Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Presents: 28th Anniversary Celebration

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Contact: Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director, NWIRP, 206.957.8609


Seattle, WA – Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) will celebrate twenty-eight years of defending immigrants’ rights at its largest fundraiser of the year, the 28th Anniversary Celebration this Friday, May 4, 2012. This event takes place at Sky Church at EMP Museum from 5:30 to 8:30 pm, with a brief program and awards beginning at 6:45 pm.

NWIRP has been featured in the news this week for its civil rights complaint against Border Patrol’s “interpretation” services, and last week, after filing a class-action lawsuit in partnership with the ACLU of Washington against Border Patrol for unconstitutional traffic stops and searches on the Olympic peninsula.
The Celebration will raise funds to support NWIRP’s mission of promoting justice for low-income immigrants and refugees by pursuing and defending their legal status.  NWIRP does this primarily though direct services, supported by education and advocacy work.
The event will feature contortionists and stilt walkers from The Cabiri in a festive atmosphere; hors d’oeuvres and drinks catered by the acclaimed Wolfgang Puck.  In addition to a mini live-auction and wine raffle, NWIRP will honor the work of unsung heroes promoting justice for immigrant and refugee communities in our State. This year NWIRP is proud to present the Golden Door Award to Travis Stearns of the Washington Defender Association and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and the Amicus Award to Lisa Marshall.

About Pete Holmes & Travis Stearns

Background – Federal immigration laws often do not align with state criminal laws, sometimes leading to harsh and unjust consequences for non-citizens. In one example, some misdemeanors under Washington state law are categorized as aggravated felonies under federal immigration laws even where the sentence is “suspended,” meaning the person  was not required to actually serve any jail time.
Immigration law, however, does not take into account whether or how much of a sentence is suspended. Instead, it often labels a misdemeanor offense with a one year (365 day) suspended sentence as an “aggravated felony.” In this way, a shoplifting offense, with a suspended sentence of 365 days (meaning the person did not have to serve one day in jail) would qualify as an aggravated felony under immigration law, leading to automatic deportation for most persons, even lawful permanent residents.
It is the sentence length that triggers the federal immigration law’s automatic deportation; a shorter sentence, suspended or not, would not be classified as an “aggravated felony” and would not have the same ramifications.
Until 2011, Washington State’s maximum sentence for a “gross misdemeanor” was one year (365 days), though actual time served was generally much less (for a first time offense the entire sentence is often suspended).
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and Washington Defender Association (WDA) Deputy Director Travis Stearns recognized the absurd and harsh result caused by this interaction of the federal immigration law with Washington State criminal law, and decided to fix the problem.
Pete Holmes became Seattle City Attorney in 2010. Shortly after taking on this role, he instituted a policy in which prosecutors requested 364-day sentences for gross misdemeanors, rather than the standard maximum of 365. He acknowledged its unintended impact on immigrants and did not hesitate to call it a social justice issue. Mr. Holmes was able to garner substantial public support for this change. He later played a key role in supporting the statewide efforts led by Travis Stearns and the WDA, to help usher a change in policy at the state level. In addition to his work on the 364-day sentencing bill, Mr. Holmes has been working towards addressing other aspects of the criminal justice system that disproportionately affect people of color and low income people:  he’s led efforts to reform the way marijuana offenses are treated and successfully instituted changes locally (which are now being adopted statewide) on driving with a suspended license offenses.
Travis Stearns has spent the majority of his career working as a public defender.  He now serves as the Deputy Director for the WDA where he plays an integral role in developing and advocating for successful policy initiatives to improve criminal defense.  Mr. Stearns saw the need for a change on a statewide level to fix the inequality inherent in the sentencing for gross misdemeanors and began to work on drafting a bill to change the policy.  He followed this bill from its early drafts all the way through the legislative process until the Washington State legislature formally approved and reduced the maximum sentence for gross misdemeanors from 365 days to 364 days in 2011.
It is with great pleasure that NWIRP honors both Pete Holmes and Travis Stearns with the Golden Door Award to recognize their efforts to address the disparities within the criminal justice system affecting immigrant and refugee communities.

About Lisa Marshall

Lisa Marshall has spent the majority of her eighteen year career as a City Attorney for several small Washington municipalities. In 2010, she found herself at a crossroads in her career and decided to pursue her passion for immigration law.  Stories of her family’s own immigrant past had fueled her interest in immigration and, while she had no prior experience as an immigration attorney, Ms. Marshall quickly immersed herself in the field.
In 2011, Ms. Marshall took her first pro bono case with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Lisa prefers to work with clients who are in immigration detention, stating in her own words, “I have never had greater professional satisfaction than I had knowing that my client would be walking out of the Northwest Detention Center the afternoon he won his case.”
She describes herself as “addicted” to her work, as evidenced by her pro bono representation of an astounding seven clients referred to her by NWIRP in 2011 alone. NWIRP is proud to honor Ms. Marshall with the Amicus Award for her dedication to pro bono representation and exceptional participation in legal proceedings on behalf of low-income immigrants and refugees.
We invite you to join NWIRP and the immigrant rights community as we celebrate NWIRP’s work, the work of our awardees and twenty-eight years of partnerships and community support for low-income immigrant and refugees.  To attend, register online at, or
This event could not occur without the generous support of our sponsors. NWIRP, DLA Piper, Microsoft and SEIU Local 6 as Champion Sponsors; Global Law Advocates and Brad Smith and Kathy Surace-Smith, as Defender Sponsors; and Cowan Miller & Lederman, Haven Tower Group, Law Offices of Marie B. Higuera, Perkins Coie LLP, Sisters of Providence, Stoel Rives LLP, Teamsters Local 117, UFCW Local 21, and Williams Kastner as Protector Sponsors.
NWIRP’s 28th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, May 4, 2012 from 5:30 to 8:30pm
The Sky Church at the EMP Museum
325 5th Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Individual Ticket, $100.  This ticket includes two complimentary drink tickets.
Group Tickets, $750.  Our Supporter Sponsorship opportunity includes 6 complimentary tickets and table tent recognition at the event (no deadline for inclusion).
NWIRP is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit.  All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. For tax purposes, our estimate of the fair market value of one regular ticket is $50.
For questions about tickets or event sponsorship, please contact Kori Jock, Development Associate by email at or by phone at (206) 957-8641.