Well, we knew this was coming. This morning, after national outlets reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be threatening to subpoena 23 municipalities over their sanctuary policies, King County received a new missive from the Trump administration.
This time, the Department of Justice asked King County (and cc'd Mayor Jenny Durkan) to furnish "all documents" relating to how its employees communicate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security, and the DOJ itself. If King County doesn't turn over these documents, Bureau of Justice Assistance director John Adler wrote, the DOJ will subpoena the county. The DOJ explained it was doing this under the auspices of grant-monitoring, i.e. deciding whether to revoke a $451,000 grant awarded to Seattle and King County because of their sanctuary policies.
"This is nothing but bullying and intimidation and it's a press stunt," King County Council chair Joe McDermott, recipient of the letter, said. "I was reading the POLITICO story about these letters before the e-mail was in my inbox."
The King County Sheriff's Office, the county, and the city of Seattle have already insisted that their sanctuary policies comply with the federal code in question. While local policies may prevent law enforcement from asking about a person's immigration status, they don't prevent law enforcement from communicating with ICE or other federal agents.
But as we've noted before, the Trump administration has been trying to take immigration enforcement a giant leap further through an executive order deputizing local law enforcement to do ICE's work for them. (A federal judge has already ruled this order as unconstitutional.)
The grant threatened by the Justice Department supports a wide variety of law enforcement activities, but in King County, funds a position focused on reducing recidivism and rehabilitation for former offenders. The irony, King County Council Member Joe McDermott says, is that he actually used to work as a grant administrator for Pierce County on this very program.
"Trump and his administration can't bully King County into their racist policies," McDermott said. "What's important is to use this opportunity to remind people that we value them, and that we're a welcoming and accepting place to everyone."