By Jack Mayne

A loudly clapping and cheering audience at the Burien City Council meeting Monday night (Jan. 9) welcomed the 4–3 vote approving a revised ordinance that said city officials, police and contractors could not seek information about the immigration status of residents.

The four who voted “Yes” include: Stephen Armstrong, Austin Bell, Lauren Berkowitz and Nancy Tosta; voting “No” was Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar and Debi Wagner.

The discussion a few weeks ago began as one to create a sanctuary for undocumented residents, and one modeled after a very strong San Francisco ordinance which was modified on Monday evening to not include the term “sanctuary” because as one Councilmember explained, the term is not a legal word and that it means different things to different people.

Council questioned
An estimated 40 or so people – mostly supporters – were in the chamber to make comments on the ordinance, introduced as one that would not permit city officials, elected or staff, or others representing the city as contractors to enquire into a person’s immigration status, but can accept that information if it is offered by individuals.

Early in the over four-hour session, resident Rachael Levine (pictured above) wanted to know if Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar would “be here to complete the business of this hearing tonight.”

She was referring to the two who left the last Council meeting before the vote on the proposal two weeks ago. That 3-2 vote approving the sanctuary ordinance then was improper because “the passage of any ordinance” requires a vote of a majority of the entire Council, or four votes, thus disqualifying the favorable vote on Dec. 19. Now the issue was back before the Jan. 9 Council meeting.

“We don’t answer questions during public comment,” Krakowiak told Levine when she asked if the Council would be voting on the document that specified “sanctuary city” or the one that did not use the term “sanctuary.” Again, Krakowiak said Council did not answer questions during comment periods. Levine said she strongly supported “sanctuary.”

The original ordinance said it was to “adopt an ordinance declaring the City of Burien a sanctuary city,” but that wording was deleted from the one adopted Monday night. Burien would not be a declared “sanctuary city” but one that would “foster trust and cooperation between city personnel and law enforcement officers…”

The word “sanctuary” is not in the new ordinance version because, as Councilmember Nancy Tosta said the term it is not a legal term – “it has different meanings to different people.”

Some other changes were made because the original proposal came from King County ordinances “that are not particularly pertinent” (download PDF of the revised ordinance here).

No law enforcement impact
Tosta said, as others have before, that the ordinance does not affect the enforcement of laws against individuals by any police officer.

Some have suggested that President-elect Donald Trump has said he would cut off federal funds to cities with sanctuary status, but others suggest this is unlikely due to various federal court decisions, some of which suggest that “across the board” cuts are not allowed and the only grant cuts that would be allowed would be for specific reasons.

As usual not in person, but by telephone, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz wanted to add that no city officers could question a person’s religious background. She said she was seeking a compromise from her original push to adopt a stronger sanctuary ordinance such as in effect in San Francisco, but the Council rejected that approach.

Her new section said the city can’t “collect information” that would classify “any person on the basis of religious affiliation” but city officials, including police, would accept and use “information that is voluntarily provided, including relating to the decennial census.”

“It’s a step forward,” she said.

Councilmember Austin Bell asked City Attorney Lisa Marshall if Berkowitz’s changes caused any legal problems and Marshall said there was no reason the Council should not pass the additions if they wanted them.

Tosta, who had agreed with Berkowitz’s additions, said, “This is the vision of Burien,” to be inclusive.

The Council should do “whatever we can to decrease the fear which has permeated our country.”

Burien can’t provide enough police to guard against the current increase in crime “that we are continuing to experience,” Tosta said. One way is to have community engagement, she added.

Councilmember Stephen Armstrong said the amended ordinance “strengthens our position in our policies,” and “is a “step forward…”

Implies false hope
Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar “really questioned why we are writing something already covered” and said the Berkowitz “feel good ordinance” could “imply false hope” because it can’t guard against fear of families that could be broken up by enforcement of immigration laws, or it cannot decrease crime.

Edgar said the safety people were seeking would be “better provided by police and cannot be provided just by passing this ordinance,” adding that those pushing this ordinance also were opposed to increasing police staffing.

Mayor Krakowiak said she echoed Edgar’s comments.

Councilmember Debi Wagner said she was comfortable that Burien Police have the situation under control and, without the ordinance, does not ask immigration status questions.

If people in our community do not already feel safe, “our feel good ordinance is not going to make any difference,” Wagner said.

Most speakers supported the fact that the city would never ask people about their citizenship or the lack of it. That has been the practice followed by the King County Sheriff’s Office for the past 20 or so years, which county deputies are contracted for by Burien to form its police department.

Some, however, said the nation is a place of laws and not being a citizen or a legal immigrant is “breaking the law” in the words of one woman. Others said it was a problem of racism to check immigration status.

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

51 replies on “Burien City Council passes ‘sanctuary’ law that protects immigration status”

  1. I’m going to use this vote to my benefit, if I ever get in trouble with the law I will just speak Spanish and they’ll leave me alone for fear of violating my undeserved rights.

  2. Burien is welcoming crime and lawlessness as it defies the federal government in allowing illegal immigrants to benefit from what others have worked very hard to get. This benefits current citizens how? This is false compassion. Higher taxes will be required to pay for social services needed by those who don’t contribute to the public welfare.

    1. Barbara Levich, what do you mean “by those who don’t contribute to the public welfare?” Please tell me what taxes you pay that noncitizens who live here don’t also pay.

      1. Barbara can get back to you, but I will add.
        Social Security, Workers Compensation, Federal Employment Tax contributions etc. A huge percentage work under the table or for firms who do not utilize E-Verify so the level of taxes lost is substantial and not made up at the grocery store or gas station.

        1. QA – Not sure I agree with your ‘facts’ but, let’s say you have a point. In such cases, who is more to blame, the worker or the US company that hires them?

        2. Question Authority, you are just plain flat mistaken about Social Security. Everybody who works under a W-2 pays into Social Security, citizen or not. Noncitizens who are not legal residents cannot collect Social Security benefits, even if they have paid in. Millions are being paid in that they can’t get out.

          Undocumented aliens pay state and federal income taxes, sales taxes, real and personal property taxes, motor vehicle excise taxes, and gas taxes, ranging from Montana’s $2.2 million to California’s $3.2 billion per year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

          So pardon me if I question *your* authority.

          1. Burien voter:

            Many illegals work under the table for cash and don’t even file a W-2 form.

            They pay no Income Tax, Social Security, Medicare or L&I.

            They can also go to crooked storefront “Notarios” and get phony documents and ID.

        3. QA, Edge, BV: the immigration issue is more complicated than either side lets on. That said, in response to BV – immigrants – both legal and illegal – are a net fiscal drain on the country. Yes, immigrants pay taxes. But in terms of taxes paid minus services used, they cost the country nearly 300 billion (not sure what year, but I’m guessing recent – the study was released in 2016). California was at the top at nearly 19 billion in deficit caused by this fiscal drain. Of course we all know the terrible financial shape California is in. Washington is 6th at 2.5 billion. So there are consequences to never ending immigration, both legal and illegal, and to say that “illegal immigrants pay taxes too” is not the whole story.

          You might say, “why didn’t earlier immigrants cost the US this much?” – the answer is, back in the 19th century, early 20th century the govt. did not provide such comprehensive cradle to grave welfare benefits like they do now.

          1. If you’re going to subtract the services that immigrants receive from the taxes they pay, so that you can conclude that they are a “net drain,” to be fair, you also have to factor in the productivity that their labor — and yes, their investments — add to the economy. But it appears that you haven’t done that. How convenient for your argument. And how utterly fraudulent.

          2. Well now –

            The analysis of the study does factor in the financial contributions that immigrants make to the economy, yet it is still offset by other things resulting in a net fiscal drain. One of the things that the analysis brings up is that immigrants also tend to drive down wages. Additionally, some analysis says that low-skilled immigrant workers (legal and illegal) displace domestic workers, resulting in more claims for welfare, aid, foodstamps, etc. I would argue that its not quite that simple – many immigrants take jobs that low-skilled American citizens do not want to work anyway – such as in fruit industry, restaurant jobs, etc.

            The analysis of the study is not immune to criticism – nor should it be. I think we should keep an open mind, and be open to different opinions, rather than react with charges of fraud, etc. Hopefully that’s not asking too much.


          3. Peter is correct and you could easily have done a quick google search to understand he is correct.

    2. Goodbye Burien! We are now a criminal haven. The cartel are protected their drugs will be sold. Did they buy off anyone? Our city council has no respect for its citizens . It’s very sad to know our city council doesn’t care about your children. If they are raped or killed our council didnt care enough to make laws protecting them. We have no rights we are Americans But illegals do because they broke our laws ? Very strange
      Something doesn’t make sense . Burien will now be the protected criminal area of Seattle . We lost our nice town .
      It’s very sad to know we don’t count because we are law abiding American citizens , but
      We can vote these anti American city council,members out and we will . We will take Burien back .

  3. A [m]urder took place this past week in Burien. It would appear it was committed by a gang member (or wannabe) and perhaps illegal alien. Perhaps the victim was even an illegal alien. If so, I would like to see this victim’s family sue the City of Burien for this [m]urder. Normally cities are not liable in most cases.

    However, Burien has specific laws it has chosen to pass that make it clear they are maintaining a dangerous situation in Burien by not removing law breakers from our community. Burien is a willing participant in maintaining insecurity and inherently dangerous conditions in the city. That makes it different.

    Damages: Maybe $50,000,000?

  4. It must be nice to be a useless leftist where you never have to pass legislation that actually fixes anything. Wouldn’t want to actually be held responsible for your actions.

    1. As a contract city, the Burien P D uses the King County Police Gang Unit, which works across many city jurisdictions. This gives much better coordination than each city having its own gang unit. A fractured effort like that would only benefit the gangs, who function across all jurisdictions.

      1. Then we need to look at doing something we aren’t doing now because we have a problem that KC is not solving.

  5. Just what we need, less oversight on issues affecting security and safety in our neighborhoods and ‘town’…thank you again liberals for eroding our safety net and comfort level.
    Families of immigrants will be adequately protected and assimilated if they are legally abiding our laws….why handicap law enforcement and legal processes with superficial protections. It’s nothing but a meaningless societal protest……..again.
    (And the phone-in member is getting rather irritating, show your face Council Member! Is that too a protest or just being lazy?)

  6. Sad day for Burien. Very sad. There is no benefit in this ordinance to the city, to its residents or to those who really should pack up and leave the city. This is good government in action? I don’t think so.

  7. Did we really elect this collection of dufusses (sp) to fight against the federal government instead of tending to the business of managing Burien? How much are we paying to support their intellectual auto-eroticism while the bad guys are shooting up the streets, and shooting-up in the streets?

  8. I have a business in Burien, and have always wanted to stay here. I grew up in this area since 1956.

    I can’ t vote for council mayor / council members. The voters of burien have voted for the mayor / council – nice job. If you vote in the city of Burien, you have voted for the council and are partially responsible for the results.

    You naysayers want something different, work for that change.

    It is truly disgusting to walk by the library / city hall. Get a grip and take and control of our / our city.

    You have no idea of the junk I pick up. I have offers for the city representatives to join me on my walks – no ttakers. Perhaps, I leave too early, but I suspect that they are not just interested in what really goes on.

    Should I mention the trash / vomit on the side walk on 153rd… get a clue and get control

  9. Yes, people can thank the useless leftists on the council (that you voted onto)
    Pretty shocked that Steve Armstrong voted in that socialist group of three. Must have his
    re-election run on his mind. Pay attention people. Burien is on a slippery slope and we are falling further behind thanks to this council.

    What will it take for you to begin to show up and voice your concerns?

  10. The socialist Seatac city council was recently over thrown by fed up local citizens in their last city election.

    I think the time has come in Burien for the citizens to stand up and take back their city from the socialist transplants who are trying to change our culture of law & order.

    The former Seatac city council had strong ties to local immigration attorneys who were pushing their agenda behind the scenes, so they could profit financially with pro illegal immigration leadership. This recent vote in Burien is almost certainly tied to big campaign funding from those same immigration attorneys to our council members…follow the money.

    Let’s hope President Trump can follow through on his pulling of federal funding to sanctuary cities. And let’s do our part in voting these socialists out of our town & replacing them with people who have views more inline with Burien’s core values.

      1. A good start will be to vote out the 4 council members who voted to approve sanctuary city status in the next election.

        Next step is to find out which new candidates are against sanctuary city status and publicize it as much as possible on social media to get the vote out.

        Another thing would be to find new council members who would be willing to vote for a city ordinance that requires our police force to ask residency status when they detain someone for another offense.

        1. I had said that earlier when this topic came up.’
          Our council couldn`t give a rats behind what we the people think as long as they get their “personal” agendas through.
          (Just look at the results of the recent poll)
          This council needs to go and the sooner the better.

    1. OBAMAnation,
      Your post is right on. One of the last speakers of the evening happened to be some kind of assistant in a Burien immigration office. She had no patience with my suggestion that all the fear in the room surrounding all the potential deportations/lack of community integration, lack of respect, etc. would be better dealt with by starting the process of becoming a citizen. I have personally known and hired many latinos who were in the process or had completed it. This lady said it was virtually impossible to do now. I know it’s never been a particularly easy or fast endeavor, but I found her attitude interesting. As I thought more about it later, I wondered how involved this law office was and if they had any stake in the whole “sanctuary” deal. Seeing the impact of the staged/organized showing of people to speak pro- ordinance was also unsettling. Would love to talk more about it!

      1. why did we not wait until after the Trump swoop to put this in place?? watch LA get stripped of funds that they need. this was a stupid move. ya lets put our ass on the line days before we see what damage will be done. Could we have avoided this by staying with the king county bypass already in effect. Glad my dollars are fun to play with…….

      2. The Burien socialist city council are the devil. They count on voters not doing their homework when they vote, so they can sneak in thru the back door & push their leftist agenda with immigration attorney dollars backing them.

        They are very organized. It took a Herculean effort by local Seatac residents to over throw them from their city council.

        The socialists count on citizens not turning out to vote. When the citizens wake up and know the truth and get out & vote it would be a landslide for common sense.

        The socialists count on voter apathy so they can get their foot in the door & start making changes from the inside. They are a socialist trojan horse pushing their one world, globalist agenda down our capitalist throats.

  11. So frustrating when individuals are elected to represent their community and the wishes of their constituents but feel they are more enlightened than the majority who put them in office and vote from a feeling of power and “I know what’s right for you”. By far the majority of comments and registered voters oppose this ordinance but it passes anyways. Amazing and frustrating. Council members, you are not elected to “tell us what to do” but simply to represent us.

  12. I sort of saw this coming – expected the leftists on the council such as Lauren Berkowitz and her lackey, Austin Bell, to vote for this. After all – creating chaos and undermining the security and fabric of society is what leftists do. But so disappointing that the supposed “moderate” members of the city council would vote this way in light of the crime problems in Burien. I guess in the end, virtue signaling and moral preening ruled the day over common sense.

    Hopefully this vote, as well as the overall ineptitude of most of the Burien city council as a whole, will be an impetus for the campaigns to replace Berkowitz and Tosta from the council. If you are angry at this decision (and you should be) then channel your anger into positive action. Actively work to support the campaigns of those with common sense and the interests of the law-abiding citizens of Burien. The only way for this type of destructive idiocy to survive is for good people to do nothing.

    Don’t do nothing. We may not agree on everything – but if you think things aren’t going in the right direction – that crime is getting out of hand and we need a change in leadership, then let’s make that change happen. I truly believe that there are more of us than there are of them. This is our city. Let’s make it a city we can be proud of – that respects the law and public safety, as well as provides opportunity for businesses to flourish.

      1. Maybe a bit hyperbolic. How about, rubberstamp? disciple? errand boy, flunky. fellow traveler. Whatever he is, independent thinker he is not.

  13. Really funny what tax’s do these people pay? How many people in the school system actually pay for the system? Also what tax’s do these so called homeless people pay? Most of them are not HOMELESS. They collect funds all day and many are on SSI , and other types of help, food stamps etc. But have place’s where they live. 160th and 1 st ave couple beg all day for handouts than leave their shipping carts at the old bank drive thru and then walk to their apt on 160th toward Des Moines Memorial drive. We need to find a way to vet actual homeless people. I donate to food banks and watch people I know who actual own store’s mom and pop who get food and than sell in their own stores. Are we really helping the right people? Burien Stop giving handouts to anyone and maybe the riff raff will move on. FED UP WITH THIS COUNCIL AND THIS MAYOR WHO CAN”T SEEM TO FOCUS ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE BUT WILL GET UP AND WALK OUT IF SHE CAN”T GET HER WAY>

  14. Oh my god, you guys are so lame…

    Gangs aren’t a Burien problem, they are a regional problem.

    If someone commits a crime they’re still getting arrested. Their resident status has nothing to do with it. They do the crime, they do the time, and likely their resident status will be discovered then.

    Homelessness is the bigger issue, and most of those people are white.

    This part of the state is Blue, complaining about the “Leftists” is like complaining there’s chocolate in your chocolate ice cream.

    True, leaving a meeting you have a leadership role in before it’s over is kind of low.

    This isn’t a voting bored, it’s a message bored, it doesn’t represent the majority. Just the people who feel like being loud.

    Irony of this all: The argument that this is our community and we should take care of it, that those who live here (the community) should take ownership of the way it is run….You guys…you are literally arguing for a kind of socialism. It’s Obamacare vs. ACA all over again.

        1. Nowhere in any of those two comments does it say “The majority of Burien is for sanctuary city status”.

          What is *implied* is that the majority of Burien residents are 1.) Not going to notice a difference. 2.) Not going to care one way or the other. 3.) Possibly for it. 4.) Possibly against immigrants, illegal or otherwise, being targeted as *potentially* illegal in some way (ie, you have red hair, you MUST be a violent, drunk, dirty Irishman who can’t hold down a job). 5.) Just, in general, against indiscriminate hate.

          But, sure, the willy nilly lack of consideration of others Freedom of Thought, be it pro, anti, neutral, or oblivious, is the 100% right way to approach how the rest of Burien and the surrounding community may feel about the subject.

          1. I’m not sure where to start –

            This part of the state might be blue, but it is certainly not leftist. Moreover, I don’t remember sanctuary city status being part of the debate in any of the city council elections. So pardon us for being upset that 4 people have now decided that Burien will be a sanctuary city. We didn’t order the “chocolate ice cream” and do not want it.. These message **boards** (not bored) may or may not represent the majority of Burien voters. I guess we will find out in November when Berkowitz and Tosta are up for re-election how the people feel about 4 people deciding on this issue.

            But again – on what do you base your statement that majority of Burien residents either don’t care, are for sanctuary status, or are not going to notice? Also, pulling the hate card is what is so lame – that is always the last refuge of the left: if someone disagrees with you, label them a “hater”, that way you do not have to discuss the substance of the issues.

      1. I won’t even check my mailbox or take my garbage out without a gun anymore.

        My next door neighbor’s son is a filthy scrap metal meth addict. He and his friends sometimes sleep in cars in front of my house coming and going at all hours.

    1. For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.

      Like how toddlers are the nations deadliest shooters.

  15. Can you imagine the roles being reversed and well over 10 million illegal immigrant Americans heading south, streaming into Mexico, some selling drugs, others shooting people, many starting gangs, more overcrowding underfunded schools, most taking jobs away from their lowest skilled workers?

    Then to top it off, Mexican cities declared themselves sanctuary cities to all of the illegal Americans.

    I think the backlash would be very similar, if not much worse, to what we’re seeing here…

    Wake up America take back your country before it’s too late.

  16. One should consider how a “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy worked for the LGBT community not so long ago. Or is this just a wedge to support legalization of the undocumented?
    I am not making a judgment either way, just pointing out that this is symbolic and does not address any actual issues.

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