NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Attorney General Bob Ferguson issues immigration guidance to local governments

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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