Here’s a message to President Donald Trump: Seattle is not afraid of immigrants and refugees. In fact, we have always welcomed people who have faced tremendous hardships around the world. Immigrants and refugees are part of Seattle’s heritage, and they will continue to make us the city of the future.
What does scare us? A president and federal government that would seek to weaponize a law enforcement agency to punish perceived political enemies. A would-be despot who thinks the rule of law does not apply to him.
On Friday, Trump took to Twitter to confirm a Post report that the White House wants to place detained immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities represented by Democrats.
In doing so, he trotted out his favorite playbook: He is demonizing immigrants and refugees to incite fear and to distract the American public from his own failures. Despite his party having control of the whole federal government for two years, Trump has utterly failed to fix our immigration system, to provide real opportunity for middle America or to improve the lives of the Americans in the places that supported him.
It’s clear he hates the fact that the very cities he scorns are engines of innovation, opportunity and economic power. But we will not be deterred. The president’s threats won’t intimidate me as a mayor of a city with an open door, as a former federal prosecutor or as the granddaughter of a teenager who fled a war-torn, starving and impoverished country only to be welcomed in America.
This president believes that immigrants and refugees burden our country and burden cities like ours. But he could not be more wrong.
In Seattle, we know that our immigrant and refugee communities make our city a stronger, more vibrant place. Our immigrant neighbors make up more than 18 percent of our population, and 21 percent of our population speaks a language other than English at home. They create businesses and jobs. They create art and culture. They help teach our kids, serve in law enforcement and the military, and lead our places of faith.
Our immigrant and refugee neighbors have helped Seattle become the fastest-growing big city in the country and become home to some of the world’s most iconic companies. And we know that today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s U.S. citizens who should have the chance to contribute to the economic, cultural and civic life of Seattle – and our nation.
Contrary to what this president thinks, in Seattle, we have strong American values of inclusiveness and opportunity. Instead of threatening immigrant families and the cities that welcome them, this president should spend a little bit more time trying to learn from us.
In Seattle, we have started to provide tuition-free college for our public high school graduates, regardless of a young person’s immigration status. We’re expanding internship and apprenticeships opportunities to connect all our young people with the jobs and opportunities of the future. We’re working to help tens of thousands of legal permanent residents become U.S. citizens as part of the New Citizen Campaign and our other citizenship programs. Our Ready to Work program connects people with case managers and English language education to help our immigrant and refugee neighbors gain the skills necessary to enter our booming jobs market.
We will not allow a president who continues to threaten our shared values of inclusion, opportunity and diversity to jeopardize the health and safety of our communities. That’s why, shortly after taking office, I issued a mayoral directive strengthening Seattle’s “Welcoming City” laws that make clear that our city will not ask about – or improperly divulge information about – a resident’s immigration status. And our police officers will continue to focus on local law enforcement – not serve as federal immigration enforcement officials. This is what the president means when he uses the term“sanctuary city.”
Our city has already taken on this president and won. When Trump and the Justice Department threatened to withhold federal funding over our policies, we beat him in court. When he announced his cruel plan to separate children and families, Democratic mayors stood up to say we are better than this as a country.
So if this president wants to send immigrants and refugees to Seattle and other welcoming cities, let me be clear: We will do what we have always done, and we will be stronger for it. And it will only strengthen our commitment to fighting for the dignity of every person. We will not allow any administration to use the power of America to destroy the promise of America.
Jenny A. Durkan, a Democrat, is mayor of Seattle.
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