By Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Senate legislation would add citizenship or immigration status to the “law against discrimination.”
The law against discrimination currently outlaws discrimination against individuals based on race, creed, color, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, veterans status, or disability.
The bill does not differentiate immigration or citizenship status from the areas in which these groups are protected from discrimination. These areas include the right to employment, real estate transactions, credit transactions, and insurance transactions, among other areas.
The human rights commission administers the statute currently, as policy they do not ask about citizenship or immigration status.
Prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5165, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, testified on the bill at the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Feb. 12. The bill was also sponsored by six other Democratic senators.
“In all cases where we, as a state, have an ability to recognize people living in our state that are residents, that are paying taxes, that are employed, that are contributing to our economy — we want to make sure they are afforded protections,” said Saldaña.
The bill does give precedent to federal regulations based on immigration and citizenship status. This means that federal prohibitions on hiring illegal immigrants and similar laws still apply, but under the proposed bill, it would be illegal to discriminate against illegal immigrants if they are engaging in lawful behavior.
Alex Hur, a representative from OneAmerica, an immigrant and refugee advocacy group, testified in support of the bill, stating that discrimination is not limited to those here illegally, but happens to people here legally at various stages of the immigration or citizenship process.