OLYMPIA – Business owners, immigration advocates, religious leaders and educators spoke in support of the “Keep Washington Working Act” during a public hearing in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee on Thursday.
Senate Bill 5689, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), is intended to keep Washington’s economy thriving, protect the state from over-reaching federal immigration policy changes, and recognize the important role of immigrants in the workplace.
“We have the responsibility to stand up for Washington businesses and protect our economy,” said Wellman. “From Puget Sound tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft to our agricultural producers across the state, our economy depends on the energy and talent of immigrants.”
The bill would create model policies for limiting immigration enforcement consistent with federal and state law and would prevent state and local law enforcement from using local tax dollars to assist in performing the functions of a federal immigration officer.
“We have been hearing from a lot of employers about the impact that federal policies are having on business,” said Jorge Baron, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “This bill will have an important impact in making sure that we continue to grow Washington state and our economy.”
“All of our employees, whether they immigrated here yesterday or generations ago are critical to our industry and its economic success,” said Julia Gorton with the Washington State Hospitality Association. “We are proud so many of our employees are immigrants coming to the United States to realize the American dream. These employees are the backbone of our industry.”
“We know that public education is a civil right and we believe in keeping that promise to our 1.1 million students,” said Kim Mead with the Washington Education Association. “We support this bill becomes it ensures school districts aren’t forced to use funding for something other than education and schools remain a place of learning, not a place to be interrogated, detained or arrested for immigration enforcement purposes.”