In Victory for Public Safety and Seattle, Trump Administration Abandons Initial Effort to Withhold Federal Funds in Retaliation for Policies that Support and Welcome Immigrants and Refugees

City of Seattle Receives $252,157 Federal Justice Assistance Grant; Seattle Police Department Will Use Federal Grant to Fund Three Crime Prevention Coordinators

Seattle (October 15) – In a victory for Seattle, the rule of law, and public safety, the Trump administration has abandoned its nearly year-long initial effort to withhold 2017 federal funds from Seattle in retaliation for policies that support and welcome immigrant and refugee communities. Multiple federal courts had ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold funds.   

Following a series of legal defeats and condemnation by Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, City Attorney Pete Holmes and other Seattle leaders, the City received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice informing it that approximately $252,157 in previously withheld Justice Assistance Grant program funds had been released to the Seattle Police Department (SPD). The Department will use the federal grant to fund three Crime Prevention Coordinators.

Crime Prevention Coordinators (CPC) work in each of SPD’s five police precincts. CPCs support Seattle’s residents by organizing Block Watch programs, providing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments, and attending community public safety meetings. CPCs work directly with SPD Data Driven crime analysts to identify crime trends and distribute public safety information to residents and stakeholders.

The Department of Justice’s full letter can be found here.

“Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions blinked, Seattle won, and public safety prevailed. Because of the work by City Attorney Holmes who worked closely with cities across the country, we saw that we have the law – and justice – on our side. It’s further proof that the administration’s actions violated our Constitution,” said Mayor Durkan. “While this is a victory for Seattle and safer communities, we are not done. We will continue to stand up against President Trump or anyone who assaults our constitutional powers and shared values. True public safety protects all, including immigrants and refugees seeking the promise of America.”

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “As we have said all along, there was never any legal basis to withhold this money. After a recent federal court ruling again upheld the rights of cities to these grant funds, this latest decision hopefully reflects the Trump administration’s full acquiescence to the right of Seattle to be a welcoming city.”

BACKGROUND ON THREATS BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION AND STEPS TO PROTECT SEATTLE’S STATUS AS A WELCOMING CITY 

October 2018: The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California strikes down a law the Trump administration had cited in an attempt to retaliate against welcoming cities and states. The Court also directs the U.S. Department of Justice to grant $28 million to the State of California that had been withheld.

August 2018:  Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) members could receive Byrne JAG public safety grants without having to adhere to unconstitutional and illegal conditions imposed on that funding by the Attorney General.

August 2018: In a 2-1 decision, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a district’s judge ruling that the federal government cannot withhold federal funding from cities and counties in retaliation for policies that support immigrant and refugee communities. In its decision, the Court ruled that this administration’s policy is unconstitutional. 

April 2018: The Department of Justice issues a new threat of a subpoena claiming Seattle is “enact[ing] policies that thwart the federal government’s ability to enforce federal immigration law” and intentional in their “effort to undermine public safety and the rule of law.” Mayor Durkan responds defending the City’s actions and showing Seattle respects the rule of law

February 2018: Mayor Durkan issues a mayoral directive to ensure the City is prepared for any and all requests by ICE authorities. All ICE requests are now directed to the Mayor’s Office Legal Counsel, including requests for access to non-public areas in City buildings and venues as well as for data or information about City employees, residents, or workers. 

January 2018: Mayor Durkan responds to threats from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to subpoena King County for its commitment to protecting refugees and immigrants.  

December 2017: Mayor Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes respond in a letter to Attorney General Sessions defending Seattle’s status as a Welcoming City. 

November 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Department of Justice sent letters to 29 U.S. cities, including Seattle, arguing that they may be violating federal law through their efforts to protect immigrants and refugees as a Welcoming City.