Seattle has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in response to the crackdown on sanctuary cities, the city’s mayor Ed Murray announced on Wednesday.
“Let me be clear about the president’s executive order: It is violating the law,” Murray said during a press conference. “It is unconstitutional.”
Earlier this week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said sanctuary cities are “at risk of losing federal dollars” by enforcing policies that make their cities “less safe.”
“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to rethink these policies,” Sessions said.
But President Donald Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities violates the Tenth Amendment, according to Seattle’s lawsuit, because the federal government cannot force the state government to comply with a federal program.
“Once again, this new administration has decided to bully,” Murray said. “But bullying and misstating the facts will not stand in the way of how the real laws in this country are enforced.”
“Sanctuary cities” is a broad term used to describe areas that, in general, do not unlawfully hold immigrants simply at the request of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unless he or she has been charged with a serious crime.
The Seattle filing also calls the president’s order “fatally ambiguous.”
“It is fundamental that state and local governments are not bound by conditions attached to federal grants unless those conditions are clearly stated,” the lawsuit reads. “Yet the Executive Order is incomprehensibly imprecise in the obligations that it purports to impose on municipalities, as is Section 1373 if that statute is thought to require affirmative acts of immigration enforcement.”
Section 1373 states that government and other entities may not “prohibit” or “restrict” Immigration and Naturalization Service information. But it does not and, constitutionally, cannot force city police departments to act as immigration agents.
“We have the law on our side: the federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities,” Murray said.
Murray also called out the president’s seemingly questionable relationship with facts.
“Apparently the Trump administration, their war on facts has now become a war on cities,” he said. “Let me be clear about the facts. We are not breaking any laws and we are prioritizing safety.”
Sessions’ threat against sanctuary cities drew concern from the Fraternal Order of Police. Leaders of the police union met with Trump, Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday. Jim Pasco, executive director of the union, said that while the union is not in favor of sanctuary cities, executives worry that a slash in federal funding would have an adverse effect on the police departments in those cities. This could in turn impact public safety.
Administration’s Claims on ‘Dangerous’ Immigrants: Truth or Myth
During his remarks, Sessions reiterated unfounded claims from the president, the administration and the executive order that immigrants are criminals and make cities less safe.
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators,” Sessions said.
And, per the president’s executive order, “Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety. [Sanctuary] jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
Research does not support the narrative that immigrants are dangerous and pose a risk to public safety.
According to a PolitiFact report, the opposite is in fact true: “The notion that sanctuary policies are safer is supported in research. According to a Center for American Progress report published late last week,sanctuary counties have lower crime rates.As we explained in an earlier report,looking at sanctuary policies alone wouldn’t account for other factors that could be influencing crime rates, but the CAP’s report compared nearly 2,500 counties, based on ICE’s designations.”
And a2015study by the American Immigration Council found that not only are immigrants less likely to commit serious crimes or be incarcerated than native-born residents, but high rates of immigration correlate with even lower rates of violent and property crimes.
According to the report, “roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born.”
In fact, as the immigrant population has increased over the years, rates of violent crime have decreased. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of undocumented immigrants went from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. The pattern held true over a period of time and spanned cities nationally particularly in cities that have been welcoming to the immigrant population.
“In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not ‘criminal’ by any commonly accepted definition of the term,” the researchers sum up. “For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime.”
Despite the lack of evidence, Trump and his administration have used the “dangerous immigrant” narrative to support strict immigration policies as well as an expensive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The logistics of the border wall have not played out as the president indicated. Trump, while on the campaign trail, estimated the wall would cost a total of $12 billion. The Trump administration has requested $1 billion to go toward building and replacing 62 miles worth of wall along the United States-Mexico border, CNN reported Monday. But a previous DHS report pegged that number at at least $20 billion. The U.S.-Mexico border is roughly 1,900 miles long.