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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Fortunato bill would end sanctuary cities

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 3, 2019

OLYMPIA – Washington shouldn’t be a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants, and its cities shouldn’t be allowed to declare themselves sanctuary cities, a Republican state senator running for governor said Monday.

Sen. Phil Fortunato, of Auburn, filed a proposal for the upcoming 2020 legislative session that he said would require state and local law enforcement officials to help enforce federal immigration laws. Currently, state and local officials require warrants to release people arrested for local violations into the custody of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“These are bad people doing bad things,” Fortunato said minutes before filing the bill, which would overturn portions of this year’s Keep Washington Working Act.

That law calls for the state to develop policies to limit immigration enforcement in public schools, health facilities, courthouses and shelters so that people have safe access regardless of citizenship status.

The effect of that law, Fortunato said, is to make Washington a sanctuary state.

The state also requires federal agencies to present valid warrants to arrest people in local custody.

Some cities have passed laws limiting inquiries by government officials about a person’s immigration status. In 2014, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance that doesn’t allow police to ask about a person’s immigration status.

That creates a “hodgepodge” of rules across the state, he said. If his bill were to become law, cities would have 90 days to repeal their ordinances. Undocumented immigrants could not be detained just because they were a crime victim, a witness or reported a crime.

Passing the bill may be difficult with Democrats holding strong majorities in both chambers, but Fortunato suggested it could become a campaign issue in 2020 with an opportunity for voters “to see which of our legislators is willing to protect the citizens of Washington state.”

Fortunato himself is one of four Republicans who have currently announced a run against Democrat Jay Inslee, who is seeking a third term next year. Inslee supported the Keep Washington Working Act, and signed it saying the state would not “be part of mean-spirited national polices that break up families and compromise our nation’s security and our communities’ safety.”

Editor’s note: Under the bill, undocumented immigrants could not be detained just because they were a crime victim, a witness or reported a crime. An earlier version of this story said otherwise. This story was changed on Dec. 3, 2019 to correct the error.

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