The City of Seattle filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, asking the court to stop President Trump’s executive order that authorizes the Attorney General and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to prohibit sanctuary cities from receiving federal grant money. Sanctuary policies are intended to impede the enforcement of immigration law by federal immigration officials. These policies are often designed to protect criminal aliens from detection and removal from the United State by restricting communication with federal officials and compliance with detainer requests, often called ICE holds. A day after filing the lawsuit, Seattle officials announced plans to set up a $1 million legal-defense fund for immigrants the federal government attempts to deport.
Seattle’s sanctuary policy, which the City Council enacted in 2003, prohibits its law enforcement officers from even inquiring into an individual’s immigration status, thus preventing them from cooperating with federal officials on matters relating to criminal aliens in law enforcement custody. Despite affirmatively obstructing the enforcement of federal law and putting public safety at risk, the Seattle Mayor insists its policy is legal and the city filed its lawsuit to ensure it remains entitled to federal grant money.
President Trump’s executive order, however, explains that “sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” Additionally, it states, “it is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.” This statute explicitly prohibits sanctuary policies that restrict the sending, requesting, maintaining, or exchanging of information regarding a person’s immigration status.
Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that state laws and policies are preempted when they conflict with federal law, as well as when they stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. Congress has set priorities through the INA to determine who may enter and remain in the United States. Sanctuary laws, ordinances, and policies shield aliens from the administration of federal law, thereby frustrating the execution of immigration law as Congress intended.
The complaint asks that court to declare that Seattle is in compliance with the law and that the executive order is unconstitutional. Seattle is one of a few sanctuary cities to attempt to defend its sanctuary policies using legal action.