There are a Million Reasons Washington Should Protect Immigrants from Discrimination

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
In Washington, 1 in 7 people are immigrants. That’s one million people; workers, students, parents, children, classmates, friends, and neighbors.
I’m the proud daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants, and in my work as Police Practices and Immigration Counsel at the ACLU of Washington, I’ve witnessed the discrimination immigrants in Washington have faced simply because of their identity, cultural background, or perceived immigration status. I’ve listened to their stories, and the injustice they’ve suffered angers and saddens me.
Immigrants are members of our communities. Some have lived in Washington for decades, or for most of their lives. All deserve to be treated like any other Washingtonian, with dignity and respect.
For this reason, the ACLU of Washington is joining our partners and allies to support SB 5165. This important legislation adds “immigration status” to the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). The WLAD protects people in Washington from unfair and discriminatory practices in employment, real estate transactions, public accommodations, credit and insurance. The WLAD currently prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, and sexual orientation.
By extending the protection of the WLAD to immigration status, SB 5165 will help address the unfair and harmful targeting and rejection faced by our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and community members who are or are perceived to be immigrants.
Specifically, it will prohibit discrimination that we know is common in two areas critical to one’s quality of life: housing options and public health programs. If SB 5165 becomes law, for example, a landlord would not be able to refuse an apartment to a family of refugees. And a hospital would not be able to deny obligatory charity care services solely based on immigration status.
The proposed law won’t change the fact that many immigrants do not qualify to access Affordable Care Act plans, programs through the Exchange, or programs like Medicare. But it will send a powerful message across the state and around the nation: immigrants must be treated with dignity and respect; the laws of Washington require it.
I’m dismayed by the harmful and unfair targeting immigrants suffer in Washington. But knowing that our state is taking a stand against it gives me hope.  SB 5165 is an opportunity to fight back against discrimination. It is our chance to make it clear that Washington is no place for hate.