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DOJ demands Seattle give documents related to compliance with immigration authorities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

UPDATE:

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office has publicly responded to a letter sent to the city from the U.S. Department of Justice saying the city respects the rule of law.

Durkan said Friday:

Unlike some in the Trump administration, Seattle respects the rule of law. Our City is tasked with protecting public safety for all people who call Seattle home. We will also protect our residents from unjust law enforcement actions. Our City complies with federal immigration law and asks that the Department of Justice and ICE do the same. The federal government does not get to run our cities or convert our local law enforcement officials into immigration cops. I implore this administration to focus on real public safety threats, like the opioid crisis, instead of unnecessarily threatening our residents and mayors across the country.

We will keep working together, including with law enforcement, to ensure that immigrants and refugees who believe in the promise of America are made to feel welcome here in our community.

Original article from KIRO 7:

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, April 12, sent letters to the city of Seattle and the state of Vermont demanding they produce documents that show whether each jurisdiction is “unlawfully restricting information sharing by its law enforcement officers with federal immigration authorities.”

Read the entire letter from the DOJ to Seattle Mayor Durkan at this link. 

An excerpt from the DOJ announcement is below:

“The Department of Justice previously contacted these jurisdictions and raised concerns about laws, policies, or practices that may violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a federal statute that promotes information sharing related to immigration enforcement and with which compliance is a condition of FY2016 and FY2017 Byrne JAG awards.

“The letters also state that failure to respond, respond completely, or respond in a timely manner will be subject to a Department of Justice subpoena.”

What’s happening Friday?

The federal government is demanding documentation proving that local law enforcement has been compliant with a law that requires cooperation with federal agencies, including ICE.  It’s telling Seattle to hand over documents to that end or they will be subpoenaed anyway. If Seattle is found to be uncompliant, it could face federal funding cuts.

What federal funding?

Byrne Grants. The letter says: “These materials are critical to our ongoing review. Should the Department determine your jurisdiction is out of compliance with section 1373, the Department may, as detailed in your award documents, seek return of your FY 2016 grant funds, require additional conditions for receipt of any FY 2017 Byrne JAG funding for which you have applied, and/or deem you ineligible for FY 2017 Byrne JAG funds.”

What’s a Byrne Grant?

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program (Byrne JAG) is the cornerstone federal crime-fighting program, enabling communities to target resources to their most pressing local needs.

How has it helped the state of Washington?

Law enforcement agencies in Western Washington get nearly $8 million in federal grant funding for a range of projects designed to enhance community safety and improve crime fighting technologies, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.

King County called this kind of action bullying last July. (Read from King County Executive Dow Constantine)

NEW FEDERAL REQUIREMENT: Certify compliance with Section 1373, a federal statute applicable to state and local governments that generally bars restrictions on communications between state and local agencies and officials at the Department of Homeland Security

CURRENT KING COUNTY POLICY: King County has always been in compliance with U.S. Code Section 1373. As it relates to immigration enforcement, King County does not ask people for their immigration status and does not collect immigration information.

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