OLYMPIA — Washington State Democrats have introduced legislation they say will protect residents from recent presidential executive orders.
At a news conference Wednesday called by House Democrats, Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-Maltby) said the legislation is meant to shield the state from affairs in the nation’s capital related to President Donald John Trump’s executive orders.
“Democrats are trying to find a way to build a wall around Washington State to keep D.C. out, and this hateful rhetoric and all these actions,” Palumbo said.
On the same day, the Washington state House of Representatives commemorated the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the order ultimately led to the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast. Among those removed and incarcerated, 12,000 were from Washington State.
Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) said the scheduling of the media event Wednesday was no accident.
“We made very grave mistakes as a country 75 years ago,” Farrell said at the news conference. “Senate Democrats and House Democrats are committed to making sure that we do not make mistakes like that again.”
Democrats’ proposals to accomplish their aims are now moving through the legislative process.
Among them, House Bill 2029, sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo), would create a toll-free telephone hotline and website for individuals seeking information and assistance related to immigration and citizenship.
“We refuse to not learn from the past and we’re going to stand up,” Ortiz-Self said. “I never thought we’d have to introduce a bill that protects, that gives resources to those who are being discriminated against.”
HB 2029’s companion bill, Senate Bill 5801, is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), who said it is important to recognize the role immigrants play in Washington State.
“It is important that policy is moved forward in a way that creates opportunities and pathways for economic opportunities for people to bring their full gifts to Washington state,” Saldaña said. “And that policy must never be about fear and racism.”
Saldaña highlighted the importance of remembering the Japanese internment in light of recent events, such as the arrest of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant who was granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
On Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department said in court documents that Ramirez Medina admitted to having gang ties. Lawyers for Ramirez Medina denied the allegation.
“We had clear policy set forward for him to be legally here and have legal status, and that status was undermined by an unlawful detention,” Saldaña said. “We are still waiting to hear more details about that particular case, but it’s really critical that residents of Washington know that we will stand up against discrimination.”
HB 2029 was reported out of the House Judiciary committee with a do-pass recommendation on Feb. 16 with an 11-2 vote.
Rep. Brad Klippert (R- Kennewick) voted against the bill, calling it unnecessary because the state already provides information via the Washington Information Network 2-1-1 telephone service on health and human services. Rep. Matt Shea (R- Spokane Valley) also voted against the bill.
Rep. Ortiz-Self also sponsored House Bill 1988, which would create a new process for immigrant youth between the ages of 18 to 21 to petition for court-appointed guardians if they have been abandoned, abused or neglected by one or both parents. Currently, Washington state juvenile courts do not have authority to do this.
The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee with a do pass recommendation with 10 votes to 3 votes. Reps. Klippert, Shea and Larry Haler (R-Richland) voted against the bill.
SSB 5559, a companion to the House version sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, moved from the Senate Committee on Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Feb. 14 with a 6-1 do-pass vote.
HB 2097, sponsored by Rep. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), seeks to protect religious freedom by prohibiting state or local government agencies from providing, collecting and disclosing information about an individual’s religious affiliation.
The bill is a way for Washington to stand up for religious communities in the face of President Trump’s past proposals of religious discrimination and prosecution, Stanford said, citing the travel ban and the Muslim-registry Trump discussed during his presidential campaign.
“My legislation will prohibit our state from enabling this reprehensible activity,” Stanford said. “We must not stand by silently and watch the scapegoating of an entire faith community.”
HB 2097 bill was reported out of the House Judiciary committee Feb. 16 with an unanimous do-pass recommendation. Its companion Senate bill, SB 5828, sponsored by Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, has yet to be considered by the Law and Justice Committee in that chamber.
Enrique Pérez de la Rosa is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. Reach reporter Enrique Pérez de la Rosa at email@example.com.