SPOKANE, WASH. - Last Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5497, immigrants in the workplace bill, but some have started to call this new bill the Sanctuary State law.
"We will not be complicit in the Trump administration's deprived efforts to break up a hardworking immigrant and refugee families here that are still right there with," Gov. Inslee said during the bill's signing.
Similar to laws Oregon and California have already passed under Washington's new law; local law enforcement is banned from asking about someone's immigration status unless it's part of a criminal investigation. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says that's never happened anyway
"I've been in law enforcement for 29 years. I have never asked anybody for their immigration status. I have never heard of anyone asking about immigration status. The only time that ever comes up is if we're playing the name game and we finally find that oh okay you are in the country illegally," Sheriff Knezovich told KHQ's, Peter Maxwell.
This law goes against federal detainer requests which let local police put someone in jail for 48 hours on an immigration hold on behalf of ice. Spokane County already goes against those requests unless that person has a criminal warrant. The reason stems from a man named Gabriel Gomez, who was Spokane police unlawfully put in jail in 2014 after a car accident. His lawsuit was settled in 2018.
While the law aims to protect immigrants, Sheriff Knezovich says it'll hurt law enforcement's efforts to build working relationships in immigrant communities.
"To continue to push this lie hurts us within the immigrant community. Regardless if you're here in the county legally or illegally, we need to be able to have the trust and the confidence that if you come to us about a criminal issue. We're going to deal with the criminal issue and not send you immediately back on a bus somewhere," said Sheriff Knezovich.
This law also prevents any local authorities from sharing private information with the feds about people they have in custody. Sheriff Knezovich says that's one part he won't be following.
"If we arrest somebody whose here illegally we will notify our federal partners because the last thing I want to do is release someone really dangerous back onto the street because I didn't check those bases," the sheriff added.
Knezovich says he isn't afraid of the governor, but he wants to make it clear he'll continue enforcing federal law.
"I've got news for the governor. I intend to fully help our federal partners take criminals off our street regardless of their immigration status. That's just going to happen that way. He doesn't really have that authority. In my opinion, one of two things he should be held in contempt of Congress because Congress passed that law or he should be arrested for obstruction of justice," said Sheriff Knezovich.
KHQ did reach out to the Governor Inslee's office for comment regarding the sheriff's remarks, and their office said: "This bill makes it clear that we will not allow the federal government to commandeer state and local resources for purposes of federal immigration enforcement."