By Enrique Pérez de la Rosa, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order on February 23 to limit state agencies’ help in enforcing federal civil immigration laws.
With the governor’s order, Washington state agencies are prohibited from demanding documents regarding a person’s immigration status or religion, and they are not allowed to enforce or assist in the enforcement of any religion-based registry.
According to the governor’s office, Executive Order 17-01 is a response to various anti-immigration policies from President Donald Trump’s administration. The order is meant to reaffirm the state’s commitment to tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness, Inslee stated.
“In Washington state, we know this: we do not discriminate based on someone’s race, religion, ethnicity or national origin. That remains true even as federal policies create such uncertain times,” Inslee said at a press conference following his signing of the order. “But there should be nothing uncertain about where we stand as elected leaders in the state of Washington.”
Agencies also are prohibited from using state money or property to apprehend people who have violated federal civil immigration laws. However, Inslee made it clear that if there is a federal criminal arrest warrant on an individual, the state will honor it.
The order also states that the Washington State Patrol, the Department of Corrections or any state agency with arrest powers shall not arrest a person simply for violating a federal immigration law.
“Simply being undocumented is not a crime,” said Nick Brown, the general counsel for Inslee, at the press conference.
Washington state has recently gained national attention for battling against the Trump administration’s tough policies on immigration.
In January, Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against President Donald Trump’s order prohibiting entry to the U.S. of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa. A Seattle U.S. District Court judge ruled against the order, halting its implementation.
On February 9, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against the Trump administration, continuing to block the enforcement of the travel ban.
In the House, Democrats have introduced bills to protect state residents from Trump’s executive orders.
HB 2097, sponsored by representative Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), seeks to prohibit state or local government agencies from providing, collecting and disclosing information pertaining to someone’s religion.
HB 1988, sponsored by representative Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo), would create a new process for immigrant youth ages 18 to 21 to petition a court for a guardian if they have been abandoned or abused by one or both parents.
Ortiz-Self also sponsored HB 2029, which would create a toll-free telephone hotline and website for individuals seeking information or assistance on immigration law and citizenship.
All three bills received do-pass recommendations from the House Judiciary Committee February 16 and were referred to the House Rules Committee the next day.
(This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. Reach reporter Enrique Pérez de la Rosa at firstname.lastname@example.org)