Washington State Immigration Laws
Welcome to FindLaw's coverage of existing Washington legislation and rules related to individuals' immigration status.Technically speaking, there are no state laws that legislate immigration. It has long been held that immigration into the United States is solely regulated by the federal government. States are barred from passing laws that directly relate to immigration in order to prevent complicated and contradictory requirements from developing (see Supremacy Clause).
Regardless of this fact states are increasingly involved in immigration matters, either at the behest of the federal government or in an attempt to be responsive to growing concerns within local communities about the potentially negative impact of unregulated or monitored immigration. This is particularly true in the context of communities that are potentially exposed to terrorist attacks, or that are impacted by the drug trade or other illicit activities that are sometimes associated with illegal immigration.
Below you will find information on what, if any, rules Washington has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more.
Law Enforcement and Immigration in Washington
Under a federal program called "Secure Communities," all arrestees are fingerprinted and run through a federal database which checks their criminal record and immigration status. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have stated that the program is not optional, although Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order in 2017 that prohibits law enforcement officials in the state from detaining undocumented immigrants at the behest of federal officials. Washington is, in effect, a "sanctuary" state.
Employment & Immigration
The state subsidizes facilities that house low-income migrant, seasonal and temporary farm workers.
Refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9.
Washington E-Verify Requirements
No requirement to use E-Verify for checking employees' status.
Driver's License/ID Requirements
Undocumented immigrants are eligible for a state driver's license or non-driver ID.
Public Benefits Restrictions
Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving most public benefits. However, they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care and other programs that have been deemed "necessary to protect life and safety."
Voting ID Rules
No photo ID is required to vote. In fact, Washington holds all of its election by mail; so this is a moot point.
Housing Ordinances and Immigration
- Know Your Rights - Guide to protecting yourself and your family during immigration raids (PDF, CASA of Maryland and other organizations).
- Immigration Services - Resources for immigrants in Washington (Washington State Office of the Attorney General).
- Federal vs. State Immigration Law - FindLaw's overview of how federal jurisdiction covers most immigration enforcement, and how state laws still affect immigration.
Get a Free Initial Case Assessment
If you have run afoul of Washington state immigration laws you should consult with a legal professional. Your state law issues are likely just the first round since immigration matters typically fall under the federal government's jurisdiction. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case assessment to discuss your concerns and learn how they can help.