Gov. Jay Inslee announced an executive order aimed at restricting state agencies from helping enforce federal immigration laws.

Share story

OLYMPIA — In his latest salvo against the Trump administration’s policies, Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at restricting state workers and agencies from helping enforce federal immigration laws.

The order is part of an effort by Inslee and other Democrats to hinder President Donald Trump’s aggressive moves against immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday discusses his executive order limiting the state’s involvement in immigration enforcement, as well as other Washington actions against the Trump administration.

It remains to be seen if the order — which seeks to prevent the use of state resources to aid widespread deportations or the creation of a national Muslim registry — will have any concrete effects.

The order will not change current practices of the Washington State Patrol or the Department of Social and Health Services, officials at those agencies said.

But in a news conference, the governor said the order sends a message about Washington state’s values.

“This executive order makes clear that Washington will not be a willing participant in promoting or carrying out mean-spirited policies that break up families and compromise our national security and, importantly, our community safety,” Inslee said.

The order, however, will not interfere with federal law, and “if there is a federal criminal arrest warrant, we will honor it,” he said.

He said the goal of the executive order is to make sure state workers remain focused on their jobs, not on enforcing immigration statutes. Fears of deportation could lead undocumented immigrants to bypass state services or cooperate with law enforcement investigating crimes, Inslee said.

Inslee has emerged in recent weeks as a leading voice against the Trump administration, railing against the administration’s actions over the Affordable Care Act, federal protections for transgender students and immigration policy.

In response to a Washington lawsuit supported by Inslee, a federal judge in Seattle earlier this month blocked enforcement of Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

And in December, Inslee directed his staff to figure out what types of state data the federal government could use to learn someone’s nationality or citizenship status.

That directive examined agencies such as the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Licensing to see what information they collect on state residents.

Nick Brown, Inslee’s general counsel, said Thursday’s executive order helps clarify for state workers what they can and can’t do regarding immigrants and refugees.

“What we’ve seen over the last month or so is a lot of confusion, about what is the proper role of state actors and state law enforcement,” Brown said. “It doesn’t dramatically change existing state law or existing state policies, but it does bring some really needed clarity around those issues.”

The order directs state agencies to refrain from inquiring about a person’s immigration status for the sole purpose of determining whether someone has complied with immigration laws, such as those related to work permits or alien registration.

The order maintains the State Patrol’s existing policy of not stopping, detaining or interrogating people solely to determine their immigration status, said Kyle Moore, State Patrol spokesman.

Likewise, state agencies under the order are not allowed to aid or enforce any federal program to register people on their basis of religion. That part takes aim at the prospect at a national Muslim registry, which some Trump supporters have suggested.

The order also bars state agencies from discriminating against people based on national origin. And it says agencies cannot refuse services to people because of their immigration status, except as required by state or federal law.

 

The order is part of a broader, nationwide push by Democrats aimed at limiting the Trump administration’s agenda on refugees and immigrants who lack legal status to be in the country.

Democratic officials in states such as California, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon have pushed to shield state data from the federal government.

Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced an executive order to stop that state’s agencies from helping the federal government deport immigrants without proper documentation or create a Muslim registry.

In Olympia, Democratic lawmakers have filed bills in the House and Senate to keep Washington state from sharing information about a person’s religious affiliation for the purpose of setting up a database based on religion.

HB 2097, sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, would limit the disclosure of certain information related to religious affiliation. The House Judiciary Committee last week voted to approve that bill.

Republican state legislative leaders, however, have been cool to the idea on proposals aimed at protecting against deportations.

“I think we’re going to focus on jobs, education and budget issues,” GOP Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said recently. “I think we’ll leave some of those other things to somebody else.”