State Watch

Seattle sues Trump administration over sanctuary city ban

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The city of Seattle has filed suit to clarify an executive order signed by President Trump that would end funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration officials.

The suit, filed Wednesday, asks a federal district court judge to declare that the city is acting in accordance with federal law. It also asks the judge to declare that Trump’s order is an unconstitutional violation of the 10th Amendment by attempting to force the city to enforce federal immigration law.

The suit also argues that the order violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, by withholding federal money unrelated to immigration enforcement in an attempt to force the city to comply.

It does not seek a restraining order halting Trump’s executive order, though.

{mosads}“Seattle will not be bullied by this White House or this administration,” Mayor Ed Murray (D) said Wednesday. “The federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities.”

The city expects to receive at least $55 million in federal funds this year to bolster its operating costs and another $99 million on infrastructure projects. 

States and cities are not obligated to enforce federal immigration law or to comply with requests from federal officials to detain those in the country illegally solely on the basis of their immigration status.

Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 25, just days after being inaugurated. The order says sanctuary jurisdictions “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” It allowed both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to block federal grants to jurisdictions that did not comply with federal immigration law.

On Monday, Sessions said the Justice Department would withhold grants from those sanctuary cities.

The order also directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 new immigration officers and to prioritize deporting those who had committed a crime. It also allowed immigration officers to deport those who, in their own judgment, posed a public safety or national security risk.

There is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, and there is no indication that the Trump administration formally views Seattle or any other city as a sanctuary jurisdiction. Seattle law prohibits city employees from asking about someone’s immigration status, though that law exempts police officers.

“This lawsuit represents Seattle’s attempt to mute histrionics in favor of a plain statement of the law,” Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday. “I hope the president will refrain from tweeting his legal opinion before our courts have an opportunity to do so.”

San Francisco, another sanctuary city, filed suit in January challenging Trump’s order. San Francisco is more clearly at risk of being labeled a sanctuary city because it operates a jail, which would be subject to detainer requests. Seattle does not operate a jail.

The suit is the latest front in a growing war between liberal cities and states and the Trump administration. Seattle was among the cities that have filed briefs with courts hearing challenges to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. Earlier this week, a group of Democratic attorneys general said they were also looking in to possible legal action over the Trump administration’s moves to roll back Obama-era climate rules.

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