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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Senate passes immigration law restricting federal arrests

OLYMPIA – Federal officials could not arrest people for civil violations such as some immigration offenses in or around local courthouses in most circumstances without a judge’s order, under a bill that received final legislative approval Wednesday.

Judges and other court officials also could not inquire about a person’s immigration or citizenship status under the bill, described by supporters as a way of ensuring justice for all residents. Critics, however, said it would make people going to the courts and the surrounding communities less safe.

“All residents of our state ought to have access to our courts to seek justice,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said.

In testimony for the bill, some people contended federal immigration officials use the courts as “traps” to catch undocumented immigrants who are coming to testify, pay fines or seek court orders.

The bill forbids most warrantless arrests for people going to or coming from court proceedings within a mile of the courthouse. It makes exceptions for arrests with a signed court order, or to protect the safety of court staff or the public or “where circumstances otherwise permit warrantless arrests.”

Opponents said it will hurt cooperation between local and federal law enforcement officers. It might even prevent victims of crimes from coming to the courthouse because they fear criminals near the courthouse, Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said.

“There are some very, very bad people out there that we’re not going to be able to arrest,” she said.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the 1-mile radius is a problem for some Eastern Washington communities. In Garfield County, the entire city of Pomeroy is within a mile of the courthouse, he said.

The bill was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee on a 28-20 partisan vote.