Immigration is expected to remain at the top of the agenda as politicians return to work in January. In Washington, local politicians and immigration advocates are pushing for clearer protections for thousands of undocumented people throughout the state.
On Wednesday, President Trump and congressional leaders discussed a series of issues carried over from December, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump signed an executive order in September to end the Obama-era program that deferred deportations for thousands of undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. Over 16,000 Washington DREAMERs may lose their DACA status when the program expires on March 5, 2018, unless Congress takes action.
But on Wednesday, Janet Napolitano, Michael Chertoff and Jeh Johnson –three former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security — wrote in a letter to Congress that lawmakers need to pass a bill by January 19 to allow United States Citizenship and Immigration Services enough time to process applications.
In response to the shrinking window of time, Washington-based immigrant rights organizations say that they are eager for a solution.
“Passing the Dream Act legislation is the least Congress can do to show goodwill in the face the wave of attacks that immigrants have faced in the past year of Trump’s administration. A clean Dream Act would ensure the livelihood and security of thousands of people that are living and working in the United States and demanding respect and dignity,”Colectiva Legal del Pueblo Attorney Sandy Restrepo said in an email to Seattle Weekly.
Restrepo added that the legal services organization demands state legislation to protect immigrants against ICE raids. In keeping their promise, they are organizing the first annual Immigration Lobby Day in Olympia on January 23 at 11 a.m. to rally for pro-immigrant policies.
“There’s thousands and thousands of individuals who are here with legal status who are going to lose that,” Legal Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Matt Adams said about the termination of DACA. “It’s also going to be disrupting businesses. So no matter which way you look at it, whether you personally have a family member who has DACA status, or if you have an employee, or if you have someone in your classroom, there’s a lot of people … whose whole lives are going to be completely upended if there’s not some solution to the termination of the DACA program,” he added.
DNC Spokesman Vedant Patel also weighed in on the impact that program’s termination would have on Washingtonians, stressing that the state would lose nearly $21 million in state and local taxes if the order isn’t renewed. On Wednesday, he urged Congress and the Trump Administration to act.
“Every day Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration waste in passing the DREAM Act, more and more of the 16,300 DACA recipients in Washington may lose their status in the only country they have ever considered home,” Patel said in a press release. “DREAMers came here as children, but many are now adults with their own families. In fact, 200,000 — nearly one-quarter — of DREAMers have children of their own who were born citizens. Failing to pass the DREAM Act means that across the country children will be left without parents, students without teachers, and more.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the Trump Administration over the order to rescind DACA in September, but the suit is still pending.
Although unrelated to DACA, the afternoon of immigration talks at the national level coincided with Ferguson’s announcement that he would sue Motel 6 for sharing guest information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The lawsuit filed in the King County Superior Court Wednesday said that Motel 6 discriminated against customers with Latinx-sounding names. The company conceded that at least six of its Washington state motels shared information about its guests to ICE, with four of those locations releasing information about 9,151 guests to federal agents between June 2015 to May 2017. As a result, ICE apprehended at least six people on or close to those locations, according to a press release.
“I think it’s a very important development and we can all appreciate that the Attorney General is out there working on Washingtonians’ behalf and trying to ensure the integrity of our community,” Adams said. “This is just completely inappropriate for private companies to be preying upon the people they’re supposed to be serving,” he concluded.
Councilmembers M. Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda chimed in on Wednesday with a joint statement that noted their disapproval of Motel 6’s actions.
“This is an important reminder to our immigrant communities and their allies that our best defense to protect immigrant communities is to become a U.S. Citizen, attend a Know Your Rights training, and learn what to do if I.C.E. knocks on your (or your neighbor’s) door,” they said in a press release.
Seattle’s Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs will hold a workshop on Saturday, February 3, 2018, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm to offer free legal consultations and legal citizenship advice.