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Taking the struggle for immigrant rights to our state Legislature

Amid the hundreds of draft bills that will cross the desks of lawmakers during the 2019 Washington State legislature, there will be a few reflecting the urgent needs, plans and commitments of the immigrant rights movement.

These bills don’t suddenly materialize. They represent the hard work and movement building needed to tell the story of conditions experienced around the state. Two of the key advocates and strategists are WAISN (WA Immigrant Solidarity Network) and NWIRP (Northwest Immigrant Rights Project).  Both are connected to a wide range of organizations, large and small.  The American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) is another key advocacy organization that collaborates and consults with WAISN and NWIRP.

Some key pieces of legislation that are being promoted:

Keep Washington Working (SB 5497)  This is at the center of the immigrant rights policy effort this session, with strong backing from the Caucus of Color in the legislature. The bill provides comprehensive immigrant protection across the state, directing law enforcement agencies not to coordinate with ICE/CBP (Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Customs & Border Protection).  It would strengthen Washington’s status as a Sanctuary State–in contrast to federal initiatives to criminalize all undocumented immigration.

Bridge Act for Victims of Trafficking (SB 5164)  This provides state medical and economic support to victims of trafficking and abuse when people apply for Federal immigration benefits.

Extending State Healthcare Access to Young Adults  All residents of Washington, regardless of immigration status, would be eligible for state health care until the age of 26.

Safe School Bill This draft has emerged from the Olympia-area Strengthening Sanctuary group, based on extensive interviews across the state with school staff and impacted families. It would prevent or greatly restrict Federal authorities’ access to students in schools and provide a stronger measure of privacy in the paperwork that students and their families are asked to provide.

Additionally, AILA is monitoring and advocating for other bills addressing a range of issues: improving language access in public schools; removing the US residency requirement for statutory survivors in wrongful death lawsuits; allowing DACA recipients to participate in the WA College Promise Scholarship program; establishing the office of H-2A compliance and farm labor; establishing a food assistance program, providing eligibility for state family assistance programs, and requiring medical care services for victims of human trafficking; adding citizenship and immigration status to the state law against discrimination.

Refugee Rights Advocacy Day On February 5, WAISN will hold an Immigrant and Refugee Rights Advocacy Day in Olympia. This day-long event will involve workshops on the policy initiatives of the immigrant community, a noon rally and meetings with legislators.  Communities from around the state will be represented, from the agricultural areas of Eastern and Northwest Washington, to King County, to folks from the Thurston County area and the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympia’s Sanctuary City Declaration The local Strengthening Sanctuary group has urged the Olympia City Council to renew its very important Sanctuary Declaration of December 2016 by shaping a new resolution that would convey Olympia’s sanctuary commitment to the legislature.  The resolution would urge the Governor and representatives to work toward laws—such as the bills outlined above – to reduce the climate of fear and affirm the dignity and safety of immigrants living in Washington.

To learn more, follow bills and send messages to legislators go to  Legislators in the 22nd District – Representative Beth Doglio, Representative Laurie Dolan and Senator Sam Hunt—are supportive of these efforts and are involved in shaping a bill on School Safety.   Advocacy Day announcement  WAISN’s website   NWIRP provides legal services, analyses, and the latest news and information regarding immigration law and litigation.

For  information on immigration legislation and actions, contact Lin Nelson or Bob Zeigler with Olympia area Strengthening Sanctuary.


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