Washington legislators unfairly targeting immigrants, say advocates

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on February 9, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 9 at 6:43 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Several hundred immigrants came to the state Capitol Wednesday to raise concerns about proposed legislation and budget cuts they said unfairly target them.

"We believe immigrants, and refugees in particular, are being disproportionally affected," said Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director of OneAmerica. The non-profit immigration advocacy group sponsored the "Immigration Day" rally in Olympia.

A Senate bill would require proof of legal residency for anyone who wants a driver's license in the state. Washington is one of only two states which only require that drivers prove they live in the state.

Governor Chris Gregoire is among several lawmakers who have talked about eliminating health care coverage for undocumented residents and their children.

"We're not saying we're not willing to take any cuts," said Jayapal, "We just say we need to be smart about it and let's make sure we're protecting the values of Washington state."

"It's about legality," said Senator Joe Zarelli, R-Clark County.

Zarelli said lawmakers need to make up for $5 billion deficit. He says with deep cuts proposed to education, social and health services for the poor and the elderly, the state cannot afford to help those who are not in the state legally.

"It's like trying to take care of your neighbor and their family when you can't even feed your own," said Zarelli.

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