King County OKs 'don't ask' law on immigration

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010239399_immigrant10m.html.

King County will continue providing services to residents without regard to citizenship or immigration status, under an ordinance adopted Monday by a divided County Council.

By Keith Ervin

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County will continue providing services to residents without regard to citizenship or immigration status, under an ordinance adopted Monday by a divided County Council.

The council voted 5-4 for the law, which sponsor Larry Gossett said is intended to discourage racial profiling and “ratchet down the fear level” when people who are in the country illegally seek public-health services or deal with sheriff’s deputies.

The law, which prohibits sheriff’s deputies from asking about people’s immigration status in most circumstances, continues current practices of the Sheriff’s Office and Public Health — Seattle & King County, Gossett said. “The reason we wanted to codify it is in a few years there will be different members on the King County Council and a different executive.”

The Metropolitan King County Council passed the ordinance after sheriff’s spokesman John Urquhart said the county’s “don’t ask” policy has assisted law enforcement. “We could not do our job,” he said, “if people were afraid to come to us as victims, as witnesses to crimes, if they were afraid that they were going to be deported over it.”

Public Health Director David Fleming said, “Denying access to care because of citizenship status is not good medicine and is not cost-effective.”

But council member Kathy Lambert said after voting against the ordinance, “We’ve been doing this since before 1992, so why do we have to put it in code?”

Lambert said she believes the county jails should investigate the citizenship of repeat offenders — something they don’t now do.

Craig Keller, of Respect Washington, which advocates local enforcement of immigration laws, told the council, “If you pass this ordinance, you’re throwing out a welcome mat to a greater population who are in the country illegally. … The larger problem is the increasing population of illegal aliens and political corruption that comes with them.”

The ordinance was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the King County Labor Council and other groups.

Voting in favor were Councilmembers Gossett, Dow Constantine, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson and Larry Phillips. Lambert, Reagan Dunn, Jane Hague and Pete von Reichbauer voted no.

County Executive Kurt Triplett will sign the law, first proposed by his former boss, then-Executive Ron Sims, said Triplett spokeswoman Natasha Jones.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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