Feds drop immigration threat to Seattle, congratulate wrong mayor

Oct 15, 2018, 8:37 AM

Jenny Durkan...

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle is boasting a win against the Trump administration Monday as the feds handed over grant funding, overcoming a previous threat involving contentious immigration policies.

RELATED: Immigrants face new hurdles to citizenship

Seattle was approved for an Edward Byrne Memorial Grant last week, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for local law enforcement efforts. The US Attorney General’s Office previously threatened the city saying it would withhold such grant money if it did not comply with Trump’s immigration policies. Seattle and other cities fought back, however.

“Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions blinked, Seattle won, and public safety prevailed,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “Because of the work by City Attorney Holmes who worked closely with cities across the country, we saw that we have the law – and justice – on our side. It’s further proof that the administration’s actions violated our Constitution.”

The Seattle Times reports that Seattle is splitting the $675,975 in approved grant funds with King County. Seattle will get $252,157. King County will use the rest.

Which Seattle mayor?

In a letter dated Oct. 10, 2018, the United State’s Attorney General’s Office writes to “The Honorable Ed Murray,” Seattle’s former mayor, notifying the city that it has been approve for grant funding. Murray is referenced in two separate letters about the grant.

To be fair, Ed Murray was mayor of Seattle when the grant was initially applied for. His name is on the application documents.

Current Mayor Durkan’s office points out that the grant approval shows that the “Trump administration has abandoned its nearly year-long effort to withhold 2017 federal funds from Seattle in retaliation for policies that support and welcome immigrant and refugee communities.”

Immigration and grant funding

Seattle will use the money to pay for crime prevention coordinators who work with the Seattle Police Department. The coordinators organize block watch programs, and help with community public safety meetings. Durkan’s office notes:

Following a series of legal defeats and condemnation by Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, City Attorney Pete Holmes and other Seattle leaders, the City received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice informing it that approximately $252,157 in previously withheld Justice Assistance Grant program funds had been released to the Seattle Police Department (SPD). The Department will use the federal grant to fund three Crime Prevention Coordinators.

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously attempted to withhold federal funding from sanctuary agencies, such as the City of Seattle. But that policy did not hold up in court on more than one occasion.

“As we have said all along, there was never any legal basis to withhold this money,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “After a recent federal court ruling again upheld the rights of cities to these grant funds, this latest decision hopefully reflects the Trump administration’s full acquiescence to the right of Seattle to be a welcoming city.”

Mayor Durkan also said, “While this is a victory for Seattle and safer communities, we are not done. We will continue to stand up against President Trump or anyone who assaults our constitutional powers and shared values. True public safety protects all, including immigrants and refugees seeking the promise of America.”

Byrne Grants, such as the grant Seattle was approved for this month, were specifically targeted by the Trump administration this past year. AG Sessions’ office demanded that cities hand over certain documents to immigration authorities. The feds threatened to withhold money from cities and counties that did not comply. King County called the tactic “bullying.” Seattle, and a range of other local governments fought the policy in the courts.

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