An important policy for immigrant workers

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An important policy for immigrant workers

The Keep Washington Working Act is good for families and communities

By - May 1, 2019

On this International Workers’ Day – or May Day – a day to celebrate the contributions of immigrants and workers around the world, we want to highlight a significant policy win for Washington state that was made possible by the advocacy of immigrant workers and organizations. The Keep Washington Working Act, a bill that the Budget & Policy Center endorsed and that aims to protect immigrants and strengthen our communities, rightly passed both the House and Senate this legislative session. Governor Inslee will soon sign it into law.

The Keep Washington Working Act is a way to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the many immigrants – and immigrant workers, who overall comprise one of seven Washington workers – in our state. Among other things, it will direct many state agencies not to compile data that could be used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and it will prohibit local law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status or proactively working with ICE.

This will help ensure that taxpayer-funded state and local government organizations and law enforcement agencies are serving Washington residents instead of spending their time and resources enforcing federal immigration laws.

The Keep Washington Working Act strengthens communities

Photo in Olympia from the Keep Washington Working Lobby Day

Keep Washington Working Lobby Day in Olympia. Photo courtesy of Yvette Maganya, immigrant activist, Fuse Washington

Once this bill is implemented, it’ll be a small step in the right direction for creating safer, stronger communities. It aims to help rebuild the broken trust between many immigrant communities and local public safety agencies. Studies have shown that since the creation of ICE, immigrants have been less likely to report crimes, accidents, or emergencies because they fear that any interaction with law enforcement or emergency services could lead to deportation for them or a family member. When people are more willing to report emergencies, it can make communities safer.

Further, the act could alleviate some of the toxic stress that families, communities, and neighborhoods have been experiencing because of a constant fear of ICE raids. It could also lead to improved health outcomes for people who have been too distrustful of government agencies to participate in much-needed programs their tax dollars pay for like public health exchanges and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

It helps protect our residents from racist federal policies

As this presidential administration continues to attack the rights, civil liberties, and safety of immigrants, especially Black and brown immigrants, the Keep Washington Working Act is one important way for our state to fight back. On this day of solidarity for immigrants and workers, we celebrate the passage of this bill and we stand with our partners who helped make it happen.

About Melinda Young-Flynn, Director of Communications

Melinda leads the Budget & Policy Center’s communications team, working to ensure the organization’s strategic communications advance its policy priorities and its mission.

Read more about Melinda