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King County sheriff says immigration policy won't change for Trump

caption: King County Sheriff John Urquhart
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King County Sheriff John Urquhart
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

King County Sheriff John Urquhart doesn't think much of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

"We don't ask somebody about their immigration status,” Urquhart said. “We don't ask for a green card. We don't ask for anything like that. And that policy is not going to change."

Trump said Wednesday that his administration would withhold federal money from “sanctuary cities” that do not help enforce U.S. immigration laws.

King County also has policies in place not to ask about immigrants’ status.

Urquhart said the county’s policy is just good policing.

"If people are afraid that if they cooperate with the police they're going be deported, they're not going to cooperate with the police, which means they're not going to call 911,” he said. “They're not going to be good witnesses for us so we can solve crimes."

It was unclear just how Trump would withhold money and how much it might be at risk for cities and counties that provide sanctuary.

But Urquhart says his office gets few federal dollars, so the executive order carries little weight.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says it's not clear exactly how the Trump administration will tie immigration enforcement to federal grants. But Constantine said county service providers aren't going to start asking about people's legal status.

"The administration can still attempt to use federal funding as leverage to force us to come to heel, to force us to treat people differently than we otherwise would, and we’re not going to participate in that,” he said.

If necessary Constantine says the county will use local dollars to supplement federal funding that’s restricted to citizens and legal residents.

King County Council Chair Joe McDermott agrees the implications aren’t clear. He says an executive order can’t “claw back” all federal funding.

"How long could we go on, what funds is the executive order affecting? We’re going to have to wait and see," McDermott said. "But we’re going to continue to be a welcoming, affirming place for immigrants, refugees and everyone within our community.”

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