Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a press conference announcing he's proposing legislation to abolish executions (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

This week, the Wash­ing­ton State Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office announced the release of new­ly-pub­lished guid­ance con­cern­ing immi­gra­tion enforce­ment, assem­bled to help local gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions rec­og­nize the lim­i­ta­tions of fed­er­al agen­cies’ pow­er to com­pel assis­tance with immi­gra­tion enforcement.

This guid­ance comes in response to Don­ald Trump’s recent puni­tive exec­u­tive orders. The Trump regime plans to increase depor­ta­tions of immi­grants who have alleged­ly com­mit­ted crimes, and is mov­ing to car­ry out those plans.

As we’ve seen from recent news cov­er­age, how­ev­er, new Amer­i­cans do not need to have com­mit­ted any crime to be tar­get­ed by fed­er­al immi­gra­tion enforcement.

The Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s guid­ance demys­ti­fies this issue by remind­ing Wash­ing­ton munic­i­pal­i­ties that mere­ly resid­ing in the coun­try with­out papers is not a crim­i­nal offense as rec­og­nized by the Supreme Court in Ari­zona v. Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.

While a num­ber of cities have claimed adopt­ed “sanc­tu­ary” res­o­lu­tions declar­ing that new Amer­i­cans will not be tar­get­ed in their juris­dic­tions, many peo­ple are unclear exact­ly what “sanc­tu­ary” means as a legal concept.

As the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s guid­ance explains, states and local gov­ern­ments have wide-rang­ing rights regard­ing their choice to imple­ment immi­gra­tion regulations:

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can­not ‘com­pel the States to enact or admin­is­ter a fed­er­al reg­u­la­to­ry pro­gram,’ or com­pel state employ­ees to par­tic­i­pate in the admin­is­tra­tion of a fed­er­al­ly enact­ed reg­u­la­to­ry scheme… Vol­un­tary coop­er­a­tion with a fed­er­al scheme does not present Tenth Amend­ment issues.

In oth­er words, when it comes to immi­gra­tion enforce­ment, states and local gov­ern­ments can­not be dep­u­tized into the ser­vice of the Immi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice or oth­er agen­cies. At the same time, the state and local juris­dic­tions may not enact laws intend­ed to obstruct immi­gra­tion enforcement.

In an all too pre­dictable move, the Trump regime has threat­ened to pull fed­er­al fund­ing from cities claim­ing sanc­tu­ary sta­tus. Fer­gu­son’s guid­ance explains the con­sti­tu­tion­al and legal lim­its the Trump regime must com­ply with.

These include a stip­u­la­tion that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can­not “use its spend­ing pow­er” to push the states into uncon­sti­tu­tion­al acts as well as a stip­u­la­tion stat­ing that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can­not remove an amount of spend­ing that would coerce the state into accept­ing fed­er­al demands. States and cities may con­test removal of fed­er­al funds on these grounds, and a few already have.

Aside from detail­ing gen­er­al rights on immi­gra­tion enforce­ment, Fer­gu­son’s guid­ance also con­tains more spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion for agen­cies such as law enforce­ment, K‑12 schools, and high­er edu­ca­tion institutions.

As read­ers know, this is not the first time Fer­gu­son and his team have chal­lenged the regime. Fer­gu­son made the nation­al news when the State of Wash­ing­ton sued the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment over its infa­mous trav­el ban and has recent­ly request­ed that U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge James Robart extend the ini­tial restrain­ing order to also block the revised ban. Now, his office has fol­lowed up on those actions by pro­vid­ing exten­sive guid­ance to local gov­ern­ments on how to con­sci­en­tious­ly respond to fed­er­al requests for assis­tance with immi­gra­tion enforcement.

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