Olympia, WA – Legislation that would greatly expand Washington state’s existing sanctuary status have been quietly creeping their way through the state legislature under the sheepskin label of a policy to support immigrants’ role in the workplace.
Washington Senate Bill 5497, which limits law enforcement’s ability check immigration status in non-criminal situations, passed the State Senate on March 7, according to the Associated Press.
Its companion bill in the state house has had two public hearings and was referred for a second review by the Rules Committee on April 9.
The new law would require schools, courthouses, and other government facilities to adopt rules that minimize the chance they will be used to enforce federal immigration laws, the Associated Press reported.
It also prohibits state and local police from sharing immigration status information with federal authorities except for when it is required by law.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic State Senator Lisa Wellman, has characterized the bill as protection for the state’s workforce in the agriculture, hospitality, and high-tech sectors, according to the Associated Press.
Washington already has limited sanctuary protections that were established by Governor Jay Inslee’s 2017 executive order that prohibited state police from helping with immigration enforcement, required state agencies to provide services regardless of immigration status, and blocked state agencies from asking about immigration status.
Wellman’s bill proposes more specific limits on police, and expands the rules to apply to local law enforcement as well as state agencies, the Associated Press reported.
Representatives from the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs attended the March 22 hearing and said they did not oppose the legislation, which was surprising given that Kittitas County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) Deputy Ryan Thompson was murdered by an illegal alien only three days earlier.
Deputy Thompson’s killer was identified as a Mexican national named Juan Manuel Flores Del Toro who was in the country unlawfully.
"Juan Manuel Flores Del Toro, a citizen of Mexico, was unlawfully present in the United States. He entered the U.S. on April 11, 2014 through a Laredo, Texas Land Port of Entry on a Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) visa. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has no record of Flores Del Toro leaving the U.S., nor extending his visa after it expired,” read a statement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Deputy Thompson was murdered in the line of duty during a gunfight after responding to a “road rage” suspect on March 19.
The incident began at approximately 7:37 p.m., when KCSO received a report of an erratic driver in the Badger Pocket area, the agency said in a press release.
“It was reported as a road rage type of event,” Ellensburg Police Chief Ken Wade said during a multi-agency press conference late Wednesday morning.
Deputy Thompson, 42, spotted the suspect vehicle at approximately 7:42 p.m., and attempted to stop the driver, 29-year-old Flores Del Toro.
The driver refused to stop, and led Deputy Thompson on a pursuit into the City of Kittitas.
Kittitas Police Officer Benito Chavez, 22, joined the chase as the driver exited the interstate, Chief Wade said.
The driver ultimately stopped his vehicle “on his own” on Pierce Street, then opened fire on the pursuing officers, according to the chief.
Investigators do not believe that the officers were aware that Flores Del Toro was armed until he actually opened fire on them, he added.
Deputy Thompson and Officer Chavez returned fire, mortally wounding the suspect.
They were both struck by gunfire during the shootout.
Deputy Thompson was rushed to Kittitas Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Officer Chavez was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was listed in satisfactory condition on Wednesday morning, KIRO reported.
He suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, shattering his femur, and was being taken into surgery at the time of Wednesday’s press conference, Kittitas Police Chief Chris Taylor said.
Flores Del Toro was transported to Kittitas Valley hospital, where he later died, according to Ellensburg police.
The Ellensburg Police Department will conduct the officer-involved shooting investigation at the request of the sheriff’s office.
Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana said that Deputy Thompson’s murder is the “worst incident in my 45-plus years in law enforcement.”
“Last night, we lost one of our finest,” Sheriff Dana said.
In addition to his time with the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Thompson served as a reserve deputy, a corrections officer, and as a campus officer, devoting a total of approximately 15 years to his career as a law enforcement officer.