A Look Back at 2022: Leading With Our Values

Wednesday, December 21, 2022
The end of the year is a natural moment for reflection. At the ACLU of Washington, it is a time to take stock of how our organization showed up – for and beside communities impacted by systemic oppression and consistent with our mission, vision and values.
In 2022, ACLU-WA’s lawyers, policy experts, organizers and other staff advocated fiercely to protect and advance freedom, equity, and justice for everyone in Washington. We didn’t achieve every short-term goal. But we remained steadfast in our work, centering our commitment to those who have been systemically denied full enjoyment of their promised civil liberties and civil rights.
At ACLU-WA, we know we are defined by our actions. The priorities we set and the work we pursue, in the legislaturein the courts, and in community, reflects our vision to build a more equitable, just society by breaking down racial and economic injustice and other forms of oppression.
We state our values to keep us focused, so that we are reminded even in difficult times of our purpose and mission. This year, guided by our values, we made courageous decisions in our work to demand police accountability, counter specious tough-on-crime narratives that contribute to mass incarceration, to secure access to abortion and gender affirming health care and to fight censorship in schools.
Here is a sampling of the change we made together in 2022 and the work we’ll continue to do:
  • An estimated 105,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington are ineligible for Medicaid or Qualified Health Plans as a direct result of their immigration status. The ACLU-WA, as a core member of the Health Equity for Immigrants Campaign, successfully helped obtain $12 million in the state budget this year to build health coverage programs for all Washingtonians. We also helped advocate for waiver of federal regulations limiting access to health care programs based on immigration status, making Washington the first state in the country where undocumented immigrants will be able to access state health coverage.
  • We successfully advocated to exclude funding for gunshot detection systems, such as ShotSpotter, from Seattle’s 2023-2024 budget. Evidence indicates these systems are riddled with inaccuracy, violate privacy, are used to target communities of color for excessive policing, and can escalate interactions between police and community members, while no evidence suggests they prevent or deter gun violence. Instead, we pressed for investments that are proven to prevent violence, including increased resources for education, health care and violence interruption programs.
  • Abortion and gender affirming care remain legal in Washington, but there is much work to be done to secure access for everyone who will need it. We teamed with partner organizations to train attorneys across the state to provide legal information to protect patients and providers and are working to ensure that Washington remains a beacon of liberty for people seeking access to care.
  • The ACLU-WA filed an amicus brief arguing, in part, that it is imperative that all people — but particularly Black people accused of a serious crime involving a victim of a different race — have the opportunity for a diverse jury. We also argued that discriminatory use of peremptory strikes compounds racial disparities by denying potential jurors of color the privilege of participating equally in this critical civic process in violation of General Rule 37 — which the ACLU-WA was key in creating and implementing. The Washington Supreme Court sided with the ACLU-WA and affirmed the expansive protections of General Rule 37 and overturned the conviction. (State v. Tesfasilasye)
  • Washington became the 21st state to automatically restore the right to vote to all citizens upon release from prison, after legislative advocacy by impacted community members, the ACLU-WA, and allies. 26,000 Washingtonians currently on community custody had their voting rights restored and are now able to register to vote and participate in our democracy.
  • Washington is one of only a handful of states where children as young as 8 years old can be incarcerated. For the past couple of sessions, the ACLU-WA and allies have worked to pass SB 5122 which would raise the age at which a child can enter the juvenile legal system from 8 to 13 and studied the expansion of the top range of juvenile court jurisdiction. We will continue this important work in 2023.
  • Theodore Rhone disputed the use of peremptory challenges to strike the only or last remaining member of a recognizable racial group in jury trials resulting in the race-based discrimination that remains pervasive in the criminal legal system. The Washington Supreme Court denied Mr. Rhone’s request, but ultimately adopted the rule he proposed, which has been expanded upon in subsequent cases. He has returned to the Court, arguing for the relief that he is entitled to. ACLU-WA filed an amicus brief in his original appeal in 2009 and we reaffirmed our advocacy with an updated amicus. The Court granted review of his case, to be argued in February 2023. (PRP Rhone)
  • The ACLU-WA, along with several affiliates and the national ACLU, filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act, to preserve decades of crucial protections for Native children and families, tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and the very existence of tribes (Brackeen v. Holland). This work reflects our values at ACLU-WA.
And, as we turn the corner on a new year, we will remain accountable to community, vigilant and responsive to the needs of those impacted by oppressive systems, committed to liberty for everyone, putting race and other forms of equity at the center of all we do.