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Putting up a fight

Seattle is suing the Trump administration for threatening to defund sanctuary cities

Seattle is suing the Trump administration for threatening to defund sanctuary cities

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to “claw back” federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities, at least one city isn’t giving up that money without a fight.

Seattle officials announced Wednesday that the city is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over its threat to strip funding from sanctuary cities, an unofficial term for jurisdictions that don’t detain undocumented immigrants indefinitely just because the feds ask. Earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order to strip grants from these cities on the grounds that they’re breaking federal law.

Seattle’s lawsuit argues that Trump’s order is not only unconstitutional but also dangerous and unfair to the inhabitants of the more than 100 cities that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement recognize as having sanctuary status. The federal law Trump cited in his executive order prohibits state and local governments from blocking their employees’ from communicating with ICE — it doesn’t require them to detain undocumented immigrants accused of crimes until federal agents can start the deportation process.

“We are not breaking any laws, and we are prioritizing safety,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court. “Bullying and misstating the facts will not stand in the way of how the real laws of this country are enforced.”

The executive order is designed to force sanctuary cities to comply with the administration’s immigration policies, which Seattle’s lawsuit argues would be unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment’s “anti-commandeering principle.” Under that constitutional principle, the federal government can’t force a local government to address a specific problem or enforce a federal regulation.

The lawsuit also disputes the Trump administration’s repeated claims that undocumented immigrants lead to more crime, a correlation unsupported by research. Rather, Seattle fears that if the city were forced to give up its sanctuary status, undocumented immigrants would retreat into their homes and stop interacting with police due to fears of being deported — which could lead to more crime. In Los Angeles, for example, Latinos are reporting fewer sexual assault and domestic abuse for that exact reason, the Los Angeles Police Department chief recently announced.

According to the city’s lawsuit, during fiscal year 2017, Seattle’s budget is set to receive more than $55 million in federal funds. The city plans to use that money to provide housing to homeless people, investigate human trafficking, and keep predators away from children online, among other programs.

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