SPOKANE, Wash. - Swift action in the Oval Office has some families and communities on edge. President Trump took executive action on immigration, promising a border wall and targeting sanctuary cities.
“Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders,” President Donald Trump said.
The president is taking action to strip sanctuary cities of federal funds in an attempt to curtail what he's called “virtually unlimited immigration.” But Spokane City officials say the city doesn't consider itself a sanctuary city, despite a 2014 law banning police from asking a person's immigration status.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people that live in the City of Spokane would rather their police officers are investigating property crime, investigating vehicle theft, out there protecting them and creating good relations, not choosing somebody by the color of their skin,” Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said.
Being a sanctuary city means police and other agencies won't help the feds seek out undocumented immigrants unless they've committed a criminal offense.
“We're going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.
Spokane received $36.2 million in federal funding in 2015, about eight percent of the city's total spending that year. But city officials say Spokane shouldn't be in jeopardy of losing its funding.
“Spokane is not a sanctuary city, although it has always been a city that works to ensure that all of our citizens feel safe, welcomed and valued,” Mayor David Condon said. “The city has successfully leveraged federal grant money to improve services for Spokane residents and expects that will continue.”
The term “sanctuary city” is broad and there's no single definition for it. The president's executive order charges Secretary of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, with defining it. It's up to Kelly to decide if Spokane is indeed in violation of the executive order.
Trump says he wants immigration officers to focus on deporting criminals. But in Seattle, many families say they're now living in fear.
“The moment you step foot in the United States, you begin to worry. You're always thinking that any moment that immigration authorities could pick you up and send you back,” Lucina, an undocumented worker in the Seattle area, said.
But President Trump's tough stance on immigration is getting even tougher. Less than a week into his presidential term, he's expected make good on more immigration promises.
“When I'm elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States,” Trump said while campaigning last year.
He's planning a major crackdown reportedly affecting seven mostly Muslim countries. According to sources familiar with the plan, Trump could move to suspend immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen either temporarily or indefinitely.
The possible executive order has leaders across the country, including here in Spokane, speaking out. Many of them say these orders won't make our country any safer, rather more fearful and less welcoming.
“I think it's absolutely un-American to ban people depending on the countries and those countries, the vast majority of them, are Muslim countries,” Stuckart said.
This order is expected to last several months until more aggressive vetting is in place. Meanwhile, undocumented workers, including many in the Northwest, say the president's promise of stricter immigration policies and more deportations weighs heavily on them.
“I never felt as uncomfortable as now. I was speaking with my coworkers, I'm a domestic worker, nowadays it's not just about your immigration status, it's about your skin color,” Silvia, an undocumented worker in the Seattle area, said.
President Trump also called for the hiring of 10,000 more immigration officers and 5,000 additional border patrol agents.
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