Public Safety

The issue of access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is fundamentally an issue of public safety. People are going to need to drive to work and take their kids to school and the question is whether they are going to do that as unlicensed drivers without insurance or as insured drivers who know the rules of the road. This issue — at its core — is about whether we let the politics of fear or data and common sense drive our policy debates. We need to be asking the question “How does restricting access to licenses and insurance make our roads and state a safer place?” This is all within the context of a much larger discussion around racial profiling and the criminalization of immigrants. We need to make sure that Washington continues to reject the merging of local law enforcement and immigration—because that merger almost always results in racial profiling and targeting of particular communities.
— Pramila Jayapal

If we cannot afford to hire more officers, then let’s invest in helping the police do their job better by modernizing their equipment. Also, there are cost-effective ways to support community-based organized efforts aimed at maintaining public safety. Helping keep neighborhoods and business districts clean goes a long way toward warding off crime.
— Julie Pham

Small Business

Asian immigrants are some of the most entrepreneurial individuals in our state, and in our country. We need to help these small businesses grow their companies because they create jobs and hire other immigrants. They pay taxes into the system to support important services in our community.
— Alaric Bien

There are many resources like training and low-interest lines of credit available to help small, minority and women-owned businesses. But many of those who need the help do not know about these services. We need to require the agencies that administer these programs to do a better job at outreach.
— Julie Pham

Health

Washington State has been a national leader, particularly in the area of providing health care for all kids through the Apple Health for Kids program. Unfortunately, current budget proposals in the legislature take a step back from this commitment to covering all kids by restricting access for some immigrant children. We cannot view the health of our children as a luxury but as a fundamental right, regardless of where these children were born. This fight is about real people — real kids who need health care. We need to find our hearts in the middle of a charged political debate and remember that we are all better off if we are all better off.
— Pramila Jayapal

Emergency care is more expensive than preventative care. We need to continue to invest in government-subsidized preventative health care so people who cannot afford healthcare on their own will not be forced to turn to the emergency health care when they do become ill. Saving money now will end up costing more later.
— Julie Pham

Healthcare is a right, not a luxury. More than 50 million Americans, including more than 7 million children, are uninsured. More than 8 out of 10 are in working families. That the World Health Organization would rank US healthcare lower than that in Costa Rica and Morocco is beyond appalling.
— Alaric Bien

Job Development

Immigrant integration services including English language classes to help people get and stay in higher paying jobs not only helps the economy, it makes our community as a whole a better place to live.
— Alaric Bien

Small businesses employ the highest percentage of people. Job development starts with policies that help small businesses generate income so that they can hire more people. I see city governments moving toward providing more support to locally and independently owned businesses.
— Julie Pham

Immigration

We need comprehensive immigration reform, and we need it now! Over 8 percent of undocumented individuals in the US are either Asian or Pacific Islander. This issue affects our community.
— Alaric Bien

If we’re going to retain our skilled foreign workers, we need to make it possible for them to bring their families to the US otherwise they will go back to their home countries and create firms there that will compete with American companies. Immigration reform will help stimulate our domestic economy.
— Julie Pham

We need elected leaders to turn the page from the polarizing and emotional debate on immigration and ensure that our discussions and decisions are driven by data and the best interest of all Washington State residents. Too often, effective public policy is derailed by fear; instead, we should be crafting sound policies that recognize and maximize the contribution of immigrant communities. We appreciate the support of many legislators in rejecting efforts to restrict access to driver’s licenses and in passing the bill that changes standard sentencing for misdemeanors from 365 days to 364 days. But we have much more to do to really change the tone and make it clear that Washington’s immigrants pay taxes and contribute essential services to our economy every day. We need lawmakers to embrace this position and help set the tone for the debate.
— Pramila Jayapal

Community Development/Preservation

Community development organizations need to be held more accountable. We should continue the trend of funding community-initiated programs, so that we have buy-in from local stakeholders.
— Julie Pham

Education

In the current budget crisis, if we’re truly trying to protect children and lay the foundation for a stronger future economy, than why are we slashing education funds? Nearly a quarter of schoolchildren in the U.S. are immigrants or the children of immigrants and U.S. Census data shows that immigrants are a fast growing population here in Washington State.

Let’s try to find ways that we can equip teachers to deal with new challenges in the classrooms, including providing time and resources for teachers who work with English Language Learning kids to get certified in ESL. Here’s a new framework on teacher quality: teachers actually WANT to have the skills and resources to deal with the many challenges in the classroom, they just need training and help in developing their skills and tool kits. We need lawmakers to start to think about education reform from the perspective of the consumer—the kids who are actually in the system. How do we engage and mobilize them and their parents? And what are the particular needs of ALL kids, who make up a significant portion of our kids? It’s time to think beyond broad statements and hone in on what we mean by teacher quality when we are talking about particular populations of kids — and how we help teachers to get there in partnership.
— Pramila Jayapal

 

Contributing Panelists

Alaric Bien
is the Executive Director for the Chinese Information Service Center (CISC).
www.cisc-seattle.org

Pramila Jayapal
is the Executive Director for OneAmerica.
www.weareoneamerica.org

Julie Pham, Ph.D.,
is the Managing Editor for the Northwest Vietnamese News.
www.nvnorthwest.com

 

 

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