Spokane Tries To Block Immigration Checks On Buses
By David Jaroslav | October 25, 2018
On October 22, by a vote of 6-1, the city council of Spokane, Washington, passed a new ordinance “relating to federal civil immigration enforcement in nonpublic areas of” city property, in essence attempting to keep immigration authorities out. This ordinance may be an emerging model for a new and particularly dangerous type of sanctuary policy, focused on turning intercity buses and bus stations into immigration-enforcement-free zones.
While the ordinance’s text is much broader than just one building, all the documentation supporting it and news coverage surrounding it has focused entirely on the Spokane Intermodal Facility, a city-owned building that houses the local intercity bus terminal. And while the terminal’s interior is open to the public, the council claims “[t]he bus platform [itself] is a restricted area of the facility[.]”
Since 2013, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) indicates they’ve made nearly 200 arrests there. And according to CBP, “transportation centers, including bus terminals, are often used by alien-smuggling and drug-trafficking organizations to move people, narcotics and contraband to interior destinations throughout the country.”
The ordinance purports to forbid CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel from entering “nonpublic areas of City of Spokane owned or operated facilities” without either a criminal warrant signed by a judge, or the express written permission of the mayor. It does not apply to other federal law enforcement officers nor to state or local law enforcement, nor does it spell out or try to impose any kind of specific penalty on federal immigration agents if they violate it.
However, by restricting entry it arguably seeks to turn a violation of its terms into First-Degree Criminal Trespass, a “gross misdemeanor” punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $5000 fine under Washington State law. This sets up the possibility of a dangerous and even violent confrontation between Spokane’s police and federal immigration officers, who could regard attempts to enforce the ordinance and keep them out as federal crimes, such as harboring illegal aliens (8 U.S.C. § 1324) and/or obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. § 1505), among others. Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law trumps state or local law, so the city should not be able to legally stop them.
At the Council’s previous meeting on October 15, which was the ordinance’s first reading, Council President Ben Stuckart (D) introduced an amendment to it (see pg. 215) adding the following “Whereas” clause, declaring an “emergency” and packed with the clichéd talking points of the open-borders agenda:
“WHEREAS, the current practice of immigration enforcement activities on City-owned property are jeopardizing the public peace, health, and safety of all people in the City of Spokane, regardless of race, ethnicity, or immigration status, because they are completely at odds with the City of Spokane’s policy, practices, and values, and this drastic disconnect presents an urgent and emergency condition which justifies the passage of this ordinance as an emergency ordinance pursuant to Section 19 of the Spokane City Charter.”
Under the city charter, this “emergency” clause means the ordinance goes into effect immediately, rather than after thirty days, cannot be vetoed by the mayor, and cannot be stopped by a possible citywide referendum. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 6-1, with only Council Member Mike Fagan (R) voting No. Fagan “said he believes Border Patrol should be able to carry out any duties outlined in federal law. He said he also voted against the emergency clause because he believes people should have an opportunity to intervene[.]”
When the ordinance came up for a final vote on October 22, Council Member Breann Beggs (D) spoke for the council’s pro-illegal immigration majority, condemning CBP for simply doing their job, characterizing immigration enforcement as “racial profiling” and casting the ordinance as “sending a message” to the Trump Administration.
Once again, Fagan was the lone voice on the council to support enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. In casting the sole No vote, he said of immigration in general, “that there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And that is another reason why Border Patrol agents and ICE do the functions that they do is because there are still people out there that do it the wrong way … So I’m not going to support this ordinance tonight, not at all.”
Despite that warning, Spokane has chosen this new ordinance to deliberately defy federal law. If and how they seek to enforce it, and whatever confrontation follows, may a set a precedent much wider than one corner of Washington State.