Immigrants

Food stamps are getting cut in half next week for many of Washington’s legal immigrants. They were cut to help balance the state’s budget.

The food assistance goes to about 11,000 families. Counting their children, that could be nearly 30,000 people impacted statewide, according to estimates by the Children's Alliance, and advocacy group.

They’re immigrants who came here legally, from countries all over the world. Many have their "Green Cards," which means they have permanent resident status. Others are here under other programs.

Monica Spain / KPLU

It’s common to see day laborers waiting for jobs outside the big home improvement store. But for many in Seattle, a new community gathering space will ensure a safe haven and access to education while

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn grabbed a shovel and dug in for Casa Latina’s groundbreaking event near the Central district. 

“Maybe in other places, they think immigrants aren’t a great idea. In Seattle, you make us stronger,” McGinn said.

Deena Prichep / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND – Starting over in a new country as a refugee can feel like landing a new planet.

It’s hard to understand daily life, much less face the challenges of finding a job. One movement in refugee resettlement pioneered in the Northwest helps people put down new roots – literally – through agriculture. But learning to be an American farmer can be a tough row to hoe.

Refugees face a lot of stress.  They’re usually escaping war or poverty.  They land here unable to speak English and without a means of support.  But for some women, there’s the additional burden of domestic violence.

Paula Wissel

For the first time, the Seattle Public Library was the venue for a naturalization ceremony.  Eighty-six people from twenty-eight countries were sworn in as American citizens.

Washington could soon be the last state in the nation to issue driver’s licenses without an immigration check. A controversial proposal in Olympia to create a two-tier license system appears to have died. Senate Republicans failed to force a vote just before a key legislative cut-off.

A two-tier driver's license system is getting traction in the legislature. This is how it would work: applicants who provide a valid social security number would get a regular license. Drivers who can't prove they are in this country legally would get an alternative version.

Immigrant rights groups are pushing back against efforts to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in Washington. They rallied at the Capitol Wednesday in opposition to several legislative proposals. 

In the Capitol Rotunda, the chant was:

Safety first, driver's licenses for all.

Members of the group OneAmerica voiced opposition to the half-dozen proposals in the Washington legislature to require proof – or at least evidence of – lawful presence in the United States in order to get a driver's license.

Undocumented immigrants would lose state medical coverage under a proposal to save the popular Basic Health insurance program. The get-tough measure is part of a budget-cutting plan unveiled by the State Senate. But it's at odds with a competing approach in the House.

Governor Chris Gregoire says she supports citizenship checks for driver's licenses. Washington is one of the last states in the nation that still issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Gregoire says ending that practice is a matter of national security:

"The job of being governor has changed dramatically since I came into office in 2005 and security has become one of the top priorities for every governor in this country."

There are several proposals in the legislature to require the Department of Licensing to confirm an applicant's "legal presence" in the country. Gregoire says if the legislature sends her a bill, she’ll sign it.

The governor's statement comes after a public radio report earlier this week on the issue. 

Images from refugee camps
Souchinda Viradet Khampradith, Chakrya Lim, Choy Vong and Sam Ung / Courtesy Photo

On April 30th, 1975, the Vietnam War ended. But that was only the beginning for millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, as they desperately found ways to leave their war torn countries. An account of refugees' struggles and hardships is now on exhibit at Seattle's Wing Luke Museum. This is the story of two refugees who came here to start a new life.

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