Padden: Repeal unconstitutional laws that interfere with immigration law enforcement

SPOKANE VALLEY…On June 22, Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a notice in a pending federal court case stipulating that Washington cannot enforce the 2021 Democrat-sponsored ban on private prisons and detention centers (RCW 70.395.030).

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, sees the move as justification for repealing the law, which he tried to do in 2023 with  Senate Bill 5055.

The plaintiff in The Geo Group, Inc. v. Jay Inslee and Bob Ferguson argues that the ban is unconstitutional based on the Supremacy Clause because it is preempted by federal immigration law. Washington’s law would prevent the federal government from contracting with private companies, like the Geo Group, to operate detention centers for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Geo Group filed a similar suit against Gov. Newsom for a ban on private incarceration in California. A 2022 opinion in that case, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sided with the plaintiff, putting the status of Washington’s ban in question.

Even before the 2022 opinion in Geo Group v. Newsom, Padden recognized the ban is unconstitutional and unenforceable. But the Democrat chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee refused to give his repeal bill (SB 5055) a hearing. The bill will get a second chance in 2024.

“By stipulating that Washington will not enforce its law prohibiting private incarceration, the governor and the attorney general are conceding that the ban has constitutional flaws and will be overturned. That’s the logical assumption based on the Court’s opinion in GEO v. Newsom. And it’s why I’ll be continuing my work to repeal the ban.

“Banning the federal government, among others, from contracting to use private detention centers, and preventing existing contracts from being renewed, impedes federal immigration policy. The federal government has relied on private detention centers for decades. Whether or not Washington legislators agree with that policy is moot when they overstep their constitutional limits.

“The Democratic process matters, but the Democrat majority here in Washington chose to ignore the glaring mistake at the core of their ban – disregarding the U.S. Constitution. Now that the governor and the attorney general have recognized the law is unenforceable, the majority should view SB 5055 as a reasonable solution and give it a hearing this year.”