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Burien votes on sanctuary city status under shadow of lawsuit

Official photograph
The Burien City Council. (Back row) Councilmember Debi Wagner, Councilmember Austin Bell, Councilmember Stephen Armstrong, Councilmember Bob Edgar. (Front row) Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz.

The Burien City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to keep its sanctuary city status. The council passed its sanctuary city law with a 4-3 vote earlier this year.

Now, they're debating an initiative that would undo that measure. The council can either approve the initiative, or send it to voters to decide.

The initiative's backer, Craig Keller with Respect Washington, is already suing the City Council because they put off a vote on the initiative last week. The delay means it’s too late to put the measure on this November's ballot.

Keller said he doesn’t trust the members of City Council who previously voted in support of Burien being a sanctuary city.

"They have very subversive aims, number one not to give the people the chance to vote on this," Keller said.

Keller’s lawsuit was filed August 2 in King County Superior Court. It asks the Burien City Council to overturn the sanctuary city law, or see that the topic makes it to this November's ballot.

Keller: "They've voiced the support for sending it to a February ballot, but of course that would cost the city of Burien more than a $100,000 for a dedicated election on this one subject, where it costs them nothing to send it to November where it rightly belongs."

Keller said sanctuary city policies put the safety of residents at stake and cited incidents of immigrants who have committed crimes to back up his concerns.

Sanctuary cities work to support immigrants by directing police not to ask civilians about their immigration status, in part to ensure immigrants feel safe contacting police.

A Burien spokesperson said they can't comment further right now, but that the city attorney is convening legal representation on the matter.