Tri-City legislators to meet with leaders from Latino community

Special to The Tri-City HeraldMarch 14, 2013 

As a member of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Noe Castillo Jr. said large construction companies sometimes take advantage of subcontractors, usually Latino immigrants.

At Latino Legislative Day in Olympia Friday, he gets to do something about it.

"We're here because we believe in the movement to get Latinos involved in government," said Castillo, who will meet with legislators from the Tri-City area to discuss House Bill 1473.

Castillo hopes the bill, which requires employers to report the hiring of subcontractors to the state Department of Labor and Industries, will make it harder for big companies to exploit immigrant laborers.

"When there's transparency, there's less people being taken advantage of," Castillo said.

The 9th Annual Latino Legislative Day is organized by the Latino Civic Alliance, which encourages participation by Washington's Latino community in state government. Though they organize other events throughout the year, Latino Legislative Day is the Alliance's largest event.

Sessions include briefings on bills, instructions on how to talk to lawmakers, keynote speeches from legislators and an address by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Alliance board member Dora Morfin, who is from Pasco, said the event is primarily to increase the community's visibility.

"Our main focus is to talk to the legislators and for legislators to hear our voice," Morfin said.

The group's three legislative priorities this year are education, immigration, and worker's rights. The 2010 Census recorded a 71 percent increase in the state's Hispanic population, more than any other ethnic group, with much of the increase in the eastern part of the state.

Another bill the alliance is interested in is the hotly contested Dream Act, House Bill 1817. It would extend financial aid to students pursuing higher education who have been granted "deferred action" -- a discretionary status that allows immigrants brought to the United States as children to postpone any legal action and continue to reside, work, and go to school.

"It's definitely a bill we're going to be talking about for Eastern Washington," Morfin said.

To find out more, go to www.latinocivicalliance.org. To learn more about bills being considered in the legislature, including their status and when they will be heard, visit www.leg.wa.gov.

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