In January of this year, DC immigrants and immigrant justice organizers and organizations came together to form the Immigrant Justice Platform (IJP), a shared platform of legislative and budget priorities that benefit DC’s immigrant communities.
- Fund the Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act
- Fund the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act
- Pass the Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act
- Pass the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act
- Fix the Migrant Services and Supports Temporary Amendment Act
Over the course of the spring we advocated for this shared platform – including organizing IJP lobby days. In April, we celebrated multiple victories with the passing of the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act and the Migrant Services Eligibility Clarification Emergency Amendment Act!
Come budget season, we included two new goals:
1) Restore and Disburse the Excluded Worker Funds
2) Use Contingency Funds to Shelter Unhoused Migrant Families
And pass the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act became FUND the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act! Also, we had a last minute addition to our platform, with the Limited Purpose Credential Clarification Emergency and Temporary Amendment Acts being introduced in the final legislative meeting before summer recess.
Overall our first six months were successful, achieving all five of our initial goals and more. We got the DC Council to
- Fund the Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act
- Fund the Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act
- Pass the Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Emergency Amendment Act and schedule a hearing for the permanent bill
- Pass AND Fund the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act
- Fix the Migrant Services and Supports Temporary Amendment Act by passing the Migrant Services Eligibility Clarification Emergency and Temporary Amendment Acts
- Restore $20 million in excluded workers funds, contingent upon DC having a surplus of at least $40 million when the surplus is certified in September
What still remains:
- Passing the permanent Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act
- Pushing the Mayor to shelter unhoused migrant families sleeping on the streets and in cars in the District
- Reforming DC ID law to make identification cards and driver’s licenses accessible to recently-arrived migrants
- Ensuring swift implementation of the Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act, Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act, and Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act
- Registering thousands noncitizen voters to participate in elections in 2024
Spring 2023 Council Period 25 Summary
Giving Noncitizens A Voice in Local Voting Issues
- Local Residents Voting Rights Amendment Act
- Background: The Local Residents Voting Rights Act is a historic bill passed by the DC Council that finally grants voting rights in local elections to all residents of DC, regardless of immigration status. This includes refugees, migrants, green-card holders, non-citizens, as well as any other immigrant status. For decades, these groups have been in the front of every crisis of DC, housing, homelessness, public safety, worker rights, and so much more. Yet, they did not have the political power to elect the local representatives that best fits their values and desires for the city they live in. After a decade of the bill failing, the Immigrant Justice Platform successfully organized to pass it unanimously. After passing, Congress attempted to stop the bill using xenophobic and racist arguments, however, they were successfully blocked.
- Status: On July 18, 2023, the law went fully into effect making all noncitizens eligible voters or “qualified electors” in DC. However, more has to be done by the Board of Elections before noncitizens can register for elections. As of now, noncitizens are still barred from registering for elections online or in-person.
- What remains: Post law going into effect, the Board of Elections will now implement the law and start building out processes and structures to prepare for the 2024 election. Organizers will continue to work with and pressure elected officials and agencies as well as start building infrastructure to start a voter engagement campaign.
Protecting Domestic Workers
- Domestic Workers Employment Rights Amendment Act
- Background: The Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act is a bill passed by the DC Council in December 2022 that ends the longtime exclusion of domestic workers from key workplace protections in DC and gives domestic workers new rights. In spring 2023, domestic workers and their allies organized, testified at council hearings and successfully advocated for the council to include full funding for this law in the FY24 budget.
- Status: Because these efforts were successful, the first provisions of the bill will go into effect when the new fiscal year begins in October 2023 and the remaining provisions will go into effect in January 2024.
- What remains: To ensure implementation is prompt, effective and accessible to domestic workers in the District, we will continue to work closely with the Office of Human Rights (OHR), the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), who each have partial responsibility for implementing this law.
Supporting Vulnerable Immigrant Youth
- Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act
- Background: The Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act is a bill that will allow vulnerable immigrant youth in DC to receive immigrant protections afforded to them under federal immigration law through the DC Courts. The Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act was originally introduced in 2022 and it was re-introduced in January 2023 and received a hearing on June 8th. Many strong advocates and people impacted testified and submitted testimony for this important measure.
- Status: Because of the urgent need to close the gap between District and federal law, we pushed for the Council to introduce an emergency and temporary version of the bill, allowing it to become law ahead of the permanent bill. Accordingly, on September 1st, DC Courts will be able to provide the necessary SIJS findings for vulnerable immigrant youth in DC to seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
- What remains: We expect the permanent bill to be marked up in the Fall and will continue to fight for the permanent bill to become law.
Decriminalize Street Vending and Reform Vending Laws and Regulations
- Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act
- Background: The Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act decriminalizes vending without a license and reforms vending laws to make the process of obtaining a license cheaper, easier, and more equitable. The bill also establishes vending zones for vendors to legally operate in and a fine amnesty program for unpaid taxes and fees related to vending. Finally, the bill creates a new microenterprise home kitchen license that will allow food vendors to prepare food at home and sell foods their customers want to eat.
- Status: On April 4th, the DC Council voted unanimously to pass this bill and then they fully funded it in the FY23 Supplemental and FY24 budget. As of July 1st, some of the provisions of the bill have gone into effect — vending without a license is now decriminalized and vendors no longer have to undergo a criminal background check to get a license!
- What remains: DC agencies need to implement the remaining parts of the bill. If they wanted, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection could lower the cost of the vending license and implement the fine amnesty program immediately. The Department of Health is in the process of creating the new microenterprise home kitchen licenses for food vendors.
Mitigate the Harm Caused by the Migrant Services and Supports Temporary Amendment Act
- Migrant Services Eligibility Clarification Emergency and Temporary Amendment Acts
- Background: In April 2022, Texas Governor Abbott began busing migrants to DC from the southern border; in May, Governor Ducey of Arizona followed suit. Since then over 10,000 migrants have been bused to the District, and hundreds more have arrived by other means. In fall 2022, the DC Council passed the Migrant Services and Supports Emergency and Temporary Acts, that 1) created the Office of Migrant Services (OMS) and 2) excluded many DC residents from accessing homeless services based on their immigration status. In April, the DC Council passed harm reduction amendments to the original legislation that introduced health and safety standards to OMS, included resettlement support in OMS’ mandate, clarified eligibility criteria for services, and mitigated the impact the original bills had on long-term DC residents who are immigrants.
- Status: On April 4th, the DC Council passed the Migrant Services Eligibility Clarification Amendment Emergency Act, followed by the temporary act on May 4th, that amended the original OMS legislation.
- What remains: This legislation was an important first towards rectifying the issues caused by the original legislation, however, we must continue to fight for resettlement-focused permanent legislation in the fall.
Restore and Disburse the Excluded Workers Funds
- FY23 Supplemental Budget DC CARES Funds
- Background: After Mayor Bowser used her supplemental budget to steal $20 million that was already allocated by the Council to give direct economic assistance to excluded workers, excluded workers across DC again mobilized to demand the return of this $20 million. Because of their efforts, the council included in the FY24 budget $20 million dollars for excluded workers, contingent upon DC having a surplus of at least $40 million when the budget estimate is certified in September. The first $20 million of any surplus will be used to increase SNAP benefits for DC residents and any remaining money will go to excluded workers.
- What remains: We will be watching closely to see if a surplus is certified in September and if so, we will push the Council, Events DC and the non-profits in the community that distribute this money, to get this money to excluded workers as soon as possible so there is no chance next year for the money to be stolen again.
Shelter Unhoused Migrant Families
- Use Contingency Funds to Shelter Migrant Families Without Shelter in the District
- Background: On April 26, 2023, the Office of Migrant Services (OMS) reported they had reached capacity at their hotel shelters and began denying shelter to migrants arriving in DC, resulting in many families sleeping on the streets or in cars. Since then, no families have entered the shelters despite some families moving out. On April 26th there were 370 families residing at the OMS shelters, as of May 23rd were 359 and by June 23rd, 345. Despite having at minimum 25 hotel rooms open, OMS continues to deny shelter to families.
- What remains: The Mayor must use contingency funds to immediately open up shelter for these families.
Allow Recently Arrived Asylum Seekers to Get DC Identification Cards
- Limited Purpose Credential Clarification Acts
- Background: Currently, recently arrived migrants are unable to obtain DC identification cards. While DC has Limited Purpose Credential ID cards (LPCs) available to residents who do not have or are ineligible for social security numbers, recent migrants are essentially unable to obtain LPCs because of overly restrictive regulations limiting the documents an applicant can present to satisfy proof of identification and proof of DC residency. Without ID, recent migrants face many barriers to self-sufficiency, including the inability to open bank accounts, sign leases, obtain birth and marriage certificates, access many community resources, and more.
- Status: On July 11th, the DC Council was set to vote on the Limited Purpose Credential Clarification Emergency and Temporary Acts that would amend limited purpose credential laws and regulations to help many recent migrants obtain IDs. However, on the morning of the vote, the Department of Human Services, produced an egregious fiscal impact statement to block the legislation and the bills had to be withdrawn.
- What remains: We will continue to fight for broader reform of DC ID law in the fall.
Goals for Fall 2023 Council Period 25
- Pass the permanent Vulnerable Youth Guardianship Protection Amendment Act
- Pass permanent legislation to support recently-arrived migrants that is resettlement-focused
- Pass permanent legislation to amend limited purpose credential laws and regulations to make them accessible to the communities they are meant to serve