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.
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:
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.