the county’s sanctuary status.


    What is a sanctuary city? 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.


    McDermott, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and City Attorney Pete Holmes held a news conference on Friday reaffirming Seattle and King County as “welcoming municipality.”

    Leaders claim to be in compliance with a law that the DOJ says they’re violation of. Read more about the law in question here.

    “While this president plays to dividing Americans in every way he can, King County will remain a safe place no matter where you’re from, how you got here, or why you left,” said McDermott,

    For now, here's a timeline leading up to how we got here.

    Timeline of Sanctuary Cities conversation in Seattle and King County

    Nov. 10, 2016: President-elect Trump vows to end sanctuary cities by cutting off their federal funding. But former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray stood defiant on the issue, even about the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal money. 

    “It's important because these are our neighbors and we will continue to support our neighbors that's what community is about,” Murray said.

    Jan. 25, 2017: The Trump administration announced plans to strip federal grant money for so-called sanctuary cities for refugees.

    Murray announced on the same day that the city is prepared to take legal avenues to ensure that immigrants regardless of documentations status can stay in Seattle. Read more here.


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    Jan. 30, 2017: After Mayor Ed Murray's promise to keep Seattle a sanctuary city, the council passed a resolution reaffirming its commitment as a "welcoming city." Councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez's resolution promotes policies and programs to foster inclusion for all. Read more here

    March, 27: 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated that the Justice Department would deny grant money to cities that violate a federal law dealing with information sharing among local police and federal authorities.

    March 29, 2017: President Trump ramped up immigration raids and told cities that refuse to help federal agents -- sanctuary cities -- that they risk the loss of millions in federal dollars

    Seattle struck back with a federal lawsuit to block the Trump executive order. Former Mayor Murray said the federal government cannot compel the city's police department to enforce federal immigration law. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, says the executive order creates uncertainty around the city's budget.


    April 25, 2017: A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, also known as sanctuary cities. Read more here.

    Oct. 30, 2017: Burien, a city of 51,000, has been bitterly divided over whether Burien should be a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. Local and regional leaders came together in the fall over what they call a racist flyer. Read more here.

    Nov. 15, 2017: Seattle and King County leaders are preparing for a fight after the U.S. Department of Justice sent letters to both governments Wednesday, warning their willingness to provide sanctuary to immigrants in the country illegally could cost the region federal funds.

    The city and county got the letter along with 29 cities, counties, and states.

    Seattle and King County have made no secret that officers here do not ask about someone’s immigration status, so no one will fear reporting a crime.

    But the Trump administration has a problem with that. The letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office cites three King County and two Seattle policies, warning, “the Department is concerned that this appears to restrict the requesting of immigration information in violation of section 1373.”

    Nov. 21, 2017: President Donald Trump's executive order to cut funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities faced a big setback when a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional.

    But the legal fight over so-called sanctuary cities is far from over. Here's a look at the ruling and what other battles loom.

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