Hundreds of Latinos from around the state converged on the state Capitol Friday to lobby for immigration, education and workers’ rights legislation.
Gov. Jay Inslee pledged support for two key bills addressing voting rights and access to higher education during a rally held in the Capitol Rotunda.
The governor told the crowd he is working to help pass House Bill 1413, known as the Washington Voting Rights Act. Supporters of the bill say it would prohibit unfair elections where members of a racial, ethnic or language minority are unable to influence an election or receive adequate representation. The House passed the measure by a 53-44 vote along party lines.
Inslee also urged lawmakers in the Senate to adopt the state Dream Act, which was passed out of the House just minutes before a key deadline on Wednesday. The legislation would extend the State Need Grant program, which provides aid to low-income college students, to undocumented graduates of Washington high schools. It applies to students who have been granted “deferred action,” a status allowing immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. The House passed the measure 77-20.
Both bills may face opposition in the Senate, where a Republican-controlled majority holds power.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing group in Washington state, increasing by more than 71 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A handful of Latino elected officials and other lawmakers who represent heavily Hispanic districts in Eastern Washington spoke at the rally, which was organized by the Latino Civic Alliance. Latino Legislative Day is the group’s largest event of the year.