Mayor Ed Murray, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, and immigrant rights leaders gathered at the federal courthouse yesterday to reiterate one thing: The City of Seattle supports the rights and the privacy of undocumented immigrants. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision — a 4-4 split, which means that a lower court’s ruling is upheld, and President Obama’s executive order is blocked — eliminates, for now, the opportunity for up to five million undocumented immigrants across the country to apply for legal work permits.
Obama’s order would have created a pathway for the parents of American citizens as well as expanded opportunities for immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
This is the loss of one battle for immigration reform, not the loss of the war, speakers said.
“Seattle stands with our brothers and sisters in this long fight for justice for immigrant families,” said Mayor Murray. “I firmly believe that despite the terrible decision today, it is a setback and we will eventually win and justice will prevail.”
He added that the city would continue to work with local groups to build support for Obama’s executive order, and continue to educate local immigrant communities “that in this city they are safe.” He encouraged everyone, regardless of their immigration status, to call the police, call the fire department, call social services, without fear. “We will not ask, and we will not tell” any authorities about immigration status, he told the crowd.
“As an undocumented immigrant, I am conscious that I committed a civil violation for entering this country without papers,” said Ela, a Honduran immigrant who’s lived in the U.S. half her life, through a translator. “What else are we expected to do when our permits are vetoed? For people like me that come fleeing violence, internal conflicts, poverty, corruption, inequality, and lack of opportunities in our country, really we have no other option.”
“We are a nation of immigrants,” said Daniela, a local student and Mexican immigrant. “We are undocumented, unapologetic, and we are most definitely unafraid.”
Many, in addition to those gathered downtown, decried the SCOTUS decision, including Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed an amicus brief last December arguing that the President’s immigration reform efforts would not harm states. On the contrary, he argued, in Washington, it would have given 105,000 people the opportunity to work legally, boosting state tax revenue by $57 million over the next five years.
“Today’s decision means that these Seattle families awoke today to news that our federal government has, once again, failed them,” said Councilmember Gonzalez, in a statement. “To these families, I say: Seattle will not fail you. This city is your home and you belong here.”
Gonzalez and other advocates, including Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, have promised to redouble local efforts to help get as many pro-immigrant voices to the ballot box this fall as possible. Stolz said OneAmerica would “hold naturalization workshops, community forums and voter registration drives.”
“We must double down on helping eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens. We must double down on registering those immigrant U.S. citizens to vote,” said Gonzalez. “It is through civic engagement that immigrant families will make their voices heard in the other Washington.”