In spite of Seattle’s designation by the City Council as a “sanctuary city,” Seattle City Light, a municipalized utility, provided customer information, such as names, phone numbers, and social security numbers, to ICE three different times in 2017. (Crosscut)
This information was handed over directly to investigators with Homeland Security Investigators (a subset of ICE) in response to four or more drug-related subpoenas. ICE administrative subpoenas, directed toward state agencies or public institutions, do not require the approval of a judge. Those agencies are legally obligated to comply with any such “requests.”
Seattle City Light claims that this information was used only to confirm suspicion of drug-related crime. It’s not clear how much evidence, if any, there is to support the drug enforcement subpoenas. In light of the way in which anti-drug laws have historically been applied against people of color in the United States, these requests are inherently suspect.
The information was gathered without any judicial review, directly from City Light customer service employees. Not only is this a shocking violation of the privacy of Seattle City Light customers, this act was also illegal. According to a 2007 Washington State law, law enforcement must provide a written statement detailing the specific ways in which utility customer information can help determine if that customer has committed a crime. This step was not followed in any of these cases.
Since City Light’s violation of customer privacy came to light, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has specified that all such requests be referred to her office’s legal counsel.
In February this year, it was found that ICE has been pulling a similar stunt with the Washington State Department of Licensing. The DOL has been giving drivers’ information 20-30 times a month directly to ICE, as reported by the Seattle Times reported.
In December of 2017, ICE agent Timothy Black emailed the DOL regarding well-known Washington state immigration rights activist Maru Mora Villapando. DOL provided ICE with information, in apparent disregard of an executive order from Gov. Jay Inslee that workers for state agencies not act as ICE agents. Two weeks after ICE received the information about Mora’s license and registration, she received a deportation order. (Stranger Slog)
“Sanctuary city” and “sanctuary state” laws and executive orders have been promulgated by Democratic Party politicians in response to mass anger at the racist Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants. However, here in Washington, agencies under the purview of an alleged “sanctuary” city and the state do not appear to have gotten the memo. Local and state authorities do not seem to have the actual power to enforce the will of the people, that tax payer and rate payer funded entities not collaborate with ICE to deport and detain undocumented people. Are sanctuary city/state policies just a way of appearing to be part of “the resistance” while continuing to allow ICE to operate without interference in sowing its reign of terror in the community?
An injury to one is an injury to all–Stop ICE!