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Seattle sues Trump administration over sanctuary city threats

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday, March 29, that the city is suing the federal government after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. (AP)

Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday that Seattle is suing the federal government over recent threats to “sanctuary cities.”

“Once again, this new administration has decided to bully,” Mayor Murray said Wednesday. “But bullying and misstating the facts will not stand in the way of how the real laws in this country are enforced.”

Related: King County sheriff says “sanctuary city” term means nothing

“This week, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions told American cities they were breaking the law,” he said. “Apparently, the Trump administration’s war on facts has now become a war on cities … Let me be clear about this fact: we are not breaking any laws, and we are prioritizing safety.”

On Monday, Sessions warned that local governments with sanctuary status will not receive grants from the Justice Department if they do not follow federal law. In this case, if a sanctuary city does not assist immigration authorities in the detainment undocumented immigrants.

But it is an executive order that President Trump signed that is at the heart of Seattle’s lawsuit. The order targets sanctuary cities.

“Let me be clear about the president’s executive order: It is violating the law. It is unconstitutional,” Murray said.

Murray said that the city will sacrifice every federal penny in the face of Sessions’ statement. Now Seattle is pushing back even harder against the feds.

Seattle’s sanctuary city lawsuit

The goal of the lawsuit is to get the courts to say that Trump’s sanctuary city executive order is not lawful, while also forcing the federal government to specify and define what it thinks “sanctuary city” means, Murray explained. The city is arguing that the ambiguity of Trump’s executive order means the city is “unable to accurately plan its upcoming budget.” Seattle’s lawsuit targets Trump, Sessions, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

Murray pointed out that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution states that the federal government cannot specify how local governments enforce federal laws. The Constitution also states that the feds cannot coerce local governments by denying them funding, Murray said.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes backed the mayor’s statements as he held up a pocket copy of the United States Constitution.

“I hope we will all pull this out more often because it displays the rule of law that is in this country,” Holmes said. “It is this incessant saber rattling, while not adding any context to (Trump’s) executive order, that is not making us safe.”

Murray was also backed by Councilmember Debora Juarez Wednesday.

“We should not allow our local police to be used as a federal militia and that is exactly what they are doing,” she said. “That is unconstitutional on its face.”

Seattle’s lawsuit is yet another local legal challenge to President Trump’s administration within months of the inauguration. Washington state sued the administration over both of Trump’s travel ban orders. The orders were put on hold by federal judges while Washington and other states challenged them.

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