OLYMPIA, Wash. (Mar. 1, 2015) – A Washington bill that would ban the state from using resources to assist with enforcement of some federal immigration programs, effectively nullifying them, has passed two House committees.
Titled the Washington Family Unity Act, HB1716 prohibits state law or local enforcement agencies from holding any person solely on the basis of an immigration detainer, and bans them from entering into agreements to assist ICE with immigration enforcement.
HB1716 passed the House Committee on Public Safety 5-4 on Feb. 20. The bill moved on to the Committee on General Government & Information Technology where it also passed on Feb. 23. The vote total wasn’t readily available.
The bill now moves on to the House Rules Committee where it must pass before going on to the full House for consideration.
If ultimately passed, the legislation would bar state and local law enforcement in Washington from providing several modes of assistance to federal immigration enforcement. It would:
Prohibit a law enforcement agency (LEA) from detaining any person on the basis of an immigration detainer or administrative warrant after the person becomes eligible for release.
Prohibit denial of bail solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or administrative warrant.
Prohibit a LEA from assisting an immigration agent or expending state or local resources to comply with an immigration detainer, administrative warrant, or other noncriminal immigration enforcement.
Prohibit a LEA from entering into an agreement that permits the LEA to enforce federal civil immigration law.
The legislation rests on the well-established anti-commandeering doctrine. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot compel states to cooperate with enforcement or implementation of its programs or mandates. The findings section of HB1716 builds on this legal principle.
The legislature finds that immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government. The undertaking of immigration enforcement by state and local law enforcement agencies undermines their ability to carry out their primary missions, can result in constitutional violations, and puts local jurisdictions at risk of incurring liability.
Should HB1716 pass, Washington would become the third state implement such a law, along with California and Connecticut. With state-level resistance to federal marijuana prohibition reaching historic levels, this represents an expansion of the nullification movement on the left.
“Look, we don’t believe that progressives are with us on many issues, like health care and gun control,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director said. “And conservatives often aren’t with us on issues like hemp and marijuana. But the fact is, the federal government doesn’t have the authority to compel states to do virtually anything, and people on both sides are learning to say ‘No.’”
Boldin said he considered this an educational tool for activists.
“The most successful nullification efforts in modern times, marijuana and hemp farming, have come from the left,” he said. “This happens because even when the feds push back, they continue on with what they want to do in their states anyway. The right should learn from this and take the same approach on issues important to them.”
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