Immigrant Advocacy Day in Olympia, Washington

By Oliver Merino

Last month, I joined our network member Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) for their annual Immigrant Advocacy Day in Olympia, Washington. More than 400 advocates traveled to the state capitol from all over the state to demand lawmakers support the expansion of healthcare and unemployment insurance – regardless of immigration status, and provide resources to address the needs of newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers. 

Washington is home to more than 250,000 undocumented community members, the majority who are uninsured and continue to face the hurdles of lack of access to healthcare. Health insurance is a matter of life or death. While the state has made some inroads into expanding healthcare coverage, it’s not nearly enough. 

The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare the inequalities in the country, including healthcare and unemployment protections. People who attended the Advocacy Day shared how during the first two years of the pandemic, they continued to work despite the dangers of contagion. Though many were applauded as “essential workers”, they had no safety net if they got sick or lost their job. Many continue to struggle because the state hasn’t fully addressed these issues. 

During the march to the state capitol, people held signs that read: “Access to Healthcare,” “Governor Inslee, healthcare insurance and unemployment protection now!”, and a large banner with bold letters “Immigrants and Refugees United for Justice.” 

Attendees included dozens of asylum seekers who called on state lawmakers to invest $25 million for housing, food assistance, transportation, and legal support for thousands of migrants who have recently arrived in Washington. 

We met with dozens of state representatives and senators to deliver these demands. Community members shared their personal experiences and shed light on the struggles that the immigrant community in Washington faces. It was a powerful moment to witness hundreds of people inside the halls of the state capitol, all with the same goal of fighting to create a better future for themselves and their immigrant neighbors. 

The day ended with a rally on the steps of the state capitol. Speakers included advocates from African, LGBTQ, Latin American, and Middle Eastern communities, and reflected the diversity and power of the immigrant community in Washington state. 

It was an honor to join WAISN and hundreds of immigrant community members in Olympia. To keep up with the amazing work that WAISN is doing, follow them on Instagram

3/14/2024 Update: Because of advocacy and organizing efforts, groups were able to secure; $28 million to expand healthcare access, $33 million to support newly arrived immigrants, and $100,000 for a work group that will research a wage replacement program for undocumented workers. 

The Immigrant Justice Network Opposes “Parole” in the Reconciliation Bill

Our communities deserve inclusive and permanent solutions NOW.

2021.11.9 — The immigrant Justice Network released the following statement today:

In the midst of the ongoing debate in Congress, the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) upholds simple but all too ignored truths. We uphold that every person’s life is of value, no matter what they look like or where they came from. We affirm that our immigration policies should center around our values of community and compassion. And we affirm the humanity of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones who have had contact with the U.S.’s racist criminal-legal system.

Across the country, immigrant communities have been organizing for inclusion and permanent protection from the cruel machinery of detention and deportation. These efforts are vital and urgently needed, as are many components of the overall “Build Back Better” bill. 

However, when we look at the so-called “parole” provisions for immigration relief, we see that the important demands of the immigrant community have been whittled down into something nearly unrecognizable. These provisions, as many have noted, are inadequate. They are elusive, temporary, and restrictive. Moreover, they maintain the painful exclusion of our loved ones who have been criminalized. For these reasons, the Immigrant Justice Network opposes the “parole” option.

Even as much of the immigrant rights movement continues to hold citizenship as its north star, our network wants to draw attention to the fact that previous legislation, despite containing many critically and urgently important provisions, also excluded our loved ones, neighbors, friends, and those of us who ourselves have been criminalized. Such exclusions have their roots in a harmful framework that subjects immigrants to double-punishment and double-suspicion based on the color of their skin and where they were born.

Additionally, we join with our partners advocating for a different vision for public safety where investment is made in communities rather than in more policing and imprisonment. We recognize that both the immigration and criminal-legal systems are rooted in racism and white supremacy, and as long as lawmakers in DC continue to criminalize immigrants and people of color for political gain, we will continue to speak out against criminalization in all its forms.

Instead of bringing to the table bills that perpetuate the criminalization of our communities, we must all continue to fight for a world where no person is seen as disposable. We must fight for citizenship and protection from deportation without excluding any member of our communities, including those who have already been targeted by the criminal system. In these difficult moments, we must also continue to lift up and advocate for immigration policies, such as the New Way Forward Act, which seeks to decriminalize migration and address racism in the immigration system while affirming our values of equity, inclusion, and respect for everyone’s rights.

We call on Congress to follow the lead of our most vulnerable communities who need inclusive and permanent solutions NOW.


New Deportation Memo Will Continue to Target Immigrant Communities

For immediate release: October 1, 2021
Contact: Arianna Rosales,; Jon Rodney,

2021.10.1 — In response to the Department of Homeland Security memo, the Immigrant Justice Network issued the following statement. 

President Biden came to office promising to change course on immigration policy, but the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo continues to rely on flawed narratives of “public safety,” “national security,” and “border security” that lead to increased detention and deportation. 

We recognize the absence of bright line exclusions is the result of years of organizing and advocacy by organizations who have uplifted the devastation caused by crim-imm provisions. However, while these new deportation priorities move away from categorical exclusions, they continue to permit immigration officials to have dangerous, broad discretion in choosing whom to arrest, detain and deport, leaving the door open to the targeting of Black and brown immigrants.

As a leading advocacy voice against the criminalization of immigrants, the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) demands that DHS end the racist criminal legal system as a metric to determine who should be detained or deported. We’ve seen similar “enforcement priorities” in the past that have led to human rights abuses, increased policing, and family separation. It is extremely disappointing to witness the Biden-Harris administration backtracking on campaign promises and repackaging the harmful policies used by previous administrations.

Just days ago, the nation witnessed the brutalization of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol. While the administration expressed “outrage,” its words are further hollowed by this memo, which labels people who recently arrived in the United States or are apprehended at the border as “threats to border security.” These false labels perpetuate the cruel and inhumane treatment of migrants at the border. 

Detention numbers have skyrocketed under the Biden administration, this memo will likely only help to continue this trend. 


 Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) members include Families for Freedom, Grassroots Leadership, the Immigrant Defense Project, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Just Futures Law, the National Immigrant Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Puente Human Rights Movement, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. 

Immigrant Justice Network Calls on Next Administration to Forge a New Way Forward Toward Dignity and Justice

In response to the 2020 election results, the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) released the following statement: 

With a new administration officially set to take office in January 2021, we acknowledge the opportunity for our country to build and move forward. 

From the uprisings for Black lives to the contentious election, this year has reminded us that the fight against white supremacy, structural racism, and criminalization in this country has a long way to go. To begin to transform our country, the next administration cannot simply restore the status quo that existed before Trump was elected.


Criminalization During COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to claim lives, it has become clearer than ever that we are only as healthy as the most vulnerable members of our community. We need a collective commitment across our society to stay at home, and save as many lives as possible. And for this approach to succeed, we need to take care of each other and make sure all people have adequate support to survive this crisis.


Immigrant Justice Network Condemns Trump, Tucker Carlson’s Racist Fear Mongering Against New Way Forward Act

Washington, DC – Yesterday, Tucker Carlson aired a 14 minute segment on the New Way Forward Act, a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation which challenges racial profiling and mass incarceration in the immigration system. To instill fear about the visionary measure, the host spewed a false, harmful, and racist narrative about our immigrant neighbors.


The Immigrant Justice Network is a leading advocacy voice against the criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Grounded in racial justice values, we build power to defend the dignity of all immigrants.