© Jason Redmond / Reuters
Seattle is seeking a federal ruling that it’s not a “sanctuary city” and that President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening funding cuts is unconstitutional. The Emerald City bases its case on the Tenth Amendment and the anti-commandeering doctrine.
On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that his city filed a lawsuit in a US district court against Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over the January 25 executive order which withholds federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Murray called for cities to “stand up and ask the courts to put an end to the anxiety in our communities and the chaos in our system” during a news conference.
Under the anti-commandeering doctrine of the Tenth Amendment, Seattle claims the federal government cannot force local governments to act against their will.
In the lawsuit, the Emerald City cites a 1997 case, Printz v. United States, where the US Supreme Court ruled that the “Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.“
“On its face and as applied, the Executive Order does just that,” the city argues.
At the news briefing, Murray also claimed that the executive order violates the Constitution’s Spending Clause, saying the federal government “may not coerce local governments by denying them federal dollars if they are not to remain to the program in question. Yet that is exactly what the president’s order does.”
The lawsuit also requests that the judge declares Seattle a non “sanctuary city” as defined by the executive order.
The city is currently considered a “sanctuary city” due to a policy that prevents city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. However, the lawsuit alleges that Seattle is in full compliance with the executive order since they are not in violation of US Code Section 1373.
Section 1373 states that local officials “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
The city is arguing that the statute does not require city employees to collect data on the status of immigrants or provide data to federal officials on citizenship.
In a press release, the mayor’s office estimates the city could lose $55 million in federal funds to support operating expenses in 2017 if they are declared a “sanctuary city.” These funds would go to programs which prevent domestic violence, internet crimes against children, human trafficking, gun violence and more.
Despite the potential funding cuts, Murray says that Seattle will not drop their immigration policies, claiming their “welcoming city” policies does not violate any federal laws, but rather serves to protect residents.
“When we welcome immigrants into our community, dedicate resources to helping immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, and warmly integrate immigrant school children into our schools and classrooms, we do this because, as a welcoming city, it fosters safety,” Murray said at the briefing.
“It’s when you marginalize people, and drive them away from city services, and make them fearful of the police, and push them underground that these communities become unsafe,” Murray added.
Meanwhile, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Massachusetts had this
“If these sanctuary cities are going to harbor and conceal criminal illegal aliens from ICE, which is in direct violation of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, federal arrest warrants should be issued for their elected officials,” Hodgson said. “Our citizens would be safer if we never stopped enforcing immigration law and if we never formed or turned a blind eye toward sanctuary cities.”
He also took aim at a Massachusetts legislator who passed along rumors of a planned ICE raid in Brockton on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Rep. Michelle DuBois, D-Brockton, warned her constituents in a Facebook post “if you are undocumented don’t go out on the street. If there is a knock on the door of your house and you don’t know who it is, don’t open the door.”
Hodgson called her actions “outrageous.”
“This is the most outrageous, outrageous example of what is going on across the United States that is undermining my job and every other law enforcement officer in the United States,” he said.
And DC mayor Muriel Bowser and police chief Peter Newsham reiterated that DC will continue not to enforce civil immigration law after being asked about suspected murderer El Hadji Alpha Madiou Toure’s immigration status:
“I think you know that the Metropolitan Police Department does not ask questions about immigration status,” he said.
“It’s a long-standing policy of the Metropolitan Police Department not to enforce civil immigration law,” Newsham continued. “We believe that the enforcement of civil immigration laws creates a divide between us and the community we serve and at the end of the day we believe that will make our community less safe. As the Chief of Police, I don’t think I should be involved in any behavior that makes our city less safe.”
Newsham said that in a discussion with the U.S. Attorney General, major city police chiefs collectively expressed their view that civil immigration enforcement is not the role of major police departments.
“The District – we are not responsible for civil immigration enforcement, like the Chief said,” Bowser stated. “Our job is to enforce the laws of the District of Columbia and we are not local I.C.E. officials.”
“We are not; however, a harbor for criminals – no matter where you’re from,” she added. “The police department will deal with criminals – violators of the law. They will be charged, they will be prosecuted, and they will be held.”
“I don’t think our policies are in violation,” Bowser said. “The Federal Government does not compel the District to do its job. And the Federal Government’s job is immigration enforcement.”
In other words: “Immigration is the feds’ job.” That’s reasonable in some contexts, like dealing with the public. But if DC is so concerned about fighting crime, wouldn’t they think the threat of immigration law might be at least a little bit effective in dealing with criminals? At what point does someone’s immigration status become relevant? Never? If that’s their answer, it’s an insane one.