Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Mar 9 2016

Washington AG leads multistate support of President Obama’s policies

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that his office filed an amicus — or “friend of the court” — brief late Tuesday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow President Barack Obama’s 2014 immigration reforms to move forward after prolonged legal delays.

The case, Texas v. United States, stems from a legal challenge by Texas and other states to the president’s legal authority to implement immigration changes by executive action. The challenging states claim that the reforms will harm them, due to the costs of issuing additional driver’s licenses.

“Each day that these reforms are delayed harms Washingtonians who seek to emerge from the shadows and live and work legally to support their families,” said Ferguson. “This affects our friends, families, neighbors, and our state as a whole.” 

In Ferguson’s amicus brief to the Supreme Court, Washington, 15 other states and the District of Columbia assert that the lower courts erred in concluding that the immigration directives would harm states. Rather than presenting a burden, the president’s executive actions — enabling working families to participate more fully in American society, earn a fair, legal wage and pay their fair share of taxes — benefit the states by raising revenue and reducing demand for social services.

The states are supporting a plan announced by President Obama in 2014 that would allow as many as 4.5 million immigrants to apply for relief from deportation. If the president’s plan is allowed to proceed, certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States at least since 2010, who either were brought here as children or who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful residents, and who pass a criminal background check would be eligible to apply for deferred status and  work authorization.

In Washington alone, about 105,000 people could move into the legal workforce if President Obama’s plan took effect, increasing the state’s tax revenues by an estimated $57 million over the next five years.

The Obama administration’s reforms would also enhance public safety. Effective local law enforcement depends on a trusting relationship between police and the communities they serve, which is undermined when communities fear police will ask about immigration status. The immigration guidance would also require certain undocumented immigrants to pass criminal and national security background checks.

On Feb. 16, 2015, a federal district court judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction in the case, halting implementation of the administration’s policies. The Justice Department appealed that injunction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2 to 1 against the appeal on Nov. 9. Washington and other states had filed a separate brief with the appellate court in support of that appeal as well.

Ferguson and other states filed a brief in December urging the high court to hear the appeal of that Fifth Circuit decision and uphold the President’s actions. The court agreed to hear the case on Jan. 19, with oral arguments set for April 18. A decision is expected by the end of June.

The Washington State Attorney’s General Office authored the brief filed yesterday, which was joined by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Deputy Solicitor General Anne Egeler and Solicitor General Noah Purcell are handling this case on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov