On January 10, 2018, the ACLU of Washington and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed in September of 2017 against the Spokane Police Department, regarding the detention of an immigrant resident who was involved in a motor vehicle accident in August. The UWCHR highlighted this case in our report, “Don’t Ask, Do Tell,” as an example of local law enforcement practices which improperly involve local police and sheriffs in federal immigration enforcement.
The lawsuit alleges that Gabriel Gomez was unlawfully detained and denied medical care by an officer for the purpose of investigating his immigration status and to aid Customs and Border Protection in enforcing civil immigration violations. The lawsuit argues that such actions fall under the jurisdiction of federal immigration authorities rather than that of local law enforcement, and denounces the City of Spokane’s policies toward the seizure of individuals for purposes of immigration enforcement as unlawful.
As a result of the ruling, the City of Spokane has agreed to pay a settlement of $49,000 and to reform its policies to ensure that local law enforcement “shall not contact, question, delay, detain or arrest an individual because s/he is suspected of violating immigration laws”. Spokane’s modified policy language can be found here.
In conjunction with recent news regarding the Washington State Department of Licensing’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, this case highlights broader issues surrounding collaboration between local agencies and federal immigration authorities. Local jurisdictions should review such policies and practices to ensure that the rights of all Washington State residents are upheld, and so that taxpayers are not left to foot the bill if the courts find local or state agencies in violation of the law.