City of Seattle, King County release joint request for proposals for Legal Defense Fund

Today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, along with the King County and Seattle City Councils, announced a joint request for proposals (RFP) to provide legal services, guidance and referrals to legal services for immigrants and refugees from a $1.55 million fund. Local organizations providing these services can apply for the funding, which will assist people living in the area in need of representation for issues related to their immigration status. Both the City and the County passed legislation authorizing these funds earlier this year as President Donald Trump threatened immigrant and refugee communities through rhetoric and unconstitutional executive orders.

“Dating back nearly two years to the start of his campaign, President Trump has disparaged, targeted, and attempted to exclude immigrant and refugee communities,” said Mayor Murray. “Seattle has stood up against Trump and stood with our friends and neighbors by taking action. We are working together with King County to provide support and critical legal services for those who are being targeted because of their status, and for families that face being ripped apart. We are strong because we are a city of immigrants and a welcoming, inclusive city, and we will continue opposing Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.”

“The actions of our national leaders do not reflect our local values,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.  “Here, in Martin Luther King County, we uphold the Constitution and respect the rights of all people. Along with the City of Seattle, we are supporting those on the front lines of the resistance, providing legal assistance and standing up for the rule of law. In doing so, we declare that our region is, and will always be, a welcoming community.”

Two RFPs are being administered by the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) and the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice (OESJ) for:

  1. Community navigation services (i.e. guidance and referral) for legal representation for residents of King County who are in detention, facing deportation, or in danger of losing their status; and
  2. Legal representation for residents of King County who are in detention, facing deportation, or in danger of losing their status.

With immigrant and refugee communities facing the threat of deportation and being targeted by the Trump administration, both Seattle and King County have acted. Seattle reinforced its status as a Welcoming City, where no City employee will ask a resident about their immigration status and all City services are available to all residents. Since November, the City has responded to the federal administration’s anti-immigrant actions by funding peer support groups and counseling for immigrant and refugee middle and high school youth, and expanding naturalization assistance through citizenship clinics and large-scale workshops. Seattle has also bolstered community collaboration, education, and access to know-your-rights information and resources. Additionally, Mayor Murray created the Inclusive and Equitable Cabinet to address threats to civil rights, including to the immigrant and refugee community, and Mayor Murray signed an ordinance shepherded through Council by Councilmember M. Lorena González, establishing Seattle’s legal defense fund.

“We stand with our County partners in our steadfast commitment to ensuring that our immigrant and refugee community members have an opportunity to access free civil legal aid in immigration proceedings,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González. “In partnership with trusted community organizations, this investment will support our immigrant and refugee neighbors, friends and family at a time of critical need. Today we send a message to our immigrant and refugee neighbors throughout the region – we stand with you during these troubling times and beyond.”

King County’s legal defense funding is part of a broader, comprehensive strategy which includes education and know-your-rights trainings to work more upstream and prevent people from having the need for legal defense. In addition to legal defense, King County is supporting immigrant and refugee organizations with $450,000 to increase the protections of vulnerable residents in the county; via a Resilience Fund, the Seattle Foundation and other philanthropic partners have added to this funding for community organizations.

“It was an obvious choice to partner with the City of Seattle after we passed, on the same day, funding for legal aid for immigrants and refugees in our communities,” said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. “We stand together in our work to ensure our region is a safe place for all residents, and this collaboration should be a model for jurisdictions around the country who want to protect and empower immigrant and refugee communities within their borders.”

King County is a Welcoming County, and it has passed ordinances that prohibit conditioning provision of services on immigration status and that stipulate that the County only honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers if they are accompanied by a criminal warrant issued by a federal judge.  King County Executive Dow Constantine has also led more than 80 elected officials from throughout King County who have signed a pledge to promote safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities. Information on applying for a Resilience Fund can be found here.

Both RFPs are due by July 12, with funding decisions to be announced in August.

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Mayor Murray statement on federal court ruling blocking DOJ decision to prevent legal support for immigrants

Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement regarding U.S. District Judge Richard Jones’ ruling blocking a recent DOJ order instructing Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) to “cease and desist” from assisting unrepresented immigrants in deportation proceedings:

“Once again, the courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s unconstitutional overreach. This administration continues to find new lows, this time attempting to prevent a non-profit organization from assisting immigrants in need of legal support. The unjust order targets one of our most vulnerable populations, as President Trump has done repeatedly in just five months in the White House. Thankfully, the court is again standing in his way.

“We have long valued our partnership with NWIRP and our work together to aid immigrants and refugees in our community. NWIRP executive director Jorge Baron facilitated two Know Your Rights trainings to City of Seattle staff, most recently during our Day of Action for Immigration in January. And the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs continues to work with NWIRP and other community-based organizations in developing strategies to respond to Trump’s anti-immigrant actions.

“Seattle is a welcoming city and will continue to work with organizations like NWIRP to support immigrants and refugees, and support those organizations in any way we can.”

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Mayor Murray signs $1 million immigrant legal defense fund

Today, Mayor Ed Murray was joined by Councilmembers M. Lorena González and Tim Burgess in signing an ordinance creating a $1 million legal defense fund for Seattle residents and workers who cannot afford legal representation or services in immigration proceedings. The measure was introduced in response to the Trump administration’s actions in its first 100 days against immigrants and refugees, which will likely increase the number of people in need of legal services in court.

 “President Trump has spent his first 100 days attacking immigrants and refugees and threatening Constitutional cities like Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “We have reinforced our values and our promise to be a welcoming city that embraces everyone who lives here. The legal defense fund will provide immigrants, who are increasingly and unfairly targeted by the Trump administration, with critical resources they need to ensure they have representation in court. It is one way Seattle is showing a better, progressive vision for America.”

“The scales of justice are out of balance when immigrants, and oftentimes children, appear alone in court without legal representation or any viable way to defend themselves, while the government has seasoned immigration attorneys working every single case,” said Councilmember González (Position 9, Citywide). “Everyone deserves access to legal aid, and this legislation will help make that a reality.”

“Seattle had an opportunity to strengthen our communities and we rose to that challenge,” said Councilmember Burgess (Position 8, Citywide). “Together, we’re providing a fighting chance for our immigrant neighbors, friends and families, and that’s good for all of us as Seattleites.”

The legal defense fund will be structured as contracts that eligible community-based organizations can apply for to hire immigration attorneys, legal staff, and services to aid immigrants who are detained, as well as those who are not detained but facing deportation and other complex cases. Unlike other courts, people in immigration proceedings do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will administer the program, which will become available this summer.

Recent incidents at SeaTac International Airport, where refugees and immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries were denied entry into the U.S., and the detainment of Daniel Ramirez-Medina, a young man who was brought to the U.S. as a child, highlight the need for legal assistance for people facing immigration proceedings initiated by the Trump administration. In the first national study of access to counsel in immigration courts, the American Immigration Council found that immigrants who were represented in court were up to 10 times more likely to obtain relief than those without representation.

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100 Days of Action: Trump vs. Seattle

During President Trump’s first 100 days in office, he’s pursued policies of division and exclusion, whereas Seattle has continued to push ahead with progressive vision for a more inclusive city and country. Comparing 100 Day Actions:

Affordable Housing

Trump Action:

  • Proposed de-funding the Community Development Block Grant
  • Proposed reduced funding for HUD

Seattle Action:

Public Safety

Trump Action:

  • Threatened to de-fund “Sanctuary Cities”
  • Pulled back on consent decrees covering police reform

Seattle Action:

Homelessness

Trump Action:

  • De-funded the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

Seattle Action:

Transportation

Trump Action:

  • Proposed de-funding EPA
  • Rolled back vehicle efficiency standards

Seattle Action:

Climate Change

Trump Action:

  • Threatened to leave Paris Climate Accord
  • Nominated a climate-change denier to lead EPA

Seattle Action:

Immigration

Trump Action:

  • Discriminatory travel ban on individuals traveling from predominantly Muslim countries
  • Threatened to de-fund so-called “sanctuary cities” that serve all residents
  • Had ICE ramp up immigration raids, including some resulting in deportation of Dreamers without due process

Seattle Action:

Civil Rights

Trump Action:

  • Rescinded rules on bathrooms protecting transgender students

Seattle Action:

Economic Development

Trump Action:

  • Took credit for job creation begun under previous administration
  • Proposed massive tax cuts for wealthy and health care bill that would leave 24 million more people without coverage

Seattle Action:

Women’s Equality

Trump Action:

  • Included language to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Trump Care

Seattle Action:

Other

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Seattle files lawsuit against President Trump’s ‘sanctuary cities’ executive order

 

Today, the City of Seattle, under the direction of Mayor Ed Murray and City Attorney Pete Holmes, filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s “sanctuary cities” Executive Order (No. 13768, 82 Fed. Reg. 8799). The order threatened to strip federal funding from cities that refused to assist the federal government in immigration enforcement and was reiterated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week. In this suit, the City of Seattle seeks a declaration that it is acting consistently with federal law and that the U.S. Constitution precludes application of the Order to deny it federal funds to which it is otherwise entitled. Seattle, a welcoming city where City employees do not inquire about immigration status and where all services are available to every resident, will argue the order is unconstitutional and that the City has not violated federal law.

“Seattle will not be bullied by this White House or this administration and today we are taking legal action against President Trump’s unconstitutional order,” said Mayor Murray. “We have the law on our side: the federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities. We simply won’t do it. We are proud to be a welcoming city that is inclusive of all our residents. We are a safer and more prosperous city because of our immigrant and refugee communities and will continue standing with them.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Washington today, makes two main arguments about the Executive Order:
1. The order is unconstitutional and ambiguous, and creates uncertainty around Seattle’s budget by threatening federal funding. It violates the 10th amendment by attempting to force local entities to enforce federal immigration law, and violates the Spending Clause by attempting to coerce local action through the denial of federal funds.
2. The City of Seattle and our welcoming city policies do not violate federal law. The Executive Order calls for localities to cooperate with the federal government and share information. City employees are directed to cooperate with, not hinder, federal actions; however, City employees are prohibited from inquiring into immigration status. The City doesn’t prohibit information sharing, but instead limits the collection of information.

The ambiguity of the Executive Order leaves the City unable to accurately plan its upcoming budget. The Trump administration has made repeated threats cited in the lawsuit.

“Like Monday’s irresponsible press conference by the Attorney General, the Administration’s continual saber rattling is causing real harm in America’s cities,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “This lawsuit represents Seattle’s attempt to mute histrionics in favor of a plain statement of the law. I hope the President will refrain from tweeting his legal opinion before our Courts have an opportunity to do so.”

The City of Seattle has previously joined briefs against President Trump’s Executive Orders on travel from specific Muslim countries and filed a set of Freedom of Information Act requests for details of the administration’s definition of “sanctuary city.” While led by the City, other jurisdictions are welcome and encouraged to join this effort.

City of Seattle budget background
· The City of Seattle receives federal funds in support of a wide variety of programs and through many channels, including direct from the federal granting agency, or indirect via the State of Washington, King County, or other interlocal agencies, universities, etc.
· These funds are generally applied for and awarded to individual departments, which administer the spending of the awarded funds.
· Many of the awards are multi-year awards, which departments program and spend throughout the eligible use period. Spending is not necessarily even across a multi-year award.
· Most federal funds are reimbursed to the City after programmatic or capital spending has occurred, though in some cases the award is made up front.

City of Seattle 2017 federal funding
· The City anticipates at least $55 million of federal funds to support operating expenses in 2017.
· The City also receives federal support for its multi-year capital budget and expects to receive over $99 million of capital project support in 2017 alone.

Department of Justice (DOJ) funding
· The City of Seattle receives federal funding from the Department of Justice (DOJ); these grant funds support multiple departments including the Seattle Police Department, Human Services Department and the City Auditor’s Office.
· The City is scheduled to receive approximately $2.6 million from DOJ grants in 2017, a part of over $13 million in DOJ funds allocated over a multi-year period.
· The City’s Department of Justice Grants support a variety of efforts including but not limited to:
o Domestic violence prevention;
o Efforts to detect and interrupt internet crimes against children;
o Youth violence prevention;
o Crime prevention;
o Community-oriented policing;
o Gun violence prevention;
o Reducing recidivism rates
o Body-worn video development;
o School and community safety; and
o Human trafficking investigation and prosecution.

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