Noe Castillo and his bullhorn helped rally a crowd of hundreds that marched on the state Capitol campus Monday to press lawmakers on issues affecting Latino Washingtonians and immigrants.
“Working families under attack. What do we do?” Castillo called to them.
“Stand up, fight back,” the demonstrators responded.
Chanting “si, se puede,”or “yes, we can,” the group made its way from across Capitol Way to the Legislative Building steps for the 12th Latino Legislative Day. Organizer Nina Martinez said interest in the event was high this year.
“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of people coming,” Martinez said. “Youths and college students are more engaged.”
Participants said they showed up to lobby lawmakers on small business, health care and immigration issues. Martinez highlighted proposals to find work for skilled immigrant workers and to limit state involvement in federal immigration enforcement.
“We need to make sure our workforce is not leaving our state,” Martinez said.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, addressing the crowd in the Legislative Building rotunda, spoke out against the Trump administration’s plans to build a Mexican border wall and ban travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries.
He said Democratic leaders are committed to expanding opportunities for taxpaying Washingtonians, regardless of immigration status.
“You all are here because you agree with me that Washington state needs to be a sanctuary for all Americans from all backgrounds,” Habib said.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, spoke, using the opportunity to call on the Legislature to reduce funding disparities between rich and poor school districts. The state is in contempt of court over lawmakers' failure to come up with a plan to fully fund public schools.
“We can’t rest in this state without an educational opportunity act that funds students equally and not by their zip codes,” he said.
Castillo, a 41-year-old interior systems carpenter from Sammamish, said he was concerned about legislation that could weaken unions like his, the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. He said medical benefits and pension planning provided by unions helps people retire comfortably.
“For many of us, especially minorities,” Castillo said, “the unions are our best shot at providing for our families.”
Forrest Holt: 360-943-7240