More than 400 immigrants, advocates, and students are expected to make the trek to the Capitol tomorrow to rally against various pieces of anti-immigrant legislation proposed by state lawmakers.
OneAmerica spokesman Charlie McAteer says the largest contingent will be Seattle-area high-school students, being bussed in as part of school-endorsed civics programs. About 40 members of Seattle's Somali community are also making the trip. Another group from Whitman College in Walla Walla is catching a bus at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning to attend the rally, which will feature appearances by state senate majority leader Lisa Brown, Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos, and Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney.
The protest will focus on Governor Christine Gregoire's proposed budget cuts, which slashed nearly 90 percent of state funding for citizenship services. According to OneAmerica, the cuts eliminated medical coverage for an estimated 27,000 children, reduced funding for food stamps for legal immigrants by 50 percent, and did away with employment assistance for refugees and medical interpretation for non-native English speakers.
There's also the proposed driver's-license restrictions for immigrants, which McAteer believes have a chance to become law after being shot down early in the legislative process the past several years.
"Normally these things don't make it out of committee, but this year everybody is up in arms and trying to pass something to make them look tough on immigration," he says. "If we push back hard enough we could kill these bills, but it certainly stands a chance of passing."
McAteer says the licensing legislation has potential largely because of the influence of Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chair of the senate transportation committee. Haugen supports tightening restrictions on licensing. At a recent hearing on SB 5407, which would make all people provide a Social Security number to obtain a license, Haugen went so far as to cut off testimony from opponents of the bill.
As Publicola initially reported, about 15 people were waiting to speak, and they took issue with Haugen's assertion that the bill has nothing to do with immigration. That's when Haugen asked the audience, "Do you want to see my grandchildren? Half of them are brown." Here's the video of the incident:
Good luck convincing the senior senator from Camano Island to change her mind on the licensing issue.