After four weeks of chaotic, rapid-fire executive orders from the Trump administration that attempt to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and could deport millions of undocumented immigrants living in the US, Washington governor Jay Inslee has issued an executive order of his own: one that expressly prohibits state agencies from inquiring about a person's immigration status, participating in federal immigration raids, or aiding in the creation of a religious registry.
At a morning press conference in Olympia, Inslee announced that Washington "will not be a willing participant in mean-spirited policies that break up families and compromise our national security, and most importantly our community safety."
The executive order clarifies existing state law on these matters, Inslee's general counsel Nick Brown told reporters, in order to head off Trump administration policies that impact Washington residents. Undocumented immigrants make up nearly 5 percent of Washington's workforce and dreamers—immigrants brought to the United States as children who are legally authorized to be here under the Obama-era Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program (DACA)—number more than 17,000 in the state.
Because of the Trump administration's actions to date, Inslee said, some undocumented grade school students are afraid to come to school, and people are disenrolling from state resources for fear of being reported to the federal government. Witnesses to crimes, he added, are regularly too afraid to speak to state law enforcement officers for fear that their immigration status will get them deported. The executive order, he said, would allow state agencies—including state law enforcement—to do their jobs.
Inslee stressed that the new executive order would not contradict federal law, and if the federal government has a warrant for a criminal arrest, state agencies would honor that directive. At the same time, he said, state agencies would not participate in federal civil immigration raids that President Trump has now characterized as a "military operation."
Trump has ordered that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents crack down on undocumented communities and deport them as quickly as possible. He's also threatened to withhold federal funding from so-called "sanctuary" cities and jurisdictions, a term that has come to cover a wide range of policies attempting to afford undocumented residents some rights.
At the press conference, Inslee said that he believed his executive order would render legislative attempts to make Washington a "sanctuary state" unnecessary.
"If [the White House] thinks they're going to jerk away the state's Medicaid money because we won't become mini-ICE agents, they're wrong," Inslee said.