Trump administration warns King County, 29 sanctuary cities they could lose federal funds
SEATTLE - The Trump Administration put Seattle and King County on notice Wednesday night, warning 29 sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement or lose funding.
The Justice Department sent King County Council chair Joe McDermott an official letter warning the county to review its local policies that protect undocumented immigrants.
The Justice Department said the county and City of Seattle might be in violation of a federal statute promoting information sharing to enforce immigration rules.
The letter specifically challenges a county policy preventing deputies from inquiring about a person's immigration status.
The Trump Administration said it could take away a joint federal grant the city and county uses to hire crime prevention specialists, equipment and overtime. The grant is worth more than $600,000.
“The letter is nothing more than a threat, bullying and intimidation” King County Council Chair Joe McDermott said. “Our values remain the same. We're a welcoming, affirming place and we're glad you're here. It's important to emphasize when the federal government won't share that message."
County leaders said they're planning to respond to the federal government with a forceful letter saying they follow federal code and the administration’s bullying tactics are unacceptable.
Seattle mayor elect Jenny Durkan called the letter illegal and immoral.
In a statement Durkan said, “Seattle is and will continue to be a sanctuary city, and our city will fight trump every step of the way against these illegal attempts to withhold funds. I'll say it again: Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump keep your hands off Seattle."
Interim Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess said he also received a letter from the Department of Justice.
Burgess said the DOJ was expressing concern over a law that has been in the books since 2003 that prevents city government employees, including police officers, from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status with limited exceptions.
Burgess said in a statement, “The same city ordinance chapter that the Trump Administration is using to threaten us also says city employees are directed to cooperate with, and not hinder, enforcement of federal immigration laws. Today’s letter is more bluster and bullying by the president based on his ideologically driven fixation on immigrants and refugees. Seattle is a welcoming city. We value the contributions made by the neighbors who live among us. We are proud of their presence.”