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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Seattle City Light denies immigration agency's request for customer info

Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent an administrative subpoena to Seattle City Light on  January 31st, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent an administrative subpoena to Seattle City Light on January 31st, 2018.

Officials at Seattle City Light have denied a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On January 31, ICE asked the city for customer information about the person(s) living at one address.

Some are calling it a "fishing expedition" targeting immigrants.

As first reported by Crosscut, the administrative subpoena letter was sent to Seattle City Light. It was vague and did not specify why ICE was seeking the information. The letter requested information such as names, phone numbers and any other utility accounts (such as a business account) linked to the address.

Mayor Jenny Durkan told KUOW that at this point they don't have to, and won't, send any customer information to ICE.

"We will always comply with the law, but a legitimate court order is different than an informal request that ICE puts forth itself," Durkan said.

Durkan said the city will only share customer information if it's required by a judge, relevant to an ongoing investigation, or necessary for investigating a crime. City officials say the federal immigration agency hasn't proved any of those.

Immigrant rights advocates said they're not surprised by ICE's action.

Marcos Martines, executive director at Casa Latina, said it’s telling that ICE did not present a warrant signed by a judge that would prove the agency has the right to investigate. Martines said it makes it look like the agency is wantonly going after people in the community without legitimate cause.

"It seems like ICE is behaving more and more like a kind of rogue agency, and they're going outside of the law to obtain people's private information in order to target immigrants in our community," Martines said.

ICE has not responded to a request for comment for this story.

Seattle City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen said they replied to ICE in the form of a letter this month.

"We're asking them to show us, to demonstrate, their statutory authority to get that information. And that was not something that we saw included in the subpoena, so we're asking for that before we respond further," Thompsen said.

Mayor Durkan imposed a new city policy earlier this month that any contact from federal immigration officials be referred to her attorneys. She said the city will do everything it can to protect people's privacy.