Olympia will stand in solidarity with other U.S. “sanctuary” cities after President Donald Trump threatened this week to cut federal grant money for cities that protect immigrants and refugees.
The Olympia City Council had unanimously approved a resolution Dec. 13 making Olympia a sanctuary city in response to concerns over Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric on deportation and immigration policies.
This week, Trump signed an executive order meant to penalize cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“I wish that this president would quit making our community so anxious,” Mayor Cheryl Selby told The Olympian. “Our community can trust that our employees will continue to serve all residents regardless of their status as immigrants. We’re standing by it.”
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According to Olympia’s resolution, city employees will refuse any request from a state or federal agency for information about a resident’s immigration status and will refuse any requests related to federal immigration policy enforcement. The resolution also promises Olympia “will not inquire upon a resident’s immigration status in providing municipal services or in the course of law enforcement.”
Trump’s immigration-related executive orders have drawn a sharp rebuke from mayors and elected officials across the country. Gov. Jay Inslee called the orders “mean-spirited and unnecessary,” while Seattle Mayor Ed Murray vowed that his city “will not be bullied by this administration.”
Selby said some of the funding at risk includes transportation grants as well as Community Development Block Grants, which help pay for affordable housing and related services.
“I feel very much in solidarity that we are going to see this through and not let it tear our cities apart,” she said, “and hopefully not tear our country apart.”
Hugh Spitzer, a renowned legal scholar and professor at the University of Washington, said the law may be on the side of sanctuary cities. In a recent essay for Jurist.org, Spitzer wrote that states have oversight over their local governments, and that only state governments have the authority to order cities and counties to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement.
He also cited an opinion from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had emphasized in a 1997 case that the Constitution “does not allow Congress to impose responsibilities on local governments without the consent of the states.”
“When one looks at a map of ‘sanctuary cities,’ most of them turn up in blue states — Texas and Louisiana being notable exceptions,” Spitzer wrote. “And liberal state governments are unlikely to require their municipalities to actively aid (immigration) enforcement.”
As for other local jurisdictions, Thurston County’s board of commissioners adopted a resolution in December that declared the county as a “welcoming community to residents regardless of their immigration status.” The county’s resolution — which does not include the word “sanctuary” — came on the heels of an ordinance that declared the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and jail will no longer detain people based only on a federal request.