Gov. Jay Inslee today announced he has hired a special assistant to help state agencies comply with the governor’s executive order to protect immigrant residents from discriminatory federal deportation efforts.
Michelle Gonzalez is an attorney who currently teaches at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and is former assistant dean of UW’s School of Law. She will begin her six-month appointment next week.
“It is clear that our well-intentioned efforts to protect Washington’s hard-working immigrant and refugee families need to be reviewed and improved,” Inslee said. “Federal immigration officials are becoming more aggressive and creative in seeking individuals who pose no apparent public safety risk and have no other criminal record. We have to be equally aggressive and creative in anticipating how they will take advantage of information our agencies use. Michelle’s legal expertise will help us greatly with that effort.”
Last year, Inslee announced an executive order aimed at reducing the likelihood that personal information collected by state agencies could be used by the Trump Administration to single out Muslims, Hispanics or other targeted populations.
The Seattle Times recently discovered that the state Department of Licensing has been responding regularly to requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in investigations that appear to be solely related to immigration issues. DOL has implemented swift changes in response to the findings, and Inslee hopes Gonzalez can improve the ability of other state agencies to identify changes necessary to safeguard personal information from immigration authorities.
Gonzalez will work with agencies to ensure unnecessary personal information is not being collected or retained, and review agency processes for interacting with law enforcement and responding to related records requests.
“We do not consider it a crime to take your children to school, work hard and contribute to the vibrancy of our economy and our communities,” Inslee said. “While we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement authorities that are investigating crimes that pose a threat to public safety, we will not be intimidated or coerced into helping deport individuals who are merely working hard to make a better life for themselves and their families.”