City Attorney's Office

Seattle's Response to Jeff Sessions's Letter on Its Sanctuary City Policy

The eight-page letter said the city was in full compliance with federal law.

By Hayat Norimine December 11, 2017

Jenny durkan sanctuary city el centro efpnnu

Gathered on the third floor of Beacon Hill's El Centro de la Raza, Seattle's city officials on Friday announced a response to the U.S. attorney general last month that threatened to withhold federal funds due to its sanctuary city policies, continued support for DREAMers—and in statements said the city "will not be bullied" to stop protecting undocumented immigrants. 

"We will go wherever the fight takes us, and we will not give up," city attorney Pete Holmes said. 

The eight-page letter, sent by Holmes and Mayor Jenny Durkan on Friday, argues that the city's in full compliance with federal law. They wrote that "any attempt to deny Seattle the Byrne JAG funding...would be both insupportable as a matter of federal statutory law and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution." 

Durkan and Holmes on Friday were joined by council member Lorena Gonzalez, King County Council chair Joe McDermott, deputy police chief Carmen Best, and El Centro's Estela Ortega, along with a DREAMer and community organizers.

The letter from attorney general Jeff Sessions discouraged the city from continuing its sanctuary city policies, warning officials that it may violate federal law to refuse information sharing with federal authorities and threatening to withhold federal funding for law enforcement. Last year the city received $673,000 from the grant. 

Seattle has a sanctuary city policy that protects information about undocumented immigrants from being shared with federal agencies. Though the city doesn't prevent employees from sharing information with federal agents, it does limit the information the city receives from immigrants using city services; local law enforcement agencies, when dealing with civil or criminal cases, don't ask about immigration status or keep track of it unless it comes up in court. 

The city doesn't have a system in place for instances when ICE is spotted, though Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, a coalition of nonprofits and volunteers, has been responding to reports of ICE throughout the state—the coalition responded to a call about ICE agents trying to enter a building in South Park last month. 

The city also awarded additional funding to organizations that are supporting recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Donald Trump in September announced he would end DACA come March 2018, prompting the city's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to dedicate $150,000 for DACA support. The city spent most of the money for outreach and education support in the past few months, according to the OIRA. The remaining $58,000:

  • El Centro de la Raza, $25,000;
  • Korean Community Service Center, $8,000;
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, $7,500;
  • 21 Progress, $5,000;
  • Entre Hermanos, $5,000;
  • OneAmerica, $5,000;
  • Inter-Community Peace and Justice Center, $2,500.
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