Immigrant Advocacy Day in Olympia, Washington

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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 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.