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Seattle FBI chief: We do not check immigration status

Jay S. Tabb, Jr. (far right) heads the FBI's Seattle office.
KUOW photo/Liz Jones
Jay S. Tabb, Jr. (far right) heads the FBI's Seattle office.

The new head of Seattle’s FBI field office offered some perspective this week on the transition to a Donald Trump administration. 

In September, Jay Tabb took over as special agent in charge of the Seattle office. His last post was at FBI headquarters in Quantico, outside of Washington, D.C. But that doesn’t mean he’s eager to talk politics or answer questions about Donald Trump’s proposals on the campaign trail.

Tabb: “Yeah, no, you’re right. I’m not likely to answer that question.”

But Tabb did say there’s no indication that operations will shift under the next president.

That doesn’t mean things won’t change, he said. There’s just no indication.

In his first months here, Tabb said he’s worked to strengthen partnerships in his agency’s counter-terrorism efforts. That includes meeting with many immigrant groups, including Muslims and Somalis.

Tabb: "I am having sit down, face-to-face meetings with affected leadership. Those are one-on-one, with the agreement we’ll have routine meetings so that we can air out problems and differences and concerns from them.”

Tabb also talked about the public’s role in counter-terrorism. He noted incidents when threats were posted on social media but not reported soon enough.

“Someone saw those posts on Facebook. Some citizen saw those posts on Facebook and could have told anyone in law enforcement and potentially the outcome would’ve been different.”

Tabb has worked with the FBI 20 years, much of that time focused on counter-terrorism.

During the briefing, Tabb also reiterated the agency's current policy regarding undocumented immigrants.

Seattle is considered a sanctuary city, where police are directed to not ask about someone's immigration status.

Tabb said his agency takes a similar approach.

Tabb: “We don’t query other than to run normal checks for wants and warrants. That doesn’t include immigration. It only includes state or federal crimes, if the individual has an active warrant out for their arrest.”

Tabb said it’s premature to speculate how this policy might shift with the new administration.

Year started with KUOW: 2006