While the House held hearings this week on whether President Obama (D) exceeded his executive powers on immigration policies and whether there are “biosignatures” in outer space (i.e., aliens), the most populous county in Washington state is forging ahead on an immigration-related bill to fill gaps left by Congressional inaction on immigration reform.
Local council members in King County, Washington, which covers Seattle, passed a measure by a slim margin (5–4) late Monday afternoon to limit state and local officials from upholding federal laws to detain immigrants arrested for low-level offenses. Immigrants who commit “mid-level offenses” like residential burglary, DUIs, and reckless driving will continue to be detained. The measure will only affect “individuals held in the King County Jail in Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.”
According to one study, people who are subject to detainer requests generally stay 29 days longer in jail, while not honoring the detainer request has the potential of saving King County $1.8 million a year.
King County is one of a growing number of localities that has introduced its own immigration-related bills while waiting for a permanent reform fix. Other cities include Chicago, Newark, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York City.
On the state level, Connecticut and California passed the Trust Act, which would similarly grant state and local officials greater flexibility to prioritize collaboration efforts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for immigrants who commit serious offenses. That law would affect 75,000- 100,000 undocumented immigrants living in Connecticut, and 25 to 33 times as many undocumented immigrants living in California. And in September, state officials in Massachusetts introduced its version of the Trust Act, as a way to increase public safety.
In the past year alone, 43 other states have already enacted 146 immigration-related laws and 231 resolutions. But not all of them help to expand immigrant rights — for instance, Republican-controlled legislatures were more inclined to pass enforcement legislation and to extend benefits to legal immigrants. The Indiana state legislature, for instance, moved to require immigrants to include their social security numbers when they apply for identification cards and to require state college applicants and students to verify their legal status.