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Washington declared 'sanctuary state' as governor looks to stand out in crowded 2020 race

Washington declared 'sanctuary state' as governor looks to stand out in crowded 2020 race
Washington has passed a law barring authorities from questioning people's immigration status – what Governor Jay Inslee boasts is the strongest 'sanctuary state' law in the US, netting him progressive cred for the 2020 election.

The law prohibits local law enforcement from asking about immigration status or place of birth unless directly related to a criminal investigation and bars jails and prisons from cooperating in "immigration holds" – detentions requested by federal immigration authorities that are often a precursor to deportation proceedings. Authorities are also barred from sharing prisoners' citizenship data or release dates with immigration authorities.

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"Our state agencies are not immigration enforcement agencies," Inslee declared after signing the law on Tuesday, boasting that Washington "will not be complicit in the Trump administration's depraved efforts to break up hardworking immigrant and refugee families."

Seeking to distinguish himself among a crowded field of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Inslee has promised to address the problem of migrants crossing the Mexican border illegally by "attacking climate change," claiming "not all of them, but a lot of them" are "climate refugees." While the governor unveiled a sweeping $9 trillion "climate change plan" earlier this month, several other candidates have put forth similar measures; so far, he appears to be the only one to merge the two issues.

Not everyone was thrilled by Washington turning a blind eye to illegal immigrants. "This not only puts law enforcement at risk, it puts private citizens at risk," Republican state Senator Phil Fortunato told reporters, warning that the law would impede police's ability to take action against suspects believed to be illegals.

Inslee had already imposed 'sanctuary state' requirements on state agencies with an executive order in 2017, but the new law extends the protections to the local level, which generates the majority of deportations, immigration attorney Lena Graber told AP, praising the law as "the strongest and most comprehensive state law on sanctuary in the country."

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The new law makes Washington the sixth state to declare immigration status off-limits. While California is the best-known sanctuary state, having passed a statewide moratorium on collaboration between local authorities and immigration cops in January 2018, Oregon, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Illinois, and Connecticut also have laws barring local authorities from working with federal law enforcement on immigration matters. Maine is weighing up a similar proposal.

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