Today, as President Donald Trump issued plans build a border wall with Mexico and crack down on cities that offer refuge to undocumented immigrants, vows to fight back were issued by city, county, and federal officials from Seattle.
"I am willing to lose every single penny to protect those people," Murray said of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, groups that have been the targets of Trump's onslaught of executive orders in recent days. One of Trump's executive orders, issued today, takes aim at "sanctuary cities," like Seattle, that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Trump has said he plans to cut federal funding to such cities as a way of coercing them to cooperate with deportations or punishing them if they refuse. Another order will restrict immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.
In a press conference outside City Hall today, Murray called this "the darkest day in immigration history since the internment of Japanese-Americans."
In 2015, Seattle received $85.3 million in federal funding, according to the mayor’s office. Of that, nearly $40 million went to the city’s Human Services Department. About $15 million went to the city’s transportation department, $12 million to the Office of Housing, and $9.4 million to the Seattle Police Department. The rest went to the fire department, public utilities, parks department, and Office of Economic Development.
Murray said he plans to instruct city departments to identify cuts in case they have funding stripped away by the Trump administration, but also vowed to fight funding cuts in court. He said he may consider a future levy to increase funding for homelessness services (a need he has repeatedly said will only be sufficiently met with more state and federal help). He did not mention the possibility of increasing city taxes on the wealthy or large corporations, as some on the left have long called for.
The mayor was joined by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, Northwest Immigrants Rights Project Director Jorge Barón, and a majority of the Seattle City Council, who all pledged that Seattle would not comply with Trump's plans to deport undocumented immigrants.
"We will not be coerced, bullied, or otherwise forced to become an extension of the Department of Homeland Security," said Seattle City Council member Lorena González, a first generation Mexican-American whose parents immigrated without documents. (Next week, González plans to introduce a resolution reaffirming Seattle's status.) "Now is the time to double down on our values."
Seattle status as a sanctuary city makes it a target for the Trump administration, although that term does not have a universal definition. Generally speaking, Seattle city agencies, including the police, do not ask about immigration status or cooperate in immigration proceedings. King County has a similar policy.
King County Council Chair Joe McDermott said in an interview today the county would continue that policy. McDermott did not know the specific portion of the county budget that comes from federal sources. He said federal dollars flow into departments across the county but are concentrated in transit and public health.
"Like many of his executive orders, he’s been vague and inexact in exactly what his order is directing and specifics are lacking," McDermott said. "But the value King County will hold firm on is that we’re a safe place for immigrants and refugees."
So, can Trump really strip all federal funding from sanctuary cities and counties? That's up for debate.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who represents Seattle in the U.S. House of Representatives, said the president can't singlehandedly cut all funding to cities like Seattle and she doesn't believe he can win Congressional support for doing so. Some legal scholars say Trump's efforts are illegal because the federal government can't coerce local jurisdictions into enforcing federal laws; others disagree.
My message on @MSNBC today: Profiling Muslims is unacceptable. I hope we step up and meet our responsibility to refugees around the world. pic.twitter.com/ZRNXgbxp48
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 25, 2017
Today, Murray and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes pledged to fight Trump's administration in court. Murray argued the feds must prove a nexus between the funding they're withdrawing and the reason they're withdrawing it. That means police funds could be vulnerable—since Seattle officers would be refusing to comply with federal orders—but other sources could be safe, Murray said.
Jayapal cautioned against buying into a doomsday scenario. "We should be careful," she said in an interview, "to not play into his hands, getting everyone terrified that we're going to lose all funding and therefore we have to comply with what he’s saying."
"He’s used to playing bully," Jayapal added. "He’s very good at holding to being a bully until the very end and hoping people are afraid of a bully. We have to make clear we’re not afraid of the bully."
In a statement, Washington Governor Jay Inslee also pledged to "resist any attempt to reduce our nation’s already small contribution to aiding people and families who fall victim to global humanitarian crises."
And King County Executive Dow Constantine, in a statement of his own, promised to increase support for organizations providing legal services and immigration assistance (but did not offer specifics).