The Need To Overhaul America’s Immigration System And Strategy
America’s character is defined by its openness to those who come here seeking opportunity, asylum, or refuge. Successive waves of immigrants have come to the United States throughout our history, not only making an irreplaceable contribution to our economic and social life, but also making an indelible mark on our national identity and renewing the promise of the American Dream. This is true today of the 13.7% of U.S. residents who are foreign-born and live as our neighbors, contribute to our economy, and enrich our communities — including the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States today. America’s success depends on our ability to welcome and include immigrants into our national life.
Governor Inslee’s Immigration Reform Plan:
- Ending President Trump’s wall and the Muslim ban, protecting DACA, and restoring order and humanity to our immigration system in the first 100 days of an Inslee Administration.
- Restoring America’s leadership on refugees by achieving historic levels of refugee admissions to the United States, meeting and exceeding the target of 110,000 refugee resettlements set during the final year of the Obama Administration.
- Restoring foreign assistance aid to Northern Triangle countries and dramatically expanding cooperation with their governments to address the root causes of family migration, including climate migration from Guatemala and elsewhere.
- Overhauling our immigration system so it is humane, just, and efficient, centered on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and expedited eligibility for DREAMers.
- Building systems to expand opportunity for immigrants in society.
Today, America’s immigration system is fundamentally broken and in need of an overhaul. Of course, smart and humane federal enforcement of immigration law is an essential part of a well-functioning immigration system.Our ports of entry and systems for processing immigration and asylum cases are inadequate to the task, due in part to misguided federal policies. Families and children seeking entry into the country are forced to undertake an unbelievably dangerous journey that exposes them to criminals and traffickers, and often ends in detention, family separation, and preventable death. Many immigrants to our country are vulnerable to exploitation due to weak labor laws and barriers to education, healthcare, and full participation in American society — struggles all American workers face. The failure of the federal government to address comprehensive immigration reform has resulted in cruel and deadly misuse of our immigration enforcement, undermined due process for all immigrants, and created unpredictability for businesses.
These challenges did not start with the election of President Trump, but his determination to turn America into a country that is fundamentally hostile to immigrants is making them far worse. Trump’s policies are making America less competitive for businesses, as an alliance including America’s largest tech firms wrote in 2018, and less welcoming to immigrants. For example, the revocation of rules that encourage high-skilled immigrants in STEM fields to immigrate is causing Microsoft to consider opening new facilities in Canada instead of the United States. In the agriculture sector, where hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers — many of them undocumented — conduct skilled work harvesting America’s crops, the Trump Administration is exploring proposals to reduce wages for laborers rather than strengthen pay, benefits, or protections.
President Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, which predictably drives immigrants and refugees to urgently attempt to travel to the United States, is also directly responsible for creating the crisis at the border. The decision to end U.S. foreign assistance to the nations of the “Northern Triangle” — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — only encourages migration to the United States. by vulnerable children and families, who represent the biggest challenge to our overwhelmed immigration system. At the same time, the Trump Administration’s “metering” efforts at ports of entry have driven immigrants and asylum seekers to cross the border illegally in growing numbers. When the Administration temporarily shut down California’s San Ysidro port of entry for just a few hours in November 2018, the local economy felt the impact of an estimated $5.3 million in losses, and his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border endangers $1.6 billion in daily cross-border trade.
Trump’s exploitation of our broken immigration system threatens to replace, in the eyes of the world, the iconic symbol of America’s openness — the Statue of Liberty — with images of children in cages, parents snatched and deported near schools and court houses, and families seeking entry into the United States choking on tear gas. But there is a better way for our immigration system to work — one rooted in what Governor Inslee has accomplished already as governor of Washington state, and in the state’s tradition of leadership when it comes to protecting and welcoming immigrants.
The America’s Promise Plan:
- Takes immediate action in the first 100 days of his administration to restore regular order and humanity to the border by: ending Trump’s wall; rescinding the Muslim ban; ending the abuse of solitary confinement; and setting a mandate to substantially reduce the population of immigrations in detention.
- Recognizes the unique role played by climate change in both global migration and family migration from Central America, and establishes a regional strategy to address the root causes of family migration to the United States.
- Restores America’s refugee resettlement leadership by committing to accepting a historic number of refugees.
- Envisions an overhaul of our immigration system, ensuring it is humane, just, and efficient, including: a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; a repeal of laws that lead to mass detention and deportation of immigrants; and the prevention of future blanket entry bans.
- Expands opportunities for immigrants with strong labor protections and organizing rights, including providing protections against wage theft, and amending U.S. law to make federal financial student aid available to DREAMers.
Washington State: An Immigrant and Refugee Success Story
Washington state, where one out of every seven residents is an immigrant, has led the country on upholding America’s unique values by being a leader in welcoming immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Beginning in 1975, Governor Dan Evans — a Republican — spearheaded the admission of thousands of refugees fleeing the wars in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia to Washington state. Since 1975, Washington state has accepted more than 145,000 refugees from around the world, and today accepts thousands of refugees annually — even amid the Trump Administration’s artificially-low nationwide refugee caps. In 2015, as President Trump incited fear about Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS and other governors across the country gave in to that fear, Governor Inslee insisted that Washington state would continue to welcome them into the community.
Governor Inslee has consistently taken immediate action to stand up for immigrants and refugees against demagogues — including the president — who would demonize and target them. In 2017, he was the first governor in America to challenge President Trump’s ban on entry of individuals from seven Muslim countries into the United States, and Washington state led the first lawsuit against Trump’s Muslim ban, the first of 21 victories for Washington state over the administration in court. Amid President Trump’s “family separation” policy that ripped apart families migrating to the United States, Governor Inslee authorized $230,000 in emergency funding for legal aid to impacted families, bringing Washington state’s total commitment at that time to $1.2 million. Governor Inslee also took action, first through executive order and recently through legislation — the Keep Washington Working Act — to cease voluntary cooperation between Washington state and local agencies and federal immigration authorities that enforce Trump’s indiscriminate deportation policies.
Washington state also demonstrates the benefits of managing trade and immigration from other countries with procedures that are humane, orderly, and efficient. Washington state’s border crossings with Canada accounts for tens of billions of dollars in trade between the two countries, including 4 million annual visits creating more than $1 billion in economic activity on the U.S. side of the border. Washington state’s economic relationship with Mexico generated $3.3 billion in trade, more than 106,000 Washington state jobs and nearly $500 million in imports depended on trade with Mexico through 2017. And despite recent increases in border crossings at Washington state’s Spokane sector, and the entire U.S.-Canada border, ports of entry between the United States and its northern neighbor are efficient pipelines of trade and tourism rather than the site of scenes of chaos.
Washington state’s example of welcoming immigrants and refugees into its society, of building bridges through efficient trade and economic activity, and protecting immigrants from discrimination stands in stark contrast to the counterproductive cruelty of the Trump Administration. America needs a completely different strategy on immigration, and Governor Inslee brings the executive and legislative experience and record necessary to restore America’s promise and overhaul our immigration system.
Stopping the Chaos: Action on Immigration in the First 100 Days of the Inslee Administration
America’s immigration system needs a systemic overhaul, but relief can be provided to ease the current crisis with strong action taken by the next president. The immediate harms caused by the Trump Administration’s counterproductive strategy of indiscriminate enforcement, incendiary rhetoric, and sweeping detention require the use of executive authority to protect the health and safety of immigrants and communities across the country. These actions will set the stage for legislation and budgets that will fundamentally reform our immigration system.
Beginning on his first day in office, Governor Inslee will take immediate steps to end President Trump’s bombastic chaos on immigration. He will:
- Rescind Executive Order 13780, President Trump’s ban on entry from Muslim countries into the United States.
- Rescind Executive Order 13768, President Trump’s attempt to bar federal funding to cities that do not use local police to enforce federal immigration law. This order has been blocked by a U.S. federal judge.
- Rescind Executive Order 13767, President Trump’s order for the construction of a physical wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Order the withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border in support of immigration enforcement and canceling the use of non-immigration funding streams currently being reprogrammed to fund the border wall.
- Restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, providing immediate relief to approximately 800,000 eligible applicants.
- Reverse Trump Administration decisions that eliminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections for immigrants and refugees from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and for individuals covered by the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program.
These steps will contribute to restoring regular order and humanity to the implementation of our immigration laws. But there are additional steps that must be taken to unwind the damage caused by President Trump’s determined efforts to deter immigrants, through fear and intimidation, from coming to the United States. Trump’s failed immigration policies do not benefit American citizens or workers, but rather human trafficking organizations that exploit migrants, private prison companies, and xenophobes seeking to incite fear and hate. Reforms should ensure immigrants and asylum seekers are no longer incentivized to make extremely dangerous illegal border crossings; federal personnel are no longer needed to be repurposed from managing ports of entry or even the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to manage the volume of immigrants; and the enormous expansion of unnecessary and inadequately-managed detention of immigrants is reversed.
The United States must quickly reorganize its approach to immigration enforcement across the country and at the border. To do so, Governor Inslee will:
- Order an end to targeted enforcement near schools, court houses, public health facilities, and shelters, and other sensitive locations. Governor Inslee signed legislation in May 2019 ensuring Washington state and local resources are not utilized for federal immigration enforcement, and services are provided to immigrants without regard to immigration status.
- Order an end to the use of “segregated housing” — solitary confinement — within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities as a general practice and require tracking of all instances of the use of solitary confinement. Evidence indicates that the use of solitary confinement in ICE facilities has expanded far beyond an extraordinary tool to be used as a last resort to a regular practice intended as punishment, disproportionately impacting immigrants who are LGBTQ, disabled, or mentally ill.
- Order an end to “metering” at U.S. border ports of entry that is designed to deter immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from presenting themselves to border patrol personnel; instead it forces them to attempt illegal crossings that result in arrest or exposure to extreme danger from traffickers and smugglers.
- On his first day in office, charge the new Secretary of Homeland Security with leading an interagency process, to be completed within 30 days, that results in an action plan to:
- Substantially reduce the population held in ICE custody or in state and local facilities at ICE’s request. This is an immediate step taken in advance of statutory changes intended, in part, to end mandatory detention. Today, more than 52,000 people are being held in custody in detention facilities managed by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or privately-run facilities such as the Northwest Detention Center. The agency is requesting funding for 54,000 beds in fiscal year 2020. This expansion is a direct result of the Trump Administration’s approach to immigration enforcement, and the individuals detained in these facilities are being held on civil immigration violations, not criminal charges.
- End federal reliance on for-profit detention centers, such as the Northwest Detention Center. Washington state is currently suing the owner of that facility, the GEO Group, for wage violations against detainees.
- Reset immigration enforcement strategy to restore the normal and efficient function of U.S. ports of entry, including the return of federal personnel who were reassigned to detaining immigrants crossing between border ports of entry.
- Reduce the immigration court caseload backlog — now approaching 900,000 nationally — through a reduction in volume achieved by ending the Trump Administration’s efforts to reopen thousands of low-priority and closed cases.
- Resolve the ongoing crisis of family separation by accelerating and completing the process of identifying and reuniting children separated from their parents by President Trump’s “family separation” policy, which is now estimated to have taken at least 1,712 children from their parents.
Addressing Climate Change and Other Root Causes of Migration From Central America to the United States
Climate change is an urgent and immediate cause of the expanding global migration crisis. It is neither a new nor small factor. Twenty-four million people on average have been displaced around the world each year since 2008 due to extreme weather events. Many others are driven from their homes by indirect climate change impacts force people to migrate in search of food, water, livelihood, shelter, or to avoid conflict. Worldwide, more than 140 million people are expected to be driven from their homes by climate change by midcentury. But climate migration is a reality now, from distant places such as Bangladesh to the very shores of Washington state, where native populations are being forced to move inland to save themselves and their culture. Addressing the role climate change plays in encouraging migration — alongside the role played by corruption, political violence, and persecution — is an essential part of overhauling America’s immigration system.
Climate change is a direct driver of migration to the United States by families from the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. A report by the World Bank estimates that climate-related migration could drive 4 million people to flee Central America by mid-century.In particular, water scarcity and degradation of the viability of coffee growing in the western highlands of Guatemala and other agricultural is being severely exacerbated by climate change. These ecological and economic changes undermine the foundations of whole communities and regions, and guarantee migration to the United States and elsewhere. These factors, combined with rising gang violence and the need to strengthen government institutions, mean U.S. engagement is critical to advancing a cohesive strategy that serves the entire region’s interests.
The United States must assist the governments of the Northern Triangle nations in addressing the root causes of large-scale family migration to the United States, especially climate change. The migration of families from these countries is the driving force behind the unprecedented numbers of arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border. In the first five months of fiscal year 2019, more people traveling in families with children were detained by border patrol officials than in all of fiscal year 2018.The Trump Administration’s attempts to deter these migrants through fear and cruelty, and to bully regional governments rather than work with them, have failed. It is imperative the U.S. government work with governments of countries where migrants from which migrants are traveling, as well as those of countries through which they travel and in which they settle, on a joint approach to responsibly integrate the processing of these asylum seekers into our overall immigration system.
To do so, Governor Inslee will support a regional solution to:
- Restore the Central American Minors (CAM) program to allow for reunification of qualifying minor children from the region, and expand in-country processing of immigrants seeking entry to the United States from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Trump Administration has closed international offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), undermining in-country processing efforts. Working effectively with national governments and immigrant assistance organizations to establish personnel and facilities that can conduct advance screening and processing of applicants will help eliminate the incentive to make dangerous overland journeys to America and reduce the volume of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Restore and expand federal foreign assistance funding for the Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In April 2019, the State Department diverted $450 million in funding for these nations that supported anti-poverty, education, and food and agriculture assistance programs in these three countries. These programs directly impacted both the role of climate change in undermining these nations’ stability and economies, and raised standards of living for those living in high-migration areas.
- Evaluate options for adoption of the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at the earliest practicable date, to ensure U.S. participation in a globally coordinated strategy to address the challenges migration poses. The Compact establishes systems for information sharing and analysis to predict and address migration, deals with the impacts of both sudden-onset extreme weather events and slow-onset climate change impacts, and strengthens regional and international cooperation to address irregular migration caused by climate change and other root causes.
- Direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and other development and relief agencies to work across programs and prioritize support for locally driven efforts to stabilize local economies and provide for sustainable livelihoods in the face of climate disruption, to increase economic opportunity and wealth creation and reduce the need for families to migrate. These efforts will target ongoing development as well as strategies for disaster response and recovery and address the root causes of large-scale family migration by promoting livelihoods that can be supported in the face of climate change, addressing increasing water scarcity and resilience to disaster.
- Advocating for the creation of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Climate and Security to oversee the emergence of global climate and security threats and regularly report on the effectiveness of the U.N. response to these threats. The Rapporteur will work with the Security Council and other member states to create a comprehensive plan for improving the capacity of the U.N. to coordinate responses to climate-related displacement and disasters.
Restoring America as the Hope for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
The world faces a global refugee crisis of a scale not seen since World War II, with an estimated 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including nearly 30 million refugees and asylum seekers.In 2019 alone, the United Nations expects an overall increase in refugee numbers of 17% — more than 1.4 million new people in need of resettlement globally. But amid the global refugee crisis, refugee admissions have reached an all-time low thanks to the Trump Administration’s cap of 30,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2019. Even fewer than that — 22,491 — were resettled in the United States in fiscal year 2018.
This approach is not only senselessly cruel, but counterproductive: A U.S. government report purportedly shelved by the Trump Administration found that refugees added a net $63 billion in federal revenues over 10 years. President Trump has totally, and intentionally, abandoned America’s values and historical role as a place where refugees and asylum seekers can resettle and contribute to our economy and national life. But America’s national character, the growing refugee crisis, and our broken immigration system all demand that the next president reclaim our historical leadership role and develop an approach that works.
As we expand cooperation with regional partners to deal with economic migration spurred by climate change and other factors, the United States must reprise its historic leadership role in welcoming refugees. This can be done safely and efficiently, as is happening in Washington state and as the United States was able to do for nearly 40 years prior to the Trump Administration’s systemic attack on refugee resettlement. Individuals applying for refugee resettlement in the United States go through a multi-step process that begins with referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or a trained non-governmental organization, and features security screenings, medical checks, and cultural orientations. America must invest in and strengthen this system to get back on the path of once again being the world leader in refugee resettlement.
Governor Inslee will:
- Raise the ceiling for annual refugee admissions to the United States to allow for the acceptance of historic numbers of refugees, meeting and eventually exceeding the target of 110,000 refugees that was set during the final year of the Obama Administration. This is a minimum standard for the United States to reclaim its historic leadership role on resettling refugees. The damaging, unacceptable, and arbitrary caps on refugee resettlement imposed by the Trump Administration — which hardline voices in the White House have sought to reduce even further, to as low as 15,000 annually — are reportedly lower even than levels advocated by America’s diplomatic and military leadership. These damaging caps serve only to undermine our international leadership and rob our country of contributions from those eager to participate in our economy and society. Governor Inslee will right this unprecedented wrong.
- End the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that forces asylum seekers from Central American countries to await adjudication of their case in Mexico, rather than in the United States as has historically been the case. This policy was blocked by a U.S. federal judge in April 2019, but is ongoing while appeals are in process.
- Launch a regional refugee resettlement initiative that brings together the efforts of national governments, non-governmental organizations, and international partners such as the UNHCR to collectively manage the unique needs of applicants from the Northern Triangle region. Such an approach will: help reduce the length of third-country stays; help facilitate necessary security and medical checks; and train and support in-country partners that can identify and refer cases of individuals in greatest need of resettlement.
- Direct the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security to expand cooperation with the UNHCR and the Mexican government to strengthen procedures and institutions for applicants seeking asylum in Mexico.
- Identify alternative pathways to bring qualifying refugees to the United States, diminishing the need to transit through U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry.
- Ensure qualified USCIS officials, who are critical to systems supporting legal immigration to the United States, are conducting credible fear interviews of asylum seekers. In fiscal year 2018, 75% of the nearly 100,000 individuals seeking asylum passed their credible fear interviews and advanced to the next step in the process, demonstrating the scale of the need for asylum.
- Restore and significantly expand the scale of caseload management systems for connecting refugees and asylum seekers with infrastructure to ensure effective participation in hearings, including legal aid resources, and interpreter services. From 2016 to 2017, the Department of Homeland Security piloted the Family Case Management Program that achieved 99% participation appearance rates for immigration hearings – but the program was abandoned by the Trump Administration despite its success.
Toward a Path to Citizenship for All and a Functioning Immigration System
America needs an immigration system that functions well, not just for immigrants and families coming to America, but also for businesses, border communities and communities throughout the country touched by immigration. But our immigration system remains fundamentally broken despite having spent more than $324 billion on immigration law enforcement since the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2003.There is no solution to be found in continued militarization of the border, criminalization of civil immigration violations, or indiscriminate targeting and deportation of those who have lived in this country for decades and contribute to our economy and our society. These are principles reflected in the Keep Washington Working Act that Governor Inslee recently signed into law in Washington state.
The overhaul our immigration system needs is one built on pragmatic solutions that achieve a humane, just, and efficient immigration system. That means creating a system that protects public safety by targeting enforcement against criminal behavior, not immigration status — including strongly enforcing laws against exploitation of immigrants by employers, as well as traffickers and smugglers. It means protecting taxpayers by making smart investments that bring efficiency and fairness to the immigration system and reduce costs, instead of spending endless sums on an immigration system in a constant state of emergency. And it means supporting economic growth by ensuring businesses have access to skilled employees in every field, and that immigrants can fully participate in our economy and civic life through the public services they help support with their tax dollars.
To build this system, Governor Inslee will:
- Propose an overhaul of the immigration system for our country that features, at its core, a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Today, approximately 60% of the undocumented population of the United States has been in this country for over a decade. These individuals are integral to their communities, and contribute billions in payroll and Social Security taxes annually. A path to citizenship can be accomplished in an objective and timely fashion, and reasonably include requirements that qualifying applicants pass a background check, be taxpayers, and take accredited courses in English and civics.
- Provide expedited eligibility for a path to citizenship for DREAMers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status.
- Establish a new program utilizing “Humanitarian Parole” authority as administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to expedite the return of qualifying individuals deported by the Trump Administration, including U.S. military veterans and parents or legal guardians of children separated from their parents under the “family separation” policy.
- Repeal the 287(g) program created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, and related executive orders, which provides the legal framework for federal immigration enforcement functions to be conducted by local law enforcement.
- Repeal the provisions of IRIRA of 1996 that created three-year and ten-year bars for undocumented persons to obtain for permanent resident status.
- Restore due process to the immigration hearing system by reinstating judicial review and immigration judges’ discretion to waive grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, as proposed in legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.
- Significantly increase hiring of immigration judges and establish the immigration court system as independent from the Department of Justice.
- Establish a comprehensive strategy for employers and immigrant workers alike that combines: clear guidelines and tools to verify employment eligibility with robust enforcement of compliance with federal labor law by employers; and strong penalties in cases of violations.
- Implement provisions of the NO BAN Act proposed by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons to limit the president’s ability to unilaterally institute blanket entry bans, and explicitly clarify that anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) apply to religion and visa access.
- End harassment of, discrimination against, and denial of LGBTQ immigrants, who have experienced grave threats of physical violence while forced by Trump Administration immigration officials to remain in Mexico, in detention facilities, or while attempting to obtain needed paperwork to travel to and from the United States.
- Invest in border infrastructure that supports trade and human transit. The Trump Administration’s approach at the U.S.-Mexico border and repeated threats to close it has made life more difficult for residents and businesses along the border dependent on the ability to conduct efficient daily cross-border trade. Additionally, the Trump Administration approach to the border has made human smuggling more lucrative and the border more dangerous.
Expanding Opportunity for Immigrants into Our Society
When immigrants are able to live free of exploitation or discrimination, they are able to fully participate in society and make massive contributions to our economy and society. A well-functioning immigration system is one that not only efficiently manages immigrants’ entry into the U.S. and humanely enforces the law, but also one that reduces inequality in the justice system for immigrants and ensures equitable access to public services, strong labor protections, the right to health care, and a good education. Improving economic opportunity and removing barriers to opportunity for immigrants is an essential part of realizing the promise of an America that is once again welcoming to immigrants and the unique role they play in our economy and society.
Governor Inslee will:
- Reform the visa system so that it is: sustainable and predictable; puts into place flexible caps based on labor market conditions, reduces or eliminates backlogs; strengthens the family visa system and diversity visa lottery to promote family reunification as well as visa systems for victims of trafficking and violence. Reforms will include protections to ensure visa applications would not serve as a tool to undermine strong labor law or wage standards in relevant industries.
- Convene a task force of all parties impacted by the H-2A guest worker visa program, led by representatives of agriculture workers and industry, to design reforms that meet the needs of both growers and farmers as well as the immigrant workers deserving of fair wages and strong labor protections. Expanded funding and visas approvals would be conditioned upon strong certification of compliance with requirements to verify an absence of qualified domestic labor or evasion of labor and wage law. In May 2019, Governor Inslee signed legislation requested by the state Employment Security Department to improve implementation of Washington state’s H-2A application program and enforcement of labor laws through a new state workgroup that brings workers’ interests and growers’ interests together.
- Enhance immigrants’ right to organize. In May 2019, Governor Inslee proposed his Evergreen Economy Plan to create 8 million good jobs and expand organizing in every sector of the economy. Governor Inslee’s plan will help immigrants build their collective bargaining power by:
- Incentivizing municipalities to co-enforce labor laws and standards, such as wage laws, by contracting with labor unions and community organizations for that purpose. Seattle is one among a growing number of cities that partners with local community organizations to inform and assist workers in understanding and exercising their labor rights, including the $15/hour minimum wage, paid sick and safe leave, and more.
- Robustly protecting the rights of workers when employers break existing labor law by discouraging or preventing workers from collectively bargaining or otherwise retaliate against workers — through swift and consistent enforcement of federal law.
- Committing federal resources and strengthening laws to stop wage theft, which runs rampant in the industries that employ many immigrants. Governor Inslee will invest new funding in wage theft enforcement, incentivize co-enforcement with labor unions and community organizations, and prevent employers from receiving federal contracts and federal procurement if they have unresolved cases or aggravated histories of wage theft. In addition, Governor Inslee will work with Congress to: mandate pay transparency so workers can calculate their own pay; lift the statute of limitations on recovering stolen pay; protect wage theft whistleblowers from retaliation and create stiff new penalties for employers who repeatedly violate the law.
- Creating strong provisions for compensation transparency and worker mobility. This year, Washington state passed legislation requiring disclosure of salary information by employers for listed positions, and barring employers from asking for salary history, as well as legislation heavily restricting the use of non-competition agreements and “no-poach” agreements that limit a worker’s ability to move to different jobs or seek better wages.
- Partnering with union experts and federally funded workforce providers to: create labor-management training and certificate programs that improve worker safety; expand worker skills to increase wages and build opportunity for themselves and their families; and allow and protect opportunities for workers to join unions. Governor Inslee has helped to create the model for this type of training program in Washington state through the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership — the nation’s largest training provider serving home health care workers who provide long-term care for home care recipients.
- Expand the workforce for major federally funded projects to include legal permanent residents, while creating pathways to higher wage jobs —including pre-apprenticeships training models — that expand our skilled workforce to complete necessary infrastructure projects.
- Expand pipelines for bilingual educator training to provide more education professionals who can reach immigrant students using both English and non-English languages; safe and supportive learning environments for bilingual students; and availability of English as a Second Language (ESL) programs — utilizing America’s cultural and language diversity to increase our international competitiveness.
- Repeal provisions of law authorizing states to deny in-state tuition to undocumented students, and amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend federal financial aid programs to DREAMers, as proposed in the Higher Education DREAM Act of 2019 by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. This is a necessary step that can be taken as Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform. Governor Inslee signed legislation extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants through the Real Hope Act in 2014, and the recently signed Workforce Investment Act expands financial aid to eligible families regardless of immigration status.
- Identify options for rapidly extending availability of federal health insurance exchanges and subsidies to undocumented immigrants as they achieve legal status — to ensure health care coverage in America is as universal as possible and to achieve Medicaid cost efficiencies by reducing uncompensated care.
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