Did you hear what happened last Thursday? 

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Last Thursday, 64 members of KIAC’s community gathered in Olympia to advocate for two pieces of legislation that would positively impact the lives of immigrants – HB1095/SB5109 and a health equity budget proviso. As you may recall, HB1095/SB5109 would create an unemployment system for undocumented workers who currently pay into unemployment but are ineligible for benefits. The proposed health equity budget proviso would provide health insurance to all immigrants, regardless of status. At present, immigrants without permanent immigration status cannot access health insurance in our state.

We gathered at Westminster Presbyterian for an orientation, sign-making and lunch. The vast majority of attendees were immigrant community members – people who took the day off of work, carpooled with others, and came together to advocate for change. They were joined by more than half of KIAC’s staff, multiple KIAC volunteers and several of our local healthcare partners from Peninsula Community Health Services and Northwest Washington Family Medicine Residency.

Nineteen of us participated in legislative meetings with representatives and senators from districts 23, 26, and 35 – talking with representatives from within the communities where we live. We outlined the details of both pieces of legislation and shared personal stories about how we, or those we know, have been impacted by the lack of access to unemployment benefits and health insurance.

An attendee at the rally holds a sign that says “Necesito seguro medico,” which translates to “We need health insurance.”

We concluded the day with a march through Olympia, ending on the Capitol steps where we gathered with 200 other members of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network to show our collective power. We heard from presenters (broadcast in simultaneous Spanish and English) representing a number of organizations and coalitions about the impact these pieces of legislation will have on their communities. Check out photos from the day here.

As bill sponsor Senator Rebecca Saldaña said during the rally, “We may not all speak the same language, but we’re all speaking the language of justice.”

Washington State has the opportunity to progressively lead the way in implementing legislation that would offer support to those who, in large part, do front-line work within our state. We in Washington have let our federal government’s slow, narrow thinking limit our state’s imagination as well. We know that we can do better, and on Thursday, we let our local legislators know that too. 

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate. Your gifts to KIAC make this work possible.
  2. Support HB1095/SB5901 TODAY (deadline 2/24) regarding a permanent unemployment insurance program for undocumented workers:
    • Locate your district using this link.
    • Send an email with wording like this to your representative(s) listed above: “As a caring community member from within your district, I am reaching out to ask you to help HB1095 get out of the Appropriations Committee and onto the House floor. More than 1.1 million Washington State immigrants are key members of the workforce and community. The pandemic laid this bare. Despite many undocumented immigrants putting their lives on the line to keep our state’s essential services running, they have not had access to protection from layoffs or loss of employment due to COVID or other health complications. Immigrants pay into the unemployment system but are ineligible for the benefits. Please work to get HB1095 out of the appropriations committee and onto the House floor.”
  3. Support the budget proviso TODAY (deadline 2/24) for Immigrant Health Equity:
    • Locate your district using this link.
    • Email your representatives using wording like this: “As a caring community member from within your district, I am reaching out to ask you to support the budget proviso for Immigrant Health Equity. Undocumented immigrants are currently ineligible for health insurance in the state of Washington. Rising healthcare costs, especially in the uninsured, lead to delays in seeking treatment and poorer health outcomes. Immigrants are members of our community and a large portion of our workforce. A person’s right to healthcare access should not be dependent on their immigration status. Please support the budget proviso for Immigrant Health Equity.”

You can track the status of HB1095/SB5109 here. 

Many thanks to Westminster Presbyterian in Olympia for allowing us to use their space for free. Thank you to Papa Johns for discounting our pizza lunch. Thank you to the Wheaton Way/Sylvan Way Starbucks in Bremerton for donating coffee. Thank you to our partners at WAISN for building momentum and power in immigrant and refugee communities across our state. And a big thanks to KIAC friends (and family members) for donating money, items and time.

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