Seattle's Response

To Federal Immigration Policy

The below frequently asked questions and responses serve as "Seattle's Response" to the recent federal immigration policy changes.

Questions related to Seattle's Welcoming City/Sanctuary Policies

Seattle's Response to the release of the March 20th ICE Declined Detainer Outcome Report

Questions for concerned immigrants and refugees

Immigration 101 for Allies and Service Providers

Immigration 101 for City of Seattle Staff

 

Questions related to Seattle's Welcoming City/Sanctuary Policies

On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13768 announcing that "sanctuary jurisdictions" will not receive federal funds and which gave immigration authorities greater discretion in immigration policy, detainment, and deportation. The City of Seattle Inclusive and Equitable Cabinet compiled this list of frequently asked questions as a response to this executive order.

 

1.  What does being a "Sanctuary City" mean?

A Sanctuary City is a term used to refer to American cities or counties that protect undocumented/unauthorized immigrants from deportation by limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Many prohibit City staff and/or local law enforcement officers from asking people about their immigration status. Different cities have different policies that they use to protect unauthorized communities.

Seattle has reaffirmed its commitment to respect the dignity of all its residents, regardless of status. It will do what it can within its power to protect unauthorized immigrants. However, the terminology of "Sanctuary City" can often be misused, misinterpreted, or misunderstood. To emphasize the true intent of Seattle, we prefer to use the term "Welcoming City," which means all City departments prioritize and consider policies, actions, and practices that help immigrant and refugee communities succeed. To also be more specific regarding Seattle's municipal code related to undocumented immigrants, we prefer the terminology of "don't ask" policies.

More information about Seattle as a Welcoming City is here.

You can also download this flyer about Seattle as a Welcoming City.

 

2. What is the City's role in immigration enforcement?

City employees do not ask about immigration status. Passed in 2003, Seattle Ordinance 121063 instructs all City employees to refrain from inquiring about the immigration status of any person, except police officers where they have a reasonable suspicion of a felony criminal law violation or have knowledge that a person has been previously deported.

 

3. Shouldn't we take care of vulnerable U.S. citizens, such as homeless people, veterans, and seniors before spending money on unauthorized/undocumented residents?

Seattle is committed to the values of equity and inclusion, which guide us to support the most vulnerable residents in our city. This includes both implementing solutions to homelessness and support for veterans and seniors, while also standing with immigrants and refugees who are being targeted by the Trump Administration.

 

4. What can we U.S. citizens living in Seattle do to help with keeping the Sanctuary City status?

Mayor Murray has committed that Seattle will remain a Welcoming City through a November 2016 executive order that was affirmed by resolution by Seattle City Council. Residents can continue to show their support and welcome their family, friends, and neighbors who are immigrants and refugees. We also recommend you stay educated about immigration issues. We recommend watching this video, "Immigration 101 for Allies and Services Providers."

You can read more about the signing of the Welcoming City resolution here.

You can read the Welcoming City resolution here.  

 

5. Why not be more cooperative with federal immigration agents?

The City does not have jurisdiction over deportations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is charged with enforcing civil federal immigration violations, which includes deportations. Police officers within the city will ask for your status if there is reasonable suspicion a felony was committed or knowledge that a person was previously deported. This "don't ask" policy allows our police department to build strong relationships within immigrant and refugee communities, which makes them safer. Crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties, and economies are stronger in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties. For more information, see this report.

 

6. Are you against deporting criminals, even violent felons?

The City of Seattle does not deport immigrants, whether criminal or not. King County has jurisdiction over the jail system. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is charged with enforcing civil federal immigration violations, which includes deportation proceedings. A "detainer request" refers to the practice of detaining an individual for an additional two days after their release date in order to provide ICE agents extra time to take that individual into federal custody for potential deportation. Therefore, the City defers to King County on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests

In 2014, King County enacted Ordinance 17866, which states that the County will only honor ICE detainers that are accompanied by a federal judicial warrant. This ordinance was based on several federal court decisions since 2013 finding ICE in violation of Fourth Amendment rights for imprisoning people without due process and, in many cases, without any charges pending or probable cause of any violation. In these court decisions, local jurisdictions that complied with ICE detainer requests were found liable and required to pay damages.

 

7. What are we going to do if/when the feds stop sending money?

Mayor Murray has said that if the Trump Administration moves to cut funding from Seattle as a Welcoming City, the City will use all available legal tools to keep its federal funding. Moreover, the Mayor has said that the safety of our residents will prevail over the need to retain federal funds conditioned on policies that do not reflect Seattle's values.

 

8. Public servants take an oath to uphold the law, so what legal grounds do they have to defy and ignore the federal government?

The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that the federal government cannot coerce local jurisdictions to adopt federal regulations as their own as President Trump's Executive Order asks police departments to do. We recommend reading this article about how U.S. Supreme Court precedent supports this assertion.

 

9. How can we fight homelessness when we're forgoing money that can help?

At this point, the City cannot act on an unspecific funding threat, but the City will consider legal options around any effort to strip funding. The City has committed nearly $60 million to address homelessness in 2017, in addition to the doubling of the Housing Levy in 2016 to address affordability. The federal government has been cutting funds to cities for decades and the voters of Seattle have repeatedly stepped up to support efforts that reflect our city's values.

 

10. Isn't harboring criminals a federal crime?

The City of Seattle does not harbor criminals. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is responsible for enforcing civil federal immigration violations. And King County oversees the jail system. Thus, the City defers to King County on ICE detainer requests. (See Question #5.)  

 

11. Why aren't you making a distinction between legal residents and unauthorized immigrants?

The City of Seattle makes no distinction between residents, as per our "don't ask" policy in Seattle Ordinance 121063 passed in 2003, which dictates that City employees may not inquire about immigration status.

 

12.  Is it legal to force citizens and immigrants with documentation to support unauthorized immigrants?

Both documented and unauthorized residents collectively share all costs. Unauthorized immigrants living in the United States pay billions of dollars each year in state and local taxes. They pay sales and excise taxes when they purchase goods and services (for example, on utilities, clothing, and gasoline). They pay property taxes directly on their homes or indirectly as renters. According to the bipartisan think-tank New American Economy, immigrants of any status in the Seattle Metropolitan Area paid approximately $6.5 billion in taxes. For more information, see this report.

 

13.  Doesn't the U.S. Constitution only apply to citizens?

Whether or not you are a citizen, you have rights under the U.S. Constitution. Under the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to remain silent and not answer questions asked by a police officer or government agent. Under the First Amendment, you have the right to speak freely and advocate for social change. For more about this, see this National Lawyers Guild report. There are a few rights reserved solely for citizens, namely the right to vote and the right to run for certain elected offices.

 

14.  How much would this new "Sanctuary City Tax" be?

The Trump Administration has yet to give specifics about possible funding cuts to so-called "sanctuary cities," but the City of Seattle will consider all legal options if those cuts are made. On February 21, the City of Seattle filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with several federal agencies relating to President Trump's Executive Order 13768 announcing that "sanctuary jurisdictions" will not receive federal funds. Federal law requires that the agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days.

 

15.  I support the City's stance, but worry we can't handle the burden on our own. Who else can help?

Mayors from cities across the country have stood up to the Trump Administration to say they will remain welcoming cities. Recently, thousands of people gathered at airports to protest the executive order banning immigrants and refugees and showed the unified opposition to these executive orders. The states of Washington and Minnesota challenged the executive order as unconstitutional and a federal district court preliminarily ruled in their favor and temporarily enjoined enforcement of the executive order. The federal government then moved for an emergency stay of the temporary restraining order while its appeal proceeds. The matter of the emergency stay was heard before the 9th Circuit and on February 9, 2017, the 9th Circuit denied the emergency motion for a stay, in favor of Washington state, Minnesota, and many amicus briefs from other states and companies.

Seattle is also working with the Seattle Foundation and other philanthropic partners to support policies that help our immigrant and refugee communities.

 

16.  How can we prevent a Trump Hotel from being built here?

The City of Seattle issues nearly 800 master use permits annually. Those permits are issued by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) according to technical criteria having to do solely with land use and environmental issues. It is a technical decision.

 

Seattle's Response to the release of the March 20th ICE Declined Detainer Outcome Report

On March 20, 2017, Enforcement and Removal Operations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released this document titled, "Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report For Recorded Declined Detainers Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2017." A "detainer request" refers to the practice of detaining an individual for an additional two days after their release date in order to provide ICE agents extra time to take that individual into federal custody for potential deportation. King County has jurisdiction over the jail system. Therefore, the City defers to King County on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. (See question 6 here.)

Mayor Ed Murray issued this reponse to the report here.

Please see below on the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs statement and analysis of this report.

 

17.  What's so wrong with keeping an undocumented immigrant detained past their jail sentence?

Detaining a person without a federal arrest warrant, which ICE often asks local jurisdictions to do, is illegal. A number of federal courts have ruled that local jurisdictions cannot constitutionally hold someone on a detainer without a warrant or probable cause. The Fourth Amendment provides an important check on the government’s ability to arrest and detain people. Eroding that check would endanger civil liberties for everyone, including U.S. citizens. Forcing a jurisdiction to violate the Constitution – whether directly or whether by threatening to withhold much-needed financial support – is illegal.

Threats to withhold federal funds for jurisdictions with "sanctuary" or "don't ask" policies also raise serious constitutional concerns. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the 10th Amendment prevents the federal government from compelling states or cities to enforce federal laws. For example, the Supreme Court upheld key provisions of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, but ruled unconstitutional the provision that would have blocked federal Medicaid funding to states that did not accept expansion to cover millions more low-income and disabled people. University of Washington School of Law professor Hugh Spitzer offers this legal analysis related to this issue.

We are confident that the rule of law is on our side, and we are prepared to take legal action should the Trump Administration make real its threat to deny federal funding to sanctuary jurisdictions like Seattle.

 

18.  Aren't there any financial penalties for not honoring ICE detainers?

Actually, the federal courts have not only ruled that it is illegal to detain a person without a federal arrest warrant, but local jurisdictions that do so in compliance with ICE detainer requests are also liable for financial damages.

 

19.  Don't cities with these "don't ask" policies have higher crime rates?

Numerous studies across the political spectrum - from the progressive Center for American Progress to the libertarian CATO Institute - have demonstrated that crime rates are lower among sanctuary counties than non-sanctuary counties. The CATO study even found that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than Americans born here.

The ICE detainer requests are also bad policy because it undermines the ability of local jurisdictions to build community trust that is tantamount for public safety. As members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Public Safety, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O’Toole understand that Seattle’s shift to community policing requires the cooperation and trust of every member of the community, particularly foreign-born residents who have experienced law enforcement as repressive and corrupt institutions in their home countries. We recommend reading this American Immigration Council article about community policing.

If local law enforcement is viewed as an arm of federal immigration enforcement efforts, that community trust is undermined and immigrant and refugee residents who may otherwise come forward to report or help solve crimes will be less willing to do so. It is the responsibility of the federal government to enforce immigration laws and the responsibility of local officials to keep their communities safe.

 

Questions for concerned immigrants and refugees

Understandably, the federal administration's executive orders relating to immigrants and refugees have caused considerable fear and uncertainty in our local communities. The City of Seattle Inclusive and Equitable Cabinet compiled this list of frequently asked questions for immigrant and refugee community members.

 

20.  What do I do if an immigration officer shows up at my house?

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent can only enter your home if they have a warrant signed by a judge. A warrant signed by an ICE staff member is not enough for an agent to enter your home.

These organizations have helplines you can call regarding immigration legal advice:

  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project at (206) 587-4009 or (800) 445-5771.
  • American Civil Liberties Union at (206) 624-2180.  

 

21.  Can Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers question me at my work place?

Yes, if your owner or manager gives permission, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer is free to ask you questions about your immigration status. However, you have the right to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before you answer any questions.

These organizations have helplines you can call regarding immigration legal advice:

  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project at (206) 587-4009 or (800) 445-5771.
  • American Civil Liberties Union at (206) 624-2180.

 

22.  I'm a parent who might be deported.  What do I do about my children?

It may be time to create a family safety plan. We recommend consulting an immigration advocate or immigration lawyer about the legal documents you should have prepared and signed in the event where your children can stay in the country, but you are detained and/or deported.

Make sure all your children's important documentation and copies of this documentation are stored in a place where other family members and friends can access. Give the school an alternative emergency contact to avoid having the school calling the police if your child is not picked up. More information about family safety planning is here.

These organizations have helplines you can call regarding immigration legal advice:

  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project at (206) 587-4009 or (800) 445-5771.
  • American Civil Liberties Union at (206) 624-2180. 

 

23.  A family member has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). What do I do?

To confirm whether an individual has been detained and where they are being held, you can use the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detainee Locator: locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do. To use this tool, you will either need the individual's A# (alien registration number) and country of birth or his or her full name and country of birth. Immigrants generally do not have the right to legal representation, so you can either hire a private attorney if you are financially able to do so.

These organizations have helplines you can call regarding immigration legal advice:

  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project at (206) 587-4009 or (800) 445-5771.
  • American Civil Liberties Union at (206) 624-2180.

 

24.  Can I visit the Northwest Detention Center?

If you are undocumented/unauthorized or have doubts about your current immigration status, it is not safe for you to visit the Northwest Detention Center or any immigrant detention facility.

For more information about a potential visit, go here.

 

25.  How do I report a hate crime?

If in process or just recently happened, call 911.

You can also anonymously report discriminatory harassment at the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR). More information, as well as flyers in other languages, can be found here: seattle.gov/civilrights/civil-rights/anti-bias-campaign

You can report the incident over the phone at SOCR by calling (206) 233-7100.

You can report the incident online by going here: seattle.gov/civilrights/file-complaint.

 

Immigration 101 for Allies and Service Providers

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and the Seattle Public Library offered this free workshop for allies and service providers about recent changes to immigration policy and how you can be a better ally for immigrants in our community. The presenter is Northwest Immigrant Rights Project executive director Jorge Barón.

NOTE: This presentation does not cover any immigration policy changes that may have occurred after March 2, 2017, including the second executive order related to the Muslim travel ban.

Additionally, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has this page with a comprehensive list of resources for immigrants of any status.

 

 

Immigration 101 for City of Seattle Staff

On Tuesday, March 21, the City of Seattle held a Day of Action for Immigration. City of Seattle staff came together to learn more about the basics of current immigration policy, the issues, what needs to be fixed, and how you can help. The Seattle Channel produced this video of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project presentation, which also includes the slides.

We highly recommend watching this with other folks, perhaps your family, friends, coworkers, neighborhood group, or other social group. Thanks to The Seattle Public Library for partnering with us on this presentation!

NOTE: This presentation does not cover any immigration policy changes that may have occurred after March 21, 2017.