by Venice Buhain
(This article originally appeared on the Seattle Globalist)
The Department of Justice has threatened to withhold a law enforcement grant from King County and more than 20 other cities and counties throughout the country over their so-called “sanctuary city” policies.
In a subpoena sent to King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, the federal government requested documentation that the county is complying with “information sharing related to immigration enforcement,” according to a Department of Justice press release.
In a prepared joint statement, McDermott and county executive Dow Constantine called the Department of Justice’s letter “intimidation,” and said that it complies with the requirements for the grant.
“The Department of Justice has ramped up its campaign of intimidation, threatening local officials who follow the law and protect local residents,” according to the county officials’ statement.
“To be clear, we comply with the requirements for federal public safety grants. The Department of Justice’s reckless actions threaten the safety of our communities,” the statement continued.
While Seattle was not one of the cities that was sent a letter, Mayor Jenny Durkan also issued a statement condemning the federal government’s request.
“With today’s announcement, it appears Seattle has successfully made the case to remain a welcoming city. But the fight to protect our citizens in all of King County continues,” she said in her statement.
“We will not allow our City and our state to be bullied by the President and Attorney General Sessions, who continue to threaten our shared values of inclusion, opportunity, and diversity. The administration’s latest legal threats do nothing to make our communities safer.”
Local leaders last year promised to continue their pledges to not share immigration information with federal authorities, putting them at odds with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump. Such policies often are called “sanctuary” policies.
The Department of Homeland Security last year identified King County as one jurisdiction that had declined requests by federal immigration authorities to hold people scheduled for release who had been in jail in connection with local charges.
The Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also issued an executive order last year that state agencies would not collect immigration data and Washington would “remain a state that doesn’t utilize state employees as agents of the federal immigration services.”
However, the Seattle Times revealed earlier this month that the state Department of Licensing had been sharing information with immigration authorities. Inslee stopped the practice and the department’s deputy director Jeff DeVere resigned.
Wednesday’s letter from the Department of Justice requested documents regarding instructions on how employees should communicate with different federal agencies pertaining to immigration.
All documents reflecting any orders, directives, instructions, or guidance to your law
enforcement employees (including, but not limited to, police officers, correctional officers, and contract employees), whether formal or informal, that were distributed, produced, and/or in effect during the relevant timeframe, regarding whether and how these employees may, or may not, communicate with the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or their agents, whether directly or indirectly.
NBC News reported that the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday canceled a scheduled meeting with Trump after the Justice Department sent the letter.