Last Week in Politics

Top 10 Stories: ICE Lawsuit, Western State Hospital, and Seattle's Streetcar

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Grace Madigan July 2, 2018

1. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued federal agencies on behalf of three mothers being held at SeaTac and separated from their children. The lawsuit demands that the federal government reunite families and argues that the policy violates the Fifth Amendment, particularly the due process clause. The three women want to represent all parents separated from their children in Washington state. 

2. Western State Hospital, the largest psychiatric hospital in the state, lost its federal certification and $53 million in federal funding. Despite efforts to turn the hospital around, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Western State didn't meet conditions in four areas. In 2015 the hospital was scrutinized for repeat violations—including assaults on patients and staff, unauthorized patient "walkaways," and numerous security gaps. 

3. Immigrant rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando will be allowed to stay in the country for at least six more months. Villalpando's daughter will turn 21 in August, the legal age to sponsor someone. The immigration judge is allowing Villalpando to begin her application for permanent residency and is due back in court in January 2019. 

4. The Supreme Court ended its session last week handing down rulings that will affect Washington state. 

  • Because of the decision regarding the Colorado baker and his refusal to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, the Supreme Court has sent a similar Washington state case back to the state's court system. The Washington Supreme Court previously ruled that the florist who refused to sell flowers for a gay couple violated the state's anti-discrimination law, and will evaluate if the Supreme Court's decision applies to this one. 
  • The Supreme Court also struck down the disclosure requirements for California's crisis pregnancy centers. These centers often have conservative, religious roots and oppose abortion. The California law required the centers to disclose the fact that they were not "a health care facility" and to direct patients to a more comprehensive service. Washington state has a similar law but does not go so far as to make the centers refer patients to other services. 
  • The Supreme Court also ruled that public employees cannot be forced to pay union feesThe Seattle Times reports that the point behind the required fees was to make public employees—who aren't part of unions but benefit from them—compensate the groups. Washington state labor leaders decried the decision as the product of big corporations trying to undermine the working class. 

5. Starting this fall, Seattle public high school students will get year-round ORCA cardsThe Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve Durkan's proposal. The program will also include students enrolled in Seattle colleges on city-funded scholarships. 

The city will spend a total of $7 million on the program, $5 million of which would go toward the cost of paying for 16,000 students' ORCA cards. The remaining $2 million may be used to expand the program to elementary and middle school students. 

6. Whether Seattle's streetcar expansion will proceed is still up in the air. After The Seattle Times reported that the Seattle Department of Transportation had underestimated the cost to run the new system by as much as 50 percent, mayor Jenny Durkan halted the project in March. The City Budget Office hired consulting firm KPMG to review the project's finances in April, but the final report has not been delivered to the city; Durkan promised a decision by June 19. 

7. Crosscut reported that Seattle City Light is 20 percent over its original budget for its new network of advanced energy meters. This news comes among a series of struggles for City Light, which still does not have a permanent leader after Durkan dismissed its former CEO, Larry Weis. The price of the meters and installation are the main causes for the increased price tag, plus the fact that they failed to budget for the 10 percent sales tax. 

8. After stealing immigrants' identities, former chief counsel at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Seattle will face prison time. Raphael A. Sanchez opened credit cards and took out loans using the information he had access to during his time as chief counsel. KNKX reported that the Justice Department estimates that Sanchez made nearly $200,000 before he was caught. 

9. U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal was arrested last week along with hundreds of others in Washington D.C. during a demonstration in response to the "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. About 575 people were arrested and charged for unlawfully demonstrating in the Senate's office atrium. Jayapal has been an outspoken critic of president Donald Trump's immigration policy.

10. Port of Seattle lawyer Craig Watson reached a $500,000 settlement in exchange for leaving his position, Crosscut reported. Watson has been on paid leave since the end of March after allegations that he violated the port's anti-harassment policy.

An investigation of the allegations against Watson concluded that his actions did not call for his firing, but the port planned on disciplinary action that Watson said he would fight in court. To avoid a legal battle, the port settled with Watson to retire for monetary and non-monetary benefits.  

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