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Lawsuit aims to stop vote on Burien's sanctuary policy

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
File photo. Auburn police talk to residents.

A new lawsuit aims to safeguard Burien’s sanctuary policies for immigrants and keep the issue off the November ballot.


Proposition 1 in Burien asks voters to repeal the city’s new sanctuary ordinance.

The Burien City Council passed the ordinance this summer, directing police and city staff not to ask about immigration status, among other things.

Attorney Sandy Restrepo is a member of the political group Burien Communities for Inclusion, which is suing to block Burien’s Prop 1.  Restrepo said she sees several problems with this repeal effort.

“First of all, the language of the actual petition is discriminatory against immigrants,” Restrepo said. She points to language that characterizes immigrants as dangerous and highlights a criminal case in California.

The lawsuit also argues this city policy is an administrative matter and not up to voters.

The repeal, Restrepo said, would remove protections for many people regardless of their immigration status.

“This would create a situation where people could be racially profiled just because they look like they’re an immigrant or undocumented,” Restrepo said.

But Respect Washington, a political group backing Prop 1, wants voters to have a say.

“It was sort of like a dog hiking its leg on the city of Burien by passing this thing in the first place,” said Craig Keller, spokesman for Respect Washington. “We’re just trying to clean it up.”

Keller said sanctuary policies hamper immigration enforcement and threaten public safety.

Respect Washington recently lost a similar battle in Spokane, after a judge ruled the issue was beyond the scope of the initiative process.

The Burien lawsuit seeks an emergency hearing, before King County sends ballots to the printer this week.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Sandy Restrepo as an attorney representing this lawsuit. She is a member of the plaintiff group named in the lawsuit, and also an attorney.

Year started with KUOW: 2006