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Washington Governor Orders State Not to Make Arrests Over Immigration Status

'Washington will not be a willing participant in promoting or carrying out mean-spirited policies that break up families,' Jay Inslee said.
Image: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, talks to reporters, as general counsel Nick Brown looks on at right, Feb. 23, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters Wednesday at the state Capitol in Olympia. His general counsel, Nick Brown, is at right.Ted S. Warren / AP

The governor of Washington signed an executive order Thursday reaffirming policies that bar state police and corrections officers from making arrests purely on immigration status in a rebuke of the Trump administration.

"Washington has always been and will always remain a place that welcomes and embraces people of all faiths, all nationalities and all orientations," Democratic Gov. Jay 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 said.

The Department of Homeland Security issued two new memos this week that expanded the pool of people in the country illegally to be deported and called for hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Related: DHS Chief Kelly Pledges 'There Will Be No Mass Deportations'

The memos also encourage empowering local law enforcement agencies to help enforce immigration laws in coordination with ICE under the 287(g) program, which was enacted in a 1996 law under President Bill Clinton.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Thursday that "there will be no mass deportations" and that "the focus of deportation will be on the criminal element."

ICE says that it has agreements with 37 law enforcement agencies in 16 states and that most of the more than 400,000 people identified as potentially removable from 2006 through September 2015 were identified at local jails.

Other local governments have said they will resist cooperating with some immigration enforcement actions under Trump.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that while police will work with federal authorities to "to remove individuals who are proven public safety threats," he said NYPD officers will not act as immigration agents.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and several state commissioners, including the commissioner of the Corrections Department, issued recommendations that local law enforcement should not take action solely on immigration law and reminded departments that ICE detainer requests for those in custody are only requests and not arrest warrants.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said his department is committed to a longstanding policy of not making arrests based solely on immigration status.

Related: DHS Immigration Crackdown: What You Need to Know

Inslee, a vocal Trump critic, signed his executive order a day after lawyers for a so-called "Dreamer" arrested by ICE earlier this month again asked a court to release him immediately.

The Department of Homeland Security says Daniel Ramirez Medina, 23, who was brought to the country from Mexico when he was 7, has admitted gang ties. His attorneys have denied that and say the claims are fabricated, and they have argued that Ramirez twice passed background checks required by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects those brought to the United States as children. A judge previously refused to grant his release

Inslee's order says the Washington State Patrol and the state Corrections Department can't make arrests based solely on immigration status unless required to do so by federal law. Inslee said he doesn't believe the executive order changes existing state patrol rules.

"Under this executive order, we are not obviating federal law," Inslee said at a news conference. "If there is a federal or criminal arrest warrant, we will honor it."

The order also says state agencies can't inquire about immigration status just to determine whether someone is in the country illegally, and it orders that agencies continue to provide services regardless of immigration status.

Related: Drug Smugglers From Mexico Increasingly Use Border Checkpoints

Trump threatened in an executive order to withhold some federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. Inslee, who backed a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general that blocked the president's so-called travel ban said he wasn't concerned.

"If they think they're going to jerk the state's Medicaid money because we won't become mini-ICE agents, they're wrong," Inslee said. "It's not going to happen. They're going to lose in court."

The governor said there was some question about a "modest" amount of federal grants, but he said he was confident that if it was attempted, the state would challenge it and win.

The governor's executive order says that undocumented immigrants made up nearly 5 percent of the state's workforce in 2012 and that they paid nearly $311 million in state and local taxes. It says the state would lose $6.4 billion in gross revenue and nearly 72,000 jobs if everyone in Washington illegally were removed.

Related: Trump Enforcement Plan Has Immigrants Bracing for Raids, Crackdowns

How broadly the expanded DHS guidelines on immigration might be implemented is not fully clear.

One of the DHS memos says removal should be prioritized for those convicted of any criminal offense, as well as for those who have been charged but not convicted and those who "have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense." It includes those who have engaged in fraud or "willful misrepresentation" or who "have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said this week that "under this new guidance, 11 million undocumented immigrants are now priorities for deportation." She called the new guideline "simply unparalleled in its meanness, scope and most likely its enforceability."