A bill passed today by the Washington State Senate would ensure that state and local agencies focus on the needs of Washingtonians instead of doing the work of federal immigration officials. The bill passed on a vote of 30 to 16.

Senate Bill 5497, the Keep Washington Working Act, would limit the amount of information that state and local agencies share with federal immigration officials, and joint immigration enforcement activities. It is sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island).

 “We’re a nation of immigrants; that is the foundation that the United States was built on,” Wellman said. “Our country thrives when we welcome the hard-working people who come to our country and boost our economy. Agencies must do their part in safeguarding the rights of our immigrants.”

“This bill also ensures that our tax money pays for Washington services and Washington values,” she added.

Wellman worked with state agencies and law enforcement while crafting the bill. It is supported by Gov. Jay Inslee and by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, whose letter of support can be found here.

In addition to imposing limits on information sharing and joint immigration enforcement activities, the Keep Washington Working Act requires that state agencies provide services regardless of a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Agencies would develop and implement secure information systems to use when storing information about people who use state services and facilities.

A statewide Keep Washington Working workgroup would work within the state Department of Commerce to develop strategies to expand immigrants’ career pathways within Washington state.

“We need local law enforcement to do its job effectively. That means keeping communities safe, and we need all Washington residents to feel safe so they can focus on school and work,” said Rep. Lilian Ortiz-Self, who introduced the House companion bill. “This legislation helps students do better in school and workers do their jobs knowing they are valued and respected. The result will be communities that flourish and businesses that grow.”

SB 5497 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.