King County Council Adopts Ordinance to Enhance Public Health and Safety of County Residents

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
November 9, 2009 12:00 am

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Measure Will Foster Trust and Cooperation

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The King County Council today adopted a measure (Ordinance 2009-0393) to ensure that most King County employees will not ask about an individual’s immigration status unless specifically required to do so by federal or state law. The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmember Larry Gossett.

“The ordinance will make our communities safer and healthier by encouraging all residents to cooperate with authorities in fighting crime without fear or intimidation and to seek preventive health care that protects the wellness of all county residents,” said Shankar Narayan, legislative director for the ACLU of Washington. “We applaud the council for acting to foster trust and cooperation between King County residents and their public officials.”

The Constitution guarantees basic rights and freedoms to all people in the United States, not just citizens. The guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law apply to all persons in the U.S., regardless of immigration status.

In some parts of Washington state, law enforcement and other local government employees have a practice of asking the immigration status of people who appear to be Hispanic. This racial profiling is discriminatory and causes fear, leading immigrants and others to distrust people who work for the government. The result of this practice is lower crime reporting, reluctance to cooperate with criminal investigations, and unwillingness to seek necessary care from county public health offices or hospitals — health care that is vital to maintaining public health for all.

At a hearing of the council’s Committee of the Whole this morning, representatives of the King County Department of Health, the King County Jail, and the King County Sheriff’s Office testified that the ordinance is consistent with their existing practices.

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