Constantine blasts Burien 'anti-immigrant' letter

KING 5's Chris Daniels reports.

King County Executive Dow Constantine publicly condemned a flyer which he says was designed to intimidate immigrant groups in Burien. 

But two different Burien City Council candidates fired back, accusing the Executive of politicking for election day.

It all revolves around a letter, and map, sent out by "Respect Washington." It identifies names and addresses of people called "Illegal Aliens and Gang Criminals."  The letter also encourages people to vote for four different candidates for Burien City Council that will "save Burien" and "reject lawlessness."

"It's nothing but fearmongering and intimidation," said Constantine at a press conference surrounded by Burien citizens and civil rights leaders.  

He targeted Respect Washington in particular and said the letter did not speak for people in Burien.

"It's horrible, it's horrible," said Hugo Garcia, a longtime Burien resident. "The racial tension you see right now is at an all time high."  He added, "This could lead to some vigilante, hard, nasty criminal things. It's scary. I've been here a long time, and I've been here over 20 plus years. I emigrated here from Mexico when I was 8 years old, and it's the worst I've ever seen."

The letter came after a protracted fight in the city over Sanctuary City status. A petition to put the issue and revoke the status was rejected by a judge.  Respect Washington says the letter was sent to people who signed the petition.

But two candidates, mentioned in the letter, accused Constantine of using the letter for electioneering.

"We were as shocked as anyone else," said Debi Wagner, a current Burien City Councilmember. 

She and Darla Green say they weren't invited to Constantine's press conference to denounce the flyers and noted how a speaker made a pitch to cast ballots for their opponents.

"What they did today was electioning and politicking plain and simple," said Green, who runs a business in downtown Burien.

"The other candidates running against us want to brand us an anti-immigrants. It's completely false and untrue," said Wagner. "Crime comes in all shapes and sizes and colors in our community."

Green described she and Wagner as "fiscally conservative candidates who want what is best for Burien."

Craig Keller, who heads up Respect Washington, acknowledged late Monday that the candidates had nothing to do with the flyers.

© 2017 KING-TV


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