Coalition Demands $100 Million to Support Undocumented Workers

April 20th, 2020

Media contact

Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director
(206) 957-8609, jorgelbaron@nwirp.org

 


 

SEATTLE, WA – In response to the urgent needs facing undocumented immigrant workers in Washington State, a broad coalition has formed to demand immediate action by the state and Governor Jay Inslee, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins.

 

With California announcing a first-of-it’s-kind $125 million dollar fund for people who are undocumented and the formation of a West Coast pact, immigrant rights leaders are calling for Washington to follow in their footsteps.

“Undocumented people are a deeply ingrained part of the Washington State community and deserve to be treated with dignity, and yet they have been unfairly deprived of the economic lifelines available to other Washington State residents,” said Jorge Baron, executive director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “We are therefore proud to join a broad coalition of organizations in calling on our state government to respond to this crisis in an equitable manner and ensure that our undocumented neighbors and their families have the resources they need to overcome the current economic challenges.”

 

Their demands include:

 

1. Create a “Washington Worker Relief Fund” through the Governor’s office with an allocation of at least $100 million. The Fund will be administered by community based organizations to provide emergency economic assistance to undocumented Washingtonians, and;

 

2. Create a permanent system to provide wage-replacement protection to workers who lose their jobs and are excluded from the current unemployment insurance system, including undocumented immigrants.

 

“More than 250,000 undocumented people call Washington home,” explained OneAmerica’s Executive Director Rich Stolz. “Our communities are over-represented in industries that have been decimated by the pandemic, including restaurants, hospitality, and healthcare, and often lack access to paid sick leave or health insurance. Being ineligible for unemployment insurance and unfairly left out of federal stimulus measures forces our community to bear the brunt of a pandemic without the safety net other Washingtonians rely on.”

 

“These workers make substantial contributions to Washington’s economy, including paying more than $316 million each year in state and local taxes,” said Economic Opportunity Institute’s (EOI) Advocacy Director Gabriela Quintana. The independent, nonpartisan public-policy think tank is among the organizations that have signed on so far. “Leaving workers who are undocumented without the financial support we all need to stay safe has the potential to significantly harm our economy, including key industries, and hamper our overall economic recovery and ability to avoid a deep recession.”

 

“The Washington Worker Relief Fund will support the health plus other critical needs of many workers and families who are critical to our economies and communities,” agreed Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health for Seattle & King County. “Plus, they will be able to more effectively physically distance and stay home if they are sick.”

 

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office joined the call to action. “Looking out for the most vulnerable in our community is even more critical in times of crisis,” said Mayor Durkan. “As a Welcoming City, we know that legal status shouldn’t determine whether someone has access to the resources they need including meals, childcare or other critical needs. During this time of uncertainty, it is all the more important to ensure we are not pushing people further into the shadows. As the state and federal government consider additional relief packages, I urge them to make relief resources accessible to everyone who needs them.”

 

The coalition is asking Washington’s political leadership to take swift action and make their announcement by May 1st, in recognition of the urgent hardships our community faces during COVID-19.

 

Read the letter here.