This afternoon, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring Seattle a “Welcoming City” to the immigrants, refugees and Muslims that President Donald Trump targeted last week in an executive order. The resolution directs the Seattle Police Department to (eventually) not help other police agencies at hunting for undocumented immigrants. The King County Council also passed a resolution condemning the executive order.
“In just ten days, the Trump administration has made a mockery of the Constitution,” said councilmember M. Lorena González, who sponsored the resolution, before its vote. She railed against Trump’s infamous characterization of Mexicans: “My parents first came to this country as undocumented immigrants. My parents are not rapists, murderers, or drug dealers, Mr. Trump.
“Seattle,” she said, “are you ready to stand as one?” The entire audience of about 200 people stood and applauded at length.
González’s resolution does a couple things. First, it begins the process of preventing Seattle police from assisting other police departments at hunting undocumented immigrants. Like most police agencies, Seattle police have a “mutual aid” agreement with other departments which allows them to call on one another for backup. But Seattle also has a law preventing police from (usually) asking about someone’s immigration status, and González’s resolution directs city employees “to not detain or arrest any individual based upon an administrative or civil immigration warrant for a violation of federal civil immigration law” unless there’s a criminal warrant signed by a federal judge. So what happens if another police agency asks for SPD’s help with rounding up immigrants for the federal government?
To defuse this potential conflict of directives, González’s resolution directs SPD to provide a list of all the mutual aid agreements it has with other police agencies. The list has to identify which police agencies have promised to help federal immigration police find and arrest undocumented immigrants, as well as which ones haven’t. Finally, the list must be accompanied by “proposed amendments to the City’s mutual aid agreements with jurisdictions that have not explicitly rejected offers to” help the feds hunt undocumented immigrants, so that SPD’s mutual aid responsibilities do not conflict with Seattle’s sanctuary city laws.
The resolution also defends the Black Lives Matter movement, saying the city “rejects any effort to criminalize or attack the Black Lives Matter social justice movement.” It directs city departments to develop a plan for “assisting children and families associated with Seattle Public Schools affected by federal policies directed at immigrants and refugees,” and earmarks a quarter million dollars for this purpose. It creates an Equity Cabinet to advise the mayor and city on how to protect vulnerable Seattleites from President Trump. That Equity Cabinet is specifically tasked, among other things, with developing “a strategy for the creation and funding of a Legal Defense Fund to assist immigrant and refugee individuals and families.” Also noteworthy: the resolution says that Seattle is a Welcoming City not only to immigrants and refugees, but also to homeless people.
During public comment before the vote, ACLU WA deputy director Michele Storms informed the council that her organization and its national affiliate are prepared to defend Seattle and other sanctuary cities in court against President Trump’s promise to cut all federal funding. “Both locally and nationally the ACLU is going to continue to work against these executive orders,” she told us afterward, “which are unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment. [They’re] a violation of due process and equal protection for people.”
Do you think we’re in a Constitutional crisis?
“Yeah, there’s a risk,” she said. “There’s absolutely a risk. And that’s why we’re fighting.”