Washington New Sanctuary Movement

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A message from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)

Dear Friends,

The Senate and House agreed last week to a compromise known as a "continuing resolution," a two-week long budget bill to keep the government operating at current levels. The decisions made in the next few weeks will affect funding levels for all federal programs, including those that serve the most vulnerable of populations such as refugees, children, victims of trafficking and torture and other migrants.

As Congress continues to negotiate, LIRS invites you to join a national day of action on Tuesday, March 15 to preserve humanitarian assistance. The deep proposed cuts to both international and domestic assistance to refugee funding would have a devastating impact on the United States's ability to protect, serve and welcome newcomers at home and abroad.

Consider the stories of Thon Chol and Elizabeth Anok Kuch, former refugees from Sudan and friends of LIRS. They lived for many years in refugee camps as children and depended on the protection and assistance of the U.S. government and other humanitarian aid to survive. Thon, who arrived to the camp barefoot, finally received a pair of shoes and Elizabeth did not have to beg or pick garbage in order to eat.

H.R. 1, a recent proposal passed by the House of Representatives, cut funding to the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration by 45%. Such a drastic cut in funding would immediately impact life-saving assistance and international peace and security. Moreover, without the basic life-saving services and resources provided by PRM, refugees, particularly women and young girls, will be forced to leave camps and search for water, kerosene and food in dangerous locales.

Please call (202) 224-3121 and tell your member of Congress, "Please preserve humanitarian assistance for refugees. Maintain FY 2010 levels for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the Office of Refugee Resettlement." Speak about the importance of a robust welcome and the contributions that newcomers make to our communities. Take action the LIRS Action Center. And spread the word by forwarding this message to friends and family!

Thank you for joining your voice for welcome.


Immigration, license bill voted down on Washington Senate (courtesy of Associated Press)


A Republican-led motion to bring a vote on a bill that would have restricted driver's licenses access to illegal immigrants and attempted to stop other identification fraud was defeated Monday in the Washington state Senate, dealing proponents of the measure a major defeat.

By Manuel Valdez

Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

A Republican-led motion to bring a vote on a bill that would have restricted driver's licenses access to illegal immigrants and attempted to stop other identification fraud was defeated Monday in the Washington state Senate, dealing proponents of the measure a major defeat.

In a procedural motion, Republicans asked the Senate to consider the bill, which had not been brought to the floor by Democrats, who hold the majority and control of which bills get a vote.

But the motion failed 23-25 in the waning minutes of a deadline to vote on bills in their chambers of origin.

Among the no votes was chief sponsor Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, but she said that she will take the issue to the governor.

"Nothing is ever dead in the Legislature. I'm going to go talk to the governor," Haugen said. "I'd ask the governor that she needs to stand and take leadership in this role. She needs to recognize what's happening in this nation."

Washington state is one of two states in the country that still let illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses. New Mexico is the other state that still allows such practice, but lawmakers there are also considering bills to close the access.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said that if the Legislature passed a bill dealing with driver's licenses, she would sign it.

The bill would have required applicants for driver's license to provide proof of residency and a social security number. Supporters had said the bill aimed to stop identification fraud. Haugen said that there are 300,000 more driver's licenses in this state than there are drivers.

Opponents, though, had said that it would have led the illegal immigrant community to drive without licenses and car insurance. They also have said that the estimated cost of the bill - about $1.5 million in the next two-year budget - is too expensive in a year that the state faces a deficit.

After Monday's defeat, the bill appears dead. No other licenses bill received a vote on the House.

Monday's vote was the furthest a bill dealing with the driver's license issue has ever gotten in the Legislature.

Haugen, who is the chairwoman of the Senate transportation committee, said that for years she had stopped similar bills because she was worried about the impact on the farm industry, which has a significant number of illegal immigrants working using fake identification

The Senator argued that her bill would have put restrictions on identification fraud by imposing stricter rules on state residency, adding that illegal immigrants currently in the state would have not been affected by the proposed law.

She said that she's concerned that if lawmakers don't act, an initiative will be approved in this state with stricter rules affecting farm workers. But attempts at such initiatives have failed in the last half a decade in the state, with organizers failing to get the signatures needed.

An attempt to ask Democratic Senate Floor Leader Sen. Tracey Eide why leadership did not support the bill, an aide said she had no time for questions. Through spokesman Jeff Reading, other Senate leadership also declined to comment.

Republican Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said he was disappointed that the bill didn't get a vote, adding that he worries the state will attract more identification fraud.

"We're probably going to be the only state in the union without restrictions," King said.

Late last year, the Department of Licensing tightened rules around obtaining a license, requiring people who can't provide social securities to prove that they have state residency.

Craig Keller, organizer for Respect WA, the group that has pushed for initiatives with stricter immigration rules said that it was a shame that the bill didn't get a full vote.

"It was a start to bring some sanity to the driver's license issue," Keller said.

But Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, whose organization lobbied against the bill, said that state lawmakers are trying to fill the void left by the federal government's lack of action on immigration law, but that restricting driver's licenses does not address immigration issues.