City’s official stance on Sanctuary City: “No comment”
Last updated 6/15/2017 at Noon
City officials and elected representatives for the city, county and state who represent the City of Mill Creek seem to have taken a vow of silence when it comes to the city’s official stance on the controversial issue of Sanctuary City.
Seattle is just one of the jurisdictions within King County that have declared themselves as Sanctuary Cities with policies designed to not pursue or persecute undocumented immigrants.
The majority of members on the Mukilteo City Council have taken a position in favor of "safe and welcoming city" status, while Everett, Lynnwood, Edmonds and Snohomish County have identified themselves as Safe Cities, where law enforcement officers are directed to not arrest or detain individuals based on their immigration status.
There are more than 300 sanctuary cities in the United States. In addition, the legislatures for the states of California, Connecticut, New Mexico and Colorado have designated their entire states as sanctuary states.
“Mill Creek is not a sanctuary city, and we don’t have a position on the issue. Therefore, she is declining your request to speak with you on this topic,” was the response issued by Mayor Pam Pruitt through Joni Kirk, the director of communications and marketing. An inquiry to the city manager’s office was met with a similar “No comment from the City of Mill Creek. Thanks!”
City Councilmember Mike Todd also declined to comment on the issue, explaining the City Council has not discussed the issue “at length,” but does not consider the issue something the “city needs to weigh in on.”
Todd did say the sanctuary city issue was brought up by City Manager Rebecca Polittotto during a study session. He remembered the council decided to follow the recommendation from the city manager to not take a position on the divisive issue.
Retiring Councilmember Donna Michelson took a proactive stance to questions about sanctuary city.
“I know that you’ve tried to contact me to talk about sanctuary city,” Michelson wrote in response to a written request from The Beacon.
Councilmember Sean Kelly did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
Mayor Pro Tem Brian Holtzclaw, who is running unopposed for reelection this fall, was more diplomatic. He confirmed that his colleagues on the council have not had a formal discussion on the issue, but declared, “It’s probably something we should look into” based on actions taken by neighboring cities and Snohomish County.
Fellow Councilmember Vince Cavaleri agreed that sanctuary city was an issue that deserves attention based on the current political climate in the country.
Former Planning Commissioner Jared Mead, who is running unopposed to fill Michelson’s seat on the council, said he is sympathetic to the position of undocumented workers in the region, but declined to call for action by the city.
“If elected, I will be representing the constituents of the district,” Mead said. “It would be my responsibility to do my due diligence before forming an opinion on the issue.”
Council candidate Carmen Fisher believes that local authorities should not have the right to question the immigration status of people who work or visit Mill Creek. S
he said it is the responsibility of local law enforcement to support the desires of the community it serves.
There was no response for requests for comments from County Councilman Terry Ryan on the sanctuary city issue. Staff members for Sen. Steve Hobbs and Rep. Mark Harmsworth emphasized the state lawmakers do not comment on the policies of cities within their district.
Mill Creek Police Chief Greg Elwin said he has not received direction from the city or the council on enforcement of immigration laws. He said the use of the Snohomish County Jail to hold individuals detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has put Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary in an awkward position.
“The sheriff is sworn to obey the law,” Elwin told The Beacon. “He works for the county and is directed by the County Council, and must be sensitive to the stance the county has taken against the federal immigration laws.”
King County has declared itself a “welcoming community,” while Kent Patton, spokesman for Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, said the county has never formally declared itself a sanctuary.
It does, however, enforce a policy of not cooperating with ICE to detain possible immigration violators jailed for other crimes. That policy stems from federal-court rulings, issued by judges in Oregon and Pennsylvania, finding the practice unconstitutional.
Snohomish County officials shrugged off threats by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions for not doing more to help the Trump Administration capture and deport people living in the U.S. illegally.
Sessions said the Department of Justice will turn up the pressure by withholding grants from cities and counties not in compliance with a federal law that covers communication between local governments and federal immigration authorities.
The AG said the jurisdictions have policies “designed to frustrate” immigration enforcement, adding, “Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe.”
Sessions singled out local governments that reject at least some requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold people in jail for possible immigration violations beyond when they would otherwise be released.
King and Snohomish counties were on a list of those jurisdictions published by the Department of Homeland Security.
Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary took his defiance to the threats from Sessions to another level when he issued a public statement to counter accusations from the Department of Homeland Security that labeled his office as “non-cooperative” in the enforcement of requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attempt to apprehend immigrants the federal agency considers a danger to public safety.
The sheriff defended the actions of his officers against what he termed “unsubstantiated claims.”
“That is simply untrue,” Trenary wrote in a strongly worded rebuttal. “This is offensive to me and the communities that I and the men and women of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office proudly serve.
“If ICE truly felt that these offenders were a danger to society, they would establish probable cause and seek an arrest warrant, just like any other law enforcement agency.
“Since our policy to no longer honor detainer requests has been in place,” Trenary wrote. “ICE has produced zero warrants at our jail.”