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June 14, 2011

OneAmerica's State Immigration Policy Update provides an overview of on-going immigration policy efforts at the state and local level in Washington. The update is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but an overview of major policy efforts with links to related resources, research and action items that advocates and residents may find helpful.

The state legislative session came to a close on May 24 with some good news and some bad news for immigrant communities across Washington State. Overall, however, it was clearly a disappointing session for all communities across Washington State who saw an all-cuts budget with limited conversation about a balanced approach that includes new revenue, such as the elimination of tax exemptions for big businesses. In addition, some members of the legislature found that eroding the rights of workers through changes to our national-model worker’s compensation system were “necessary to implement the budget.” The following is an overview of how immigrants fared in the state legislative session, with additional details about on-going policy issues outside the legislature.

In this update:

Budget
Policy Bills
Issues Outside the Legislative Session

Budget

The final budget (note: the Governor has yet to sign the final budget) spared the elimination of programs serving immigrants and refugees, although these same programs were decimated by significant cuts. Here is how six major program serving immigrant communities fared in the final budget:

  • Washington New Americans Program - Reduced by 30% to $396,000 for the 2011-2013 biennium
  • DSHS Naturalization Program - Reduced by 40% to $3.4 million for the 2011-2013 biennium
  • Medical Interpreter Services - Reduced by 20% to ~37 million for the 2011-2013 biennium
  • Apple Health for Kids for 27,000 immigrant children - Now requires premium covering full cost of coverage to state for undocumented kids between 200-300% of federal poverty level
  • State Food Assistance – Benefit level reduced by 50% to $31 million for the 2011-2013*
  • LEP Pathways/Refugee Services - Reduced by 50% to $5 million for the 2011-2013 biennium

*This cut will not go into place until an equal protection lawsuit, filed by Columbia Legal Services, is settled. It likely won’t be settled for at least a few more months, if not considerably longer. If the lawsuit is successful, full benefits will remain in place.

Policy Bills

364 Day Bill - SB5168, which reduces the maximum sentence for minor offenses (misdemeanors) by one day to 364 days, passed the House on a 93-2 vote late in April. It passed the Senate earlier in the session on a 45-3 vote and the Governor signed the bill into law on April 15. This is a huge victory for immigrants in Washington State and will save hundreds from deportation for minor crimes each year. Here is some media coverage from the Tri-City Herald.

Notarios Bill - SB5023, which cracks down on exploitative practices by so-called "notarios" or "immigration assistants," was signed into law by the Governor on May 3 after passing both the Senate and the House by wide margins. The bill eliminates the state registry for "immigration assistants," a registry that does not require any education, training or other specialized skills to become registered. In addition, the bill forbids the use of terms and titles that mislead immigrants into believing someone has professional skills in immigration law, including "notario" or "notario publico."

Driver's License Bills – Despite repeated attempts by Republicans to raise this issue through amendments to every transportation bill that came through the Senate, including Senator Benton’s three amendments that were ruled out of order on the Transportation budget, any attempts to limit access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants did not move forward. This victory is thanks to tremendous community engagement and mobilization, which stopped the bill earlier this session, and continued leadership from legislative leaders.

Racial Profiling/Gang Bill – Thanks to tremendous organizing in opposition to the racial profiling bill, it never got out of committee despite repeated efforts to revive the bill.

Issues Outside the Legislative Session

In”Secure Communities” - Eight counties in Washington State have decided to move in the wrong direction on immigration enforcement by signing on to participate in ICE’s controversial “Secure Communities” program, all without community input. OneAmerica and its allies have launched the “Stop ICE’s InSecure Communities” Campaign to fight these efforts at the local level with a series of meeting with local law enforcement leaders and community forums, including last week in Yakima. In order to help advocates fight these efforts, we’ve compiled resources as part of a “Secure Communities Toolkit” on the campaign webpage. For more information or to join the campaign, please reply to this e-mail.

E-verify – The Yakima City Council, after rejecting E-verify implementation for city contractors last year, reversed course and passed an E-verify ordinance on June 7 by a 4-3 vote (last year they rejected the measure 3-4). The issue was brought back unexpectedly at the last Yakima City Council meeting by Councilmember Dave Ettl and Councilmember Rick Ensey of Yakima changed his vote after slight changes were made to the ordinance. Numerous community members spoke out against the ordinance highlighting E-verify’s divisiveness, ineffectiveness and the significant contributions made to Yakima by undocumented workers and residents.

Redistricting – The State Redistricting Commission has begun its series of public hearings to gather input from the community on how it should redraw state legislative and congressional district boundaries. OneAmerica and allies, through the leadership of the Win-Win Network and others, have been advocating for a majority people of color congressional district in South King County, a majority people of color state legislative district in Yakima and other location-specific issues to ensure that immigrants and refugees and people of color have equal representation at all levels of government in Washington State.

You can watch past and future public forums here.

I'm sending you this email to provide updates this legislative session. If you want to join the OneAmerica general email list, please update your record here.

Toby Guevin,
State Policy & Legislative Manager, OneAmerica

About OneAmerica

OneAmerica, formerly Hate Free Zone, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice by building power within immigrant communities.

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