Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jun 23 2016

Washington AG led states’ support of reform effort

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court by a 4-4 vote today blocked President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive actions to reform our country’s immigration system.

In Washington alone, the President’s actions would have allowed 105,000 people to move into the legal workforce, increasing the state’s tax revenues by an estimated $57 million over the next five years.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief urging the Court to hear the case and uphold the President’s actions.

“This is a deeply disappointing decision for immigrant families, and a missed opportunity to build stronger communities where no one is forced to live in the shadows,” Ferguson said. 

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

The case, United States v. Texas, stems from a legal challenge by Texas and other states to the president’s legal authority to implement immigration changes by executive action.

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.

In the amicus brief to the Supreme Court filed December 2015, the states argued 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 — would have benefited the states by raising revenue and reducing demand for social services.

The Obama administration’s reforms would have also enhanced 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 have also required certain undocumented immigrants to pass criminal and national security background checks.

Deputy Solicitor General Anne Egeler and Solicitor General Noah Purcell handled 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