Inslee signs executive order protecting rights, services for Washingtonian immigrants

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order today affirming and clarifying Washington state’s policies for state agencies who provide services to immigrant Washingtonians.

“Washington has always been and will always remain a place that welcomes and embraces people of all faiths, all nationalities and all orientations,” Inslee said. “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 community safety.”

Inslee announced Executive Order №17–1 Thursday morning alongside a crowd of Washington state-elected officials.

Gov. Jay Inslee signing his executive order reaffirming Washington’s commitment to tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness joined by General Counsel Nick Brown in the Governor’s Office in Olympia, Wash., Feb. 23, 2017. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

The order, effective immediately upon Inslee’s signature, reiterates Washington’s continued commitment to its policies on services to immigrants and outlines additional actions to ensure state agencies are clear on their expected roles and responsibilities with respect to law enforcement and data collection.

The executive order states that, to the full extent allowed under federal law, state agencies will not deny services on the basis of citizenship or legal status, will not collect information beyond what is necessary to perform agency duties and will not use agency resources to assist with creation of a registry based on religion or apprehension of persons for civil immigration infractions.

Inslee’s executive order emphasizes the many ways that immigrants contribute significantly to Washington’s economy, enrich the state’s culture and communities, and proudly sacrifice to keep us safe.

  • Immigrants compose 17 percent of Washington’s workforce and contribute more than $2.4 billion in state and local taxes.
  • More than 17,000 aspiring young Dreamers call Washington home and are seeking educational and career opportunities to become productive Washingtonians.
  • Soldiers of many faiths serve side by side in the Washington National Guard while nationwide, tens of thousands of immigrants serve in the armed forces.

Inslee’s executive order does not conflict with efforts by state or federal officials to uphold the law. U.S. law set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States in 2012 upheld that state and local law enforcement agencies are generally prohibited from arresting people solely for violation of civil immigration laws.

“Our officers are here to keep the public safe by enforcing the criminal laws, not to act as ICE officers or enforce civil violations,” Inslee said.

Inslee noted that actions by national leaders are having a real-world impact in Washington. State agencies have reported to the governor that some immigrants, including those here legally, have stopped accepting services because they fear what the federal government might do with the information they have to submit to the state.

Gov. Inslee with legislators during the media availability for executive order 17–01, reaffirming Washington’s commitment to tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness in Olympia, Wash., Feb. 23, 2017. (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

“We applaud Governor Inslee for reaffirming that Washington state is and should remain a welcoming and inclusive community for all of its residents,” said Jorge Baron, executive director of Northwest Immigration Rights Project. “We welcome the governor’s directive that state resources should not be used in the enforcement of federal immigration law or in the implementation of any federal program that discriminates against people on the basis of their religious affiliation.”

“Governor Inslee’s immigration executive order released today is an important step in recognizing the role that Washington’s immigrants play in keeping our state’s economy and communities thriving, vibrant and welcoming to all,” said Annie Benson, Senior Directing Attorney of the Washington Defender Association. “The executive order reaffirms Washington state’s commitment to all of our residents. The new administration has unleashed an unnecessary and dangerous deportation dragnet that will have devastating consequences to our communities and our economy. This dragnet will undermine the safety of us all. This dragnet has already sent waves of fear and confusion rippling through our communities. We stand with Governor Inslee and are grateful for his leadership to resist the Trump Administration’s backward and harmful immigration policies. We will continue to work with the governor and Washington’s local governments to take all available measures to defend and protect our immigrants, their families and our communities.”