Ferguson ‘guidance’ on flouting immigration law goes too far, Padden says

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OLYMPIA – Sen. Mike Padden is questioning new “guidance” from the state Attorney General’s Office that could serve as an instruction manual for public agencies seeking to flout federal immigration laws.

Padden, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said Attorney General Bob Ferguson undermines respect for the law with his 101-page document outlining strategies for state and local-government agencies to avoid cooperating with federal immigration officials.

“Political correctness is one thing, but this guidance from the attorney general’s office goes too far,” said Padden, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “We are a nation of laws, and our state’s attorney general is saying we are free to ignore some of them.”

Padden, a former Spokane County District Court judge, outlined his concerns in an April 14 letter to Ferguson. Padden noted:

  • Legal guidance from the state’s top legal officer will be seen as a requirement by law enforcement and other public agencies.
  • The guidance sets up a Catch-22. Agencies that don’t follow it could be sued by third-party organizations. Yet if they take Ferguson’s advice, they face potential liability for failing to follow federal law, and could lose federal funding.
  • Ferguson apparently consulted only with organizations that agreed with his agenda – not prosecutors, courts, law enforcement agencies, or the public agencies he represents.
  • By urging public agencies to impede federal law enforcement activities, Ferguson puts public safety and federal dollars at risk.

Nearly two weeks after the letter was sent, Ferguson still has not responded to the concerns it raised. Padden’s letter contained a public records request for all communications regarding the development of Ferguson’s legal guidance. Although Ferguson’s office replied to the public records request, it has provided no response to the remainder of the letter. The attorney general’s response to the records request also does not comply with the state Public Records Act, which requires the office to estimate when it will produce specific records. The office has merely offered an estimate of when it will provide its estimate.

Padden said non-cooperation with federal law enforcement officials raises public safety concerns. His committee recently learned of a disturbing incident in Snohomish County, one of the most flagrant non-cooperating jurisdictions in the nation, according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security. An illegal alien who had been booked into the Snohomish County Jail on a DUI offense was about to be released. But when an agent of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency showed up to collect Mario Escobar-Gutierrez on Feb. 22, jail officials refused to release the man into his custody. They required the agent to wait outside. When the agent tried to arrest Gutierrez, he assaulted the officer and escaped, according to a police report.

“This incident demonstrates the danger to public safety that is inherent in Ferguson’s position,” Padden said. “It is a questionable use of his office to urge public agencies to impede federal officers as they attempt to enforce the law. And it raises a larger issue. Shouldn’t public safety be our top priority?

“We are waiting to hear from the attorney general. In the meantime, the public needs to know about the dangers that have been created by Ferguson’s conception of the law.”