Advocates: Washington Must Ensure 'Basics Are Met' For Refugees And Immigrants

Feb 10, 2014

Advocates plan to rally in Olympia Tuesday in what’s become an annual push for immigrant and refugee rights.

More than a dozen groups plans to make some noise on the Capitol steps and meet with lawmakers on several key issues: restoring previously-cut funds to food aid and job training, and investing in better English-language learner services in public schools.

Will Berkovitz of Jewish Family Service said it’s about giving newcomers the tools to succeed once they’re arrived.

“I mean you can’t bring folks into this country and then sort of say, 'Good luck to you. You’re on your own.' You really need to provide some basic support structures so that they can start climbing the ladder,” he said.

The Washington Legislature appears poised to pass a state version of the Dream Act, which would give some undocumented immigrants access to financial aid for college. Berkovitz praised the bill, but while it’s been a big priority for many immigrants’ rights advocates, he said this week’s action is about meeting more fundamental needs.

“People who have limited English have like a 26 percent dropout rate. I mean they’re not going to even get anywhere even close to that,” said Berkovitz. “The Dream Act is really important, but I’m really working on trying to make sure that the basics are met.”

More than a dozen groups will join in the rally, including the International Rescue Committee, Highline Community College and Lutheran Community Services. Several lawmakers also plan to participate. This year’s lobbying effort will be the eighth annual Refugee and Immigrant Legislative Day in Washington.