Immigrant Rights Ordinance

In a victory for the Sound Alliance and its allies, the King County Council voted 5:4 on December 2, 2013 to pass one of the strongest ordinances in the country limiting the honoring of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainer requests at the local jail.

Whereas before, ICE detainer requests could be made of any immigrant being held at King County Jail, the new ordinance will now limit detainer requests to most only immigrants convicted of violent or serious offenses. It establishes clear guidelines for local law enforcement's involvement in federal immigration enforcement and makes our communities safer.

As a build-up to this victory, in May and November, the Sound Alliance assembled with hundreds of members and allies to give testimony and elicit support from Council Members Jane Hague and Rod Dembowski. Both voted for the ordinance. Jane Hague’s support was especially critical and tipped the scales toward passage.

Roberta Ray, a leader on this issue since April of 2012, comments, “I am pleased that Sound Alliance was able to gain support for the ordinance from Councilmembers Hague and Dembowski. We might still be trying to get enough votes if we had not.”

Background on “Detainer Requests”

The Washington Post recently exposed that Federal immigration authorities have a quota: They must round up enough immigrants to fill an incredible 34,000 beds in "immigrant detention centers" every day. In our community, they have been asking local jails, including the King County Jail, to hold immigrants who are truly innocent or who have committed minor crimes so they can take them to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center and deport them to fulfill their quota.

Alliance leaders have objected to this practice on many grounds including on the fact that it breaks up immigrant families, makes immigrants fearful of local law enforcement, creates a harder path for those escaping domestic violence, and feeds the for-profit detention center industry. King County Sheriff John Urquhart and Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel both endorsed the ordinance stemming from some of these concerns.