More than 3,000 residents in Burien, Washington received fliers last Thursday listing the last names, home addresses, and alleged crimes committed by suspected undocumented immigrants, drawing fresh attention to the debate over so-called sanctuary cities where local law enforcement officials are not required to hold suspected undocumented immigrants on behalf of the federal immigration agency.
The four-page letter by the anti-immigrant group Respect Washington included a map of where “illegal aliens and gang criminals” live and called on voters to repeal the city’s “sanctuary city” ordinance, which passed the city council after two attempts earlier this year. When it finally passed on the third try, the word “sanctuary city” was removed. What remained was text that makes Burien a welcoming city to protect its immigrants from President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration to deputize local law enforcement as federal authorities. Since 2014, King County — where Burien is located — still honors detainers to “detain” immigrants for whom the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has a criminal warrant.
The intended recipients of the inflammatory letter include Burien residents who signed a petition to repeal the city’s status to protect immigrants on the November 7 elections, local ABC News affiliate KIRO 7 reported. The letter includes the names of four candidates that Respect Washington supports to “save Burien” from alleged criminal immigrants in the election. The letter — which can be seen on the public Facebook page for Krystal Marx — a Democratic political candidate running for Burien City Council, shows a “partial list” of the addresses and names for these alleged criminal immigrants.
King County Sheriff John Urquhar said that the letter could incite fear and that many of the crimes were unsubstantiated and may identify people who were not convicted.
“Seeing this letter, all that it implicates, I mean, pointing out even addresses. We’re looking at a map. How dangerous can this be?”
“Seeing this letter, all that it implicates, I mean, pointing out even addresses. We’re looking at a map. How dangerous can this be? These people, most of them with maybe one or two exceptions, haven’t even been convicted yet,” Urquhart told KIRO 7. The sheriff also said that the individuals may not even live at the addresses provided by Respect Washington’s Craig Keller.
Earlier this year, Respect Washington seized on the brutal rape of a woman by an undocumented immigrant in a misguided attempt to denounce “sanctuary cities.” In a city 10 miles from downtown Seattle, a progressive city, it seems shocking that Burien residents would receive such hateful letters in the mail. But it is also a town where the poverty rate is 18.2 percent and the high school is 44 percent Latinx, according to The Stranger. Earlier this year, someone spray painted “Fucking Mexicans” on an RV.
In a public statement sent to Highline Public Schools staff members, Superintendent Susan Enfield criticized Respect Washington’s letter, saying, “now more than ever, we must send a clear message to our students that they are safe in our care.”
“Please be vigilant for signs of students feeling fearful or threatened,” Enfield added. “Reassure them they are loved and safe at school. If a student acts out or exhibits signs of needing support, please connect them with a counselor. If you need extra support at your school our crisis team stands ready to assist.”
Respect Washington receives funding from the Michigan-based US Inc, The Stranger pointed out, where it prints out the white nationalist publication “The Social Contract,” which includes articles that suggest immigrants are invaders and genetically predisposed to drunk driving. US Inc was founded by John Tanton, a retired ophthalmologist who has espoused white nationalist views to support eugenics and keep America as “a European-American majority,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The University of Michigan recently blocked the release of Tanton’s donated records to Hassan Ahmad, a Virginia-based lawyer, who sued to obtain 11 boxes which includes correspondence and documents expressing Tanton’s view, the Detroit Free Press reported in mid-October.