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City of Seattle

July 23, 2:29 PM click here to comment > 1

Letter in support of County Ordinance 2013-0285 to protect immigrants and refugees

Yesterday I sent a letter co-authored by the City Attorney and the Seattle City Council to the King County Council on the subject of County Ordinance 2013-0285. The ordinance addresses the federal government’s controversial “Secure Communities” program, which has unnecessarily prolonged detention and increased deportation of immigrants. Under Secure Communities, the county sends every arrestee’s fingerprints to the federal government for possible deportation and an additional 48 hour detention. The proposed ordinance provides that the county will only honor detainer requests from the federal government for people with serious or violent felony convictions. This legislation is a key piece of reform that will protect our immigrant and refugee population from practices that would otherwise undermine community trust and unnecessarily consume scarce resources.

A Report released by the University of Washington’s Katherine Beckett, Ph.D., found that 1 in 4 Latinos booked in county jails were transferred to the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In addition, 1 in 8 people who were flagged by ICE in King County were not charged with any crime at all.

Many organizations in the community have been integral to the creation of this legislation, including the ACLU of Washington, Casa Latina, One America, Northwest Defenders Association, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. We are grateful for their work and appreciate their commitment to this issue.

A full PDF of the letter and signatures can be found here. Text below:

July 22, 2013

Honorable Councilmember Kathy Lambert
Council District 3
516 Third Avenue, 12th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Honorable County Councilmember Kathy Lambert:

We are writing to express our strong support for proposed County ordinance 2013-0285, which would establish clear standards for honoring immigration detainer requests in County facilities. The passage of this ordinance will be an important step in enhancing the safety of residents of Seattle and King County and we urge your support.

For more than 10 years the City of Seattle has recognized the importance of maintaining a clear separation between the functions of immigration enforcement, which are the purview of the federal government, and the many functions of local government, including local law enforcement. In 2003, the Seattle City Council unanimously adopted ordinance number 121063, which prohibits city officials from conducting inquiries into immigration status in most circumstances. We applaud the County Council for adopting a similar provision in 2009.

The rationale behind the measures adopted by both the City and the County was recognition that, in a region as diverse as ours, even the perception that local governments are cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts could significantly undermine the operations of local government. And, in particular, this perception can have a substantial damaging effect on the relationships between local law enforcement agencies and immigrant and refugee communities.

The proposed ordinance will enhance the safety of everyone in Seattle and King County. When community members fail to report information to law enforcement because of fear of immigration enforcement on themselves or their family members, we lose our best tool to hold accountable those engaging in criminal activity. The proposed ordinance will not alter the existing protections within the criminal justice system to address individuals who pose a risk to the community. Those decisions should be made within the criminal justice system, not through immigration enforcement actions.

The current practice of acceding to all of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) requests regardless of whether the person has been charged with any serious criminal offense is causing significant damage to the relationship between local law enforcement agencies—including the Seattle Police Department—and many members of our community. The proposed ordinance limiting the honoring of ICE requests to circumstances where individuals have been convicted of more serious offenses is a much improved approach. In addition, the provision prohibiting honored detainers for persons under the age of 18 is critically important because, unlike in the criminal justice system, children do not enjoy the right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings.

The City of Seattle, like King County, values its growing diverse communities. The proposed ordinance is a step in the right direction in enhancing the safety of all of our residents and in ensuring that our practices are consistent with our values.


Mike McGinn
Mayor of Seattle

Pete Holmes
City Attorney

Sally J. Clark, President
Seattle City Council

Sally Bagshaw
Seattle City Councilmember

Tim Burgess
Seattle City Councilmember

Richard Conlin
Seattle City Councilmember

Jean Godden
Seattle City Councilmember

Bruce Harrell
Seattle City Councilmember

Nick Licata
Seattle City Councilmember

Mike O’Brien
Seattle City Councilmember

Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from carolyn walden
Time July 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Excellent letter – I totally agree! Most of the people affected are assets to our community and hopefully many of them will eventually become productive citizens.