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Tom Shillue


Fact Check: Did Mayor Murray overstate sanctuary city money?

President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting sanctuary cities like Seattle and Olympia, because, in his view, they fail to curtail illegal immigration.

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“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” reads the order. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”

As a result of the order, cities may lose federal funding. That is perhaps why the City of Miami is dropping their status as a sanctuary city. Seattle is not. Mayor Ed Murray says he won’t be “bullied” by the president and will continue to restrict city workers from helping the federal government deport illegal immigrants.

But how much money is on the line if Seattle loses federal support? The mayor initially gave incorrect numbers but ended up correcting the record.

What money is on the line due to sanctuary city status?

Not as much as you may think, which is why Progressive mayors across the country are taking such a hardline stance against helping enforce immigration laws. It makes them seem particularly tough, which plays well to the Progressive voter base.

Initially, the Mayor Murray’s office indicated the city receives more than $85 million in federal funding, citing numbers from 2015. The media picked up on that number and implied it’s on the line. But this is a mostly irrelevant number meant to bolster how strongly the mayor feels about the issue.

“I am willing to lose every single penny to protect those people,” Mayor Murray said of illegal immigrants living in Seattle.

He won’t be losing every penny of the $85 million. It’s generally understood by legal experts that the only money truly on the line are those directly tied to immigration and law enforcement. That number is about $10 million, a number the mayor later indicated in press availabilities.

“The biggest threat that we face is about $10 million of those dollars that go to the police…” said Murray. “[The administration] has a little bit stronger legs to stand on legally.”

But will Seattle lose money to police?

No, not really. Certainly not all of it. According to the Executive Order, sanctuary cities “are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary” (emphasis mine). And as Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal points out, the president can’t simply cut all funding.

Verdict: Mayor Murray initially overstated but then corrected number

There was no real reason to get into the total federal dollars coming into the City of Seattle. People, including the Mayor, don’t think it’s truly on the line and was meant to prop up the mayor’s image as being willing to fight harder than he is for illegal immigrants. While I don’t doubt his passion on this issue, he could have just as easily presented the lower number, even if it did have the effect of making it seems less dire.

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