Groups forge compact for immigration reform

YAKIMA — Washington joined a handful of other states with a compact in support of immigration reform Tuesday, marking another effort by states to push Congress to overhaul U.S. immigration policies.

The compact, signed by a coalition of more than 40 agriculture, business and faith entities, calls for sensible policies that meet the needs of Washington residents and create a fair path to legal status for illegal immigrants.

The compact includes five principles for keeping families together, ensuring a strong economy and focusing local law enforcement efforts on criminal activities, rather than civil violations of federal code, such as immigration violations.

Similar compacts have been created in Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Colorado and Utah.

Much like those states, though, the Washington state compact offered scant details about what should be included in reform legislation.

The purpose of the compact is not to get into the details of immigration reform, but to promote the values that are essential in resolving the issue and give Congress a push, said former congressman Sid Morrison, a Republican who represented Washington’s 4th District from 1980-1992.

The district includes the heavily agricultural Yakima Valley and the larger Columbia River Basin, where thousands of immigrants labor in farm fields, fruit warehouses and vegetable processing plants.

“Being a lifelong part of this valley, I know that they reflect the values of many of the folks who have come here, with good intent, lived the American dream, better themselves, feed their families, and yet were illegal.”

Supporters of the compact include the Washington Association of Business, the Washington Growers League and the King County sheriff.

Resolving the issue is the federal government’s responsibility, but the compact offers a set of principles that members of Congress should consider as they debate any legislation, said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League.

Making it harder for people to immigrate illegally — and easier for people to immigrate legally — will go a long way toward fixing the problem, he said.

But any solution, he said, must include provisions that protect the U.S. and Washington state economies, whether the issue is the general size of the workforce or the need for seasonal workers for agriculture.

“Any bill that is passed into law must consider what kind of workforce is needed for our economy for the future, and how we will achieve it,” he said.

Marisol Guerrero, 36, traveled from Sunnyside to Yakima for the announcement with her two children, 7-year-old Ashley and 4-year-old Bryan.

“It’s important for me to see reform, so that students can achieve their dreams,” she said. “I’m a single mom and I’m the only one who is going to support my kids when they need me.”

While in Congress, Morrison co-authored legislation to reform U.S. immigration policies 27 years ago. That bill passed the House, but failed in the Senate.

Morrison said he believes immigration issues could have been resolved then. He now serves on the boards of Central Washington University and Energy Northwest, the public-power consortium that operates the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear reactor.

Washington state hires more college graduates than any other state, but graduates fewer of its own citizens, he said.

“We’re kidding ourselves by not looking at the resource we have here in people,” Morrison said.

Ridding these people of the “illegal cloud” enables them to be trained as documented workers, he said, adding, “These are some of the best workers in the world, no matter what they pursue.”

More in Local News

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Snohomish County’s emergency radios are breaking down

A plan to convert to digital equipment is in the works with an estimated cost of up to $75 million.

Most Read