Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Guide to local responsibilities and protecting residents

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today released guidance for local governments on protecting the rights of all Washington residents, and the limits of federal immigration authority.

Ferguson’s extensive guidance addresses local law enforcement, jails, public hospitals, schools and employers, as well as interactions between local jurisdictions and federal authorities. It includes model language that can be used to enact laws and policies on how local government entities should respond to federal requests for assistance with immigration enforcement.

“Recent changes in federal immigration policy and practices have caused needless fear and uncertainty in our communities,” Ferguson said. “This guidance helps local governments protect their residents and understand their obligations and their authority in this shifting landscape.”

Non-citizens — like other Washingtonians — are afforded certain rights by the Washington and United States constitutions and by federal and state laws that protect rights to access services and to privacy in many settings. Local entities are subject to certain requirements under the law but also retain significant discretion in many areas, regardless of whether an individual is lawfully present in the United States.

For example: No federal law requires a local police department to engage in law enforcement activities for the sole purpose of enforcing civil immigration law.

Another example: Local governments and private organizations are not required to allow immigration authorities to enter non-public areas of a building without a warrant signed by a judge.

Another example: K-12 schools are not required to collect information about student or parent immigrant status and are not required to share information with federal immigration authorities about student addresses, class schedules, or activities.

This guide is not meant to assist individuals with immigration issues. The Attorney General’s Office does not represent individuals in private legal matters.

Those in need of individual assistance should contact a reputable source such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Eligibility requirements are available online in English and Spanish here. Assistance is available for residents across Washington and those detained at the Northwest Detention Center.

More information on how to find reliable assistance with immigration issues, and avoid scammers, is available here.


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