Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Stronger Latinx Community, Una Fuerte Comunidad Latinx

Above: Bill Fishburn, president of the Hispanic Roundtable of the South Sound, gives Olympia immigration attorney Steffani Powell a hug after Powell gave a passionate, 30 minute speech detailing the repercussions of the Trump Administrations immigration plans and policies.

South Sound Hispanic Roundtable Summit Highlights Community Resources, Immigration Issues

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Una fuerte comunidad Latinx, A Stronger Latinx Community, was the theme of the first Hispanic Roundtable of the South Sound community summit held in Tumwater on Friday.

About 200 people attended the event held at the Capital Region ESD 113 event facility in Tumwater.

Many were representatives of area schools and colleges, state agencies, and nonprofit, community agencies that serve the Latinx population in Thurston, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Mason and Pacific counties.

Cosponsored by Educational Service District 113, participants were invited to collaborate, create conversations, and identify opportunities, gaps, and barriers regarding Latinx access to employment, housing, public health, education, legal, financial, and community resources.

According to 2016 Washington State Office of Financial Management statistics, Latinos comprise 12 percent of the Washington State population. Thirty-two percent of Latinos in Washington are immigrants. 

Latinos comprise eight percent of Thurston County’s population and 10 percent each of Lewis, Grays Harbor, Mason and Pacific counties.

Above: Business cards and organizational materials were exchanged throughout the day as new relationships were forged during conversational sessions at the Hispanic Roundtable community summit on Friday. 

Left to Right: Maira Ramirez, Kaleidoscope Play and Learn facilitator at Child Care Action Council, Karin Verrill, League of Women Voters Thurston County, Aleyda Cervantez, program assistant for outreach services at Highline College, Carlos Ruiz, president, ALPFA Seattle, an organization that promotes opportunities for Latinx advancement, and Pat Dickison, immediate past president of the League of Women Voters Thurston County.

The summit’s timing meant that recent national and state immigration issues and policy shifts focusing on Latinx youth, children and families took center stage.

Olympia immigration attorney Steffani Powell’s voice broke as she described the Trump Administration’s immigrant deportation plans and policies and the hundreds of parents and children who are currently being separated.

“Trump’s vision of America is exclusionary….As of last Sunday, 300 of the 550 children currently in custody at U.S. border stations had spent more than 72 hours in custody…almost half are younger than 12,” she said.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that as many as 120 asylum seekers were transferred from Texas to the federal detention center at SeaTac. The group consists of mothers who arrived with their children seeking asylum and were prosecuted for unlawful entry. Their children are being held elsewhere, with their location unknown to the mothers.

A solidarity day of action at the SeaTac Detention Center in support of the mothers being detained was scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Above: Olympia immigration attorney Steffani Powell described the Trump Administration’s widespread immigrant deportation plans and policies at the Hispanic Roundtable Community Summit on Friday.

“This is beyond sickening….this isn’t really about law and order. Separating immigrant families is cruel and immoral. Many of the people crossing the border are fleeing from violence in Central America and seeking asylum in the United States, which they have a legal right to do.

“U.S. Homeland Security recently announced the end of temporary protective status for approximately 57,000 Hondurans living legally in the United States. In other aggressive policy moves, over the next two years, more than 300,000 individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sudan, who are legally in the U.S. with permission to live and work, will be asked to depart voluntarily or be deported,” she said.

Powell said that as of March, there were 680,000 pending national immigration court cases. Each individual has just one and a half hours to present their asylum case and some judges have a 99 percent denial rate.

According to the American Immigration Council, there are 980,000 immigrants in Washington State. One in seven Washington State residents is an immigrant.

Three hundred and fifty thousand people in Washington live with at least one undocumented family member.

“This current administration has commandeered the immigrant story….they have rubbed out all color, love, hope, sacrifice and struggle. They have erased the tenacity, the courage and devotedness of their characters….This administration has vilified and dehumanized and criminalized immigrants. It’s trying to make us believe a grim, desolate life story.

“It is imperative that we take back the immigrant story…the true story is of sacrifice, endurance, fortitude, resolution and devotedness to the cause of families.…It is not a story about people who need to be kept out by a wall….The people who have arrived in our communities have traveled far….The only wall that should be built is a wall around hatred, willful ignorance, xenophobia, racism and intolerance,” said Powell.

Above: Many resources for immigrant family support were provided at the first Hispanic Roundtable community summit on Friday. Karina Brown, a Spanish teacher at Elma High School, picks up materials at a table about Sound to Harbor Head Start and ECEAP, which provides individualized preschool education, health education, and family support in Grays Harbor, Mason and Thurston counties.

For more information about the Hispanic Roundtable of the South Sound, go to