Cities don’t have to help federal officers enforce civil immigration law. Organizations aren’t required to allow immigration agents to enter non-public areas without a warrant. Schools don’t have to document the immigration status of their students.
These are just a few of the pieces of legal advice Attorney General Bob Ferguson has compiled in a 104-page report that he says aims to provide guidance to local governments “on protecting the rights of all Washington residents, and the limits of federal immigration authority.”
At first glance, the report seems to be a resistor’s guide to municipal government. As Ferguson’s office puts it in a press release: “Ferguson’s extensive guidance addresses local law enforcement, jails, public hospitals, schools and employers, as well as interactions between local jurisdictions and federal authorities. It includes model language that can be used to enact laws and policies on how local government entities should respond to federal requests for assistance with immigration enforcement.”
Little wonder what prompted the report. As President Donald Trump ramps up immigration enforcement, a war of rhetoric has erupted over what role local governments should play in it. Most attention has been paid to so-called “detainer requests,” in which immigration officials request local jails who are detaining undocumented immigrants to hold them until they can come get them. The practice has been ruled unconstitutional by some courts, who have found that it amounts to being detained with no due process. However, the Trump administration has insisted that not respecting detainer requests amounts to aiding and abetting criminals.
But as Ferguson’s report shows, there’s almost no aspect of government that doesn’t come into contact with undocumented residents, opening up a series of questions about what local governments are obliged to do when it comes to enforcement of immigration law.
“Non-citizens — like other Washingtonians — are afforded certain rights by the Washington and United States constitutions and by federal and state laws that protect rights to access services and to privacy in many settings. Local entities are subject to certain requirements under the law but also retain significant discretion in many areas, regardless of whether an individual is lawfully present in the United States,” Ferguson’s office said in the press release.
“Recent changes in federal immigration policy and practices have caused needless fear and uncertainty in our communities,” Ferguson said in the press release. “This guidance helps local governments protect their residents and understand their obligations and their authority in this shifting landscape.”
The full report can be found here.