New Law Bars Local Police in Washington From Asking Immigration Status — Unless Directly Connected to Criminal Investigation

Washington has become the latest West Coast state to enact broad sanctuary protections that restrict all local authorities from asking about people’s immigration status.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the measure last week implementing the new rules, which rank among the strongest statewide mandates in the nation. California and Oregon have similar laws.

The move comes as President Donald Trump’s administration has cracked down on immigration by increasing migrant detentions and attempting to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Under the new Washington state law, local law-enforcement agencies are broadly prohibited from asking about immigration status or place of birth unless directly connected to a criminal investigation, and both local jails and state prisons are prohibited from complying with voluntary “immigration holds” requested by federal authorities, or from notifying federal authorities when an immigrant is about to be released from their custody.

“Our state agencies are not immigration-enforcement agencies,” said Inslee, a Democrat who is also running for president. “We will not be complicit in the Trump administration’s depraved efforts to break up hardworking immigrant and refugee families.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement was critical.

“It’s unfortunate that current local and state laws and policies tie the hands of local law enforcement agencies that want and need to work with ICE to promote public safety by holding criminals accountable and providing justice and closure for their victims, “ the agency said. “ Sanctuary policies not only provide a refuge for illegal aliens, but they also shield criminal aliens who prey on people in their own and other communities.”

Republican state Sen. Phil Fortunato, who voted against the bill when it was before the Legislature, said he thought it would hamper the ability of police to take action against subjects they suspect to be illegal immigrants.

Jorge Barón, head of the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the rules would increase public safety by making migrants and their families less afraid to report crimes or come forward as witnesses.

Immigrants shouldn’t have to worry that police might demand “papers” at any moment, said Democratic state Sen. Lisa Wellman, the daughter of Jewish immigrants and the bill’s sponsor.

By Tom James for THE SEATTLE TIMES

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