In January, Seattle mayor Ed Murray said that city government will not be intimidated by the authoritarian message coming from this administration. Sessions new policy will test that commitment.
In January, Seattle mayor Ed Murray said that city government "will not be intimidated by the authoritarian message coming from this administration." Sessions' new policy will test that commitment. HG

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at a White House press conference today that he will start taking action against "sanctuary" jurisdictions, a loose term that applies to cities, counties, and states with policies that afford some degree of protection to undocumented residents. Seattle and King County do maintain some of these protections for undocumented immigrants, but city and county officials say Sessions' threat doesn't apply to them.

Sessions said that his Department of Justice will only disburse grants to jurisdictions that comply with USC 1373, a policy that prevents jurisdictions from prohibiting communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (The Department of Justice currently distributes billions of dollars in grants to states and cities, including funding for research and for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.) Attorneys for the county and city say, however, that they do follow USC 1373, and Sessions' threat is empty.

"King County has not prevented communication with ICE agents, so we should not be held to be in violation," King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg told The Stranger by e-mail. Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes also dismissed Sessions' new threat. "The Attorney General’s comments appear to be little more than cynical attempts to talk about anything other than Trumpcare or Russia following a bad week for the Trump administration," Holmes said in a statement.

Last Monday, the Trump administration's Department of Homeland Security released a report identifying King County as a jurisdiction that refused to enforce immigration detainers—requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that ask local jails and law enforcement to hold suspects for an additional 48 hours in order for ICE to decide whether to scoop them up and deport them.

"King County has refused to abide by these tactics," King County Councilmember Joe McDermott told The Stranger last week. "We've adopted a policy refusing to honor ICE detainers, except in the most serious of circumstances, recognizing that ICE detainers harm public safety in our communities."

Seattle mayor Ed Murray, meanwhile, has insisted that Seattle will remain a sanctuary city despite threats from the Trump administration. An ordinance passed in 2003 bans city employees, including police, from asking about residents' immigration status. The King County Sheriff's Office maintains a similar policy.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The University of Washington also receives a number of Department of Justice grants for research, but it's unclear whether Session's new policy will affect the state institution. I'll update here when I know more.

This post has been updated.