Seattle Is Challenging Trump's Executive Order

March 30th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Seattle is suing President Donald Trump in federal court for his executive order, which threatens sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants, and the city makes two very important points.

A sanctuary city doesn't fully cooperate with the federal government in reporting undocumented immigrants, but the Trump administration wants to force these cities to change.

“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," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at a press conference on Wednesday. "We are proud to be a welcoming city that is inclusive of all our residents."

Seattle's lawsuit follows a similar suit filed in January by San Francisco, another sanctuary city, against Trump's executive order.

3/29/17 2pm: City announcement on federal legal actions

The Trump administration's war on facts has become a war on cities. The City of Seattle has filed suit against the president, Attorney General Sessions and agencies they're using to issue unconstitutional orders for local governments to enforce federal law and coerce cities through threats to funding. When you marginalize immigrant communities and drive people into the shadows, our entire city becomes less safe. Because we value civil rights, safety, inclusion - and the constitution - we will fight for these values in the courts. Press conference below starts at 12-minute mark.

Posted by Mayor Ed Murray on Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trump's Jan. 25 executive order stated, "sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States" and that sanctuary cities "have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic." Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated the Trump administration's threats against sanctuary cities, saying that they "endanger the lives of every American," during a White House press briefing on March 27.

Seattle's lawsuit makes two main arguments against Trump's executive order about sanctuary cities:

1. Seattle says that the executive order is unconstitutional.

It claims the executive order violates the 10th Amendment because it tries to force local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws. The city also alleges that Trump's executive order violates the Spending Clause in the U.S. Constitution by threatening to strip federal funds. The Spending Clause says that "the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common [defense] and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

2. The city asserts it's not violating any federal laws in how it acts as a sanctuary city.

City laws stop city employees from inquiring about immigration status, however, it doesn't stop employees from sharing information they do have with the federal government, according to a press release about the lawsuit. Although, Sessions previously said that an inspector general memo found sanctuary cities violate federal law, some experts disagree with that interpretation of the report.

"Sessions went beyond what the report said. The report expresses concern that some cities’ policies might violate section 1373, but in the end the report stops short of finding any violations," Hiroshi Motomura, a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law told Politifact. "In fact, the language of the report seems carefully chosen to limit itself to raising concerns without finding violations."

Seattle has a lot to lose.

In 2017, Seattle expects to receive $55 million in federal funds for operating expenses, $99 million to maintain and improve the city's infrastructure, and $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Justice Grants that will support programs like domestic violence prevention, community policing and gun violence prevention.

RELATED: Federal Court Blocks President Trump's Executive Order on Immigration