Immigration or citizenship status could be added to anti-discrimination law under proposed legislation

  • Fri Feb 15th, 2019 10:10am
  • News

By Emma Epperly

Washington Newspaper Publishers Association

Senate legislation would add citizenship or immigration status to the “law against discrimination.”

The law currently outlaws discrimination against individuals based on race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, veterans status or disability.

The bill does not differentiate immigration or citizenship status from the areas in which these groups are protected from discrimination. These areas include the right to employment, real estate transactions, credit transactions and insurance transactions, among other areas.

The human rights commission administers the statue currently, as policy they do not ask about citizenship or immigration status.

Senate Bill 5165 was introduced by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D- Seattle). She testified on the bill at the Senate Law and Justice Committee meeing Tuesday, Feb. 12. The bill was co-sponsored by six other Democrats.

“In all cases where we, as a state, have an ability to recognize people living in our state that are residents, that are paying taxes, that are employed, that are contributing to our economy — we want to make sure they are afforded protections,” Saldaña said.

The bill does give precedent to federal regulations based on immigration and citizenship status. Federal prohibitions on hiring illegal immigrants and similar laws still apply, but under the proposed bill, discrimination against immigrants engaging in lawful behavior would be illegal.

Xochitl Maykovich of the Washington Community Action Network, an economic and racial justice advocate group, testified in support of the bill, outlining the issues in getting housing for many noncitizens or immigrants.

“There’s not a lot of recourse because it’s very clear that they’re being discriminated against because of their citizenship status but there’s really no place for them to go or no way for them to enforce their rights,” Maykovich said. “I think this bill will do so much to protect people and making sure people stay housed.”

Enoka Heart, a representative from the ACLU of Washington, also testified in support of the bill.

“There are 1 million immigrants in Washington state, that’s one out of seven of us. They are workers, students, parents, and children, they are our neighbors and members of our communities, some have lived in Washington for decades or for most of their lives,” Herat said. “They deserve to be treated like any other Washingtonian with dignity and respect.”

Alex Hur a representative from One America, an immigrant and refugee advocacy group, testified in support of the bill, stating that discrimination is not limited to those here illegally but happens to people here legally at various stages of the immigration or citizenship process.

SB 5165 was passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee to the Rules Committee on Thursday.