Our Strength is Our Vision of a More Just Society

Photo: 

It’s been a trying time since President Donald Trump took office in the White House. It is now clear what life for immigrant, refugee and Muslim families will look and feel like under the new Administration. The President will turn the apparatus of government at his disposal toward the exclusion of immigrants and refugees, especially people of color and Muslims, and he’ll pound the drum of fear labeling us as criminals and terrorists at every turn, invoking an isolationist nationalism to justify his actions to curtail due process and ramp up large scale immigration raids, detentions and deportations.  

Fortunately, there’s a growing movement already pushing back, here in Washington State and across the nation.  Between massive protests, executive orders, rapid response, know your rights trainings and more, it’s hard to capture all that’s happened since the beginning of the year at OneAmerica, but here’s a brief summary of what we’re doing and where we’re heading.

I’m particularly thankful to the growing resistance to the President’s policies across Washington. Most prominent is Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s leadership in a broad law suit against the President’s executive order establishing a travel ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries and halting refugee resettlement programs. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith and Suzan DelBene are providing critical leadership to efforts to resist the President’s Orders in Congress. Even Republican Members of Congress, like Representative Dan Newhouse and David Reichert, have stepped forward to co-sponsor legislation that would protect DACA, even as we hope to enlist their support on other measures now in play in Congress and the Administration.

Here in Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, and State School Superintended Chris Reykdal have been strong in their support for immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities. King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and other local elected leaders are stepping up in inspiring ways to not only oppose the President’s policies but to support community-led efforts to support immigrant and refugee communities. A growing chorus of law enforcement leaders across our state are affirming their commitment to not enforce federal immigration laws. And communities ranging from Edmonds to Vancouver have enacted resolutions, proclamations and ordinances affirming their commitment to being welcoming and in some cases, sanctuary or safe cities.  

At OneAmerica we’ve focused our attention on:

•    Building coalition infrastructure among immigrant, refugee and Muslim-serving organizations across Washington State, including strong support from labor unions, school administrators and educators, social service providers, local governments, businesses, elected allies, and progressive leaders in the LGBTQ, environmental, racial justice and women’s movements.

•    Driving a series of Know Your Rights Trainings in immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities with the goal of building stronger community leadership and infrastructure with legal experts and community partners to respond to immigration raids, hate crimes and harmful policies, and advocating for more actions by local law enforcement and municipal governments and the State legislature to resist the President’s policies.

•    Coordinating with national allies and partners across the nation to protect immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities, and to build deeper intersectional alliances with partners ranging from Greenpeace to the ACLU to People’s Action to protest the evisceration of environmental protections, the safety net for low-income communities, health care access, and worker protections.

I’m thankful for the deep and resilient partnerships we’ve developed over the years and recently with a number of organizations and allies who will be a critical part of the backbone to our shared resistance.  Together we’ve built what I believe will be critical infrastructure for the months and years ahead, including the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (to coordinate statewide resources, know your rights training and rapid response to immigration enforcement), the K-12 Coalition to Protect Undocumented Students (to empower students, parents, teachers and administrators to protect and support immigrant families in our school systems), and the Justice Advocacy Network (a coordinated effort to advance policy proposals at the local and state level to not only advance welcoming policies, but to also address critical reforms in the criminal justice system that compound immigration consequences).

While the fight to protect our families is our central focus, we also continue to be uniquely positioned to drive other essential organizing and advocacy on critical issues facing our communities in the State Legislature in Olympia.  These efforts include:

•    Pass the Washington Voting Rights Act. OneAmerica is coordinating with a broad coalition of allies to establish mechanisms to ensure local elected representation of people of color communities across Washington State.

•    Protect Washington’s Driver’s Licenses.  Washington is the last state with a driver’s license that is available to any resident regardless of their immigration status.  Under extreme pressure from the federal Department of Homeland Security, bills are now moving in the House and Senate to replace our current system with one that is compliant with the federal REAL ID Act.  We are opposing these changes while also advocating for strong anti-discrimination protections and restrictions on what data can be shared with the federal government.

•    Increase Funding for Naturalization Services.  One critical defense for members of our communities under the Trump Administration is to naturalize and become a citizen.  As part of our 2017 legislative agenda, OneAmerica hopes to significantly increase funding for WNA and other citizenship services in the state budget.

•    Dual Language Instruction.  A critical tool to address the opportunity gap for immigrant and refugee students are practices that support home language instruction programs and pipelines for a more diverse teaching workforce to better reflect the growing number of English Language Learners in our schools.

•    The Clean Energy Transition Act. The product of months of negotiations among a broad and diverse set of stakeholders collaborating through the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy, this bill is a national model for climate justice policy, establishing an ambitious carbon tax to reduce greenhouse emissions and investing revenue from the tax into strategies to support a just transition to a cleaner, greener economy while boosting private and public sector programs and innovations to further reduce carbon pollution.

Highlights from Yakima.
On January 14th, OneAmerica organized a large protest on a national day of action with partner groups across the nation calling on President-Elect Trump to hold on his intentions for a deportation force and a Muslim ban.  On January 20th, OneAmerica brought a delegation of community members to the office of Congressman Dan Newhouse calling on the Congressman to vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to sign-on to the BRIDGE Act, a stop gap measure in Congress to protect DACA recipients from deportation should the President repeal that program.  Ten days later, Newhouse was the first US Representative from Washington State to sign on to the proposal.  

Also in January, the Yakima City Council opened up debate over its intent to declare the City a welcoming city.  OneAmerica leaders and allies were there to testify to the importance of ensuring that all of the city’s residents feel valued and welcome.  But as anticipated, the backlash has been extreme.  In the face of an angry onslaught, only the newly elected Latina members of the Council voted for the resolution, before referring it back to committee.  Since then, the Latina Council Members have been verbally attacked, often with racialized threats and calls for their resignations.  But at the next City Council Meeting, more than 200 community residents, from every district in Yakima, packed City Hall overwhelmed the opposition and called on the City to support the resolution.  Our organizers and grassroots leaders are building the people power it will take to make Yakima a more welcoming and racially equitable community.

At a time like this, it can be difficult to shift beyond crisis mode.  But this is something we all must do.  Not only do we need to prepare for the crises that will impact our members, our families and communities, but we need to generate longer term strategies that can turn the tide – both in progressive communities like Seattle, and in more conservative communities across Washington State.  

We must project a vision and be resolute in our commitment to a more just and compassionate nation.  We must commit to organizing – in immigrant and refugee communities and beyond – grounded in a commitment to racial equity, with the goal of reaching the scale of movement necessary to correct the direction our nation has taken.  And we must be ready to drive a new political story, one centered on how immigrant and refugee communities, newly naturalized voters, families and their allies turned out to the polls, and held politicians accountable to fundamental principles of democracy, due process, justice and inclusiveness.

Donald Trump may be President, but when he’s gone, our communities will still be here, helping to make Washington and our nation stronger, more welcoming and more just.

In solidarity,

Rich Stolz
Executive Director

Site by Fuse IQ