OLYMPIA -- More than 40 Tri-City area representatives traveled three hours by bus to Olympia on Friday for Latino Legislative Day.
Organized by the Latino Civic Alliance, the event's program included addresses from legislators, panels on education and immigration reform, meetings with legislators from various districts, and even a mariachi band.
Alliance board member Dora Morfin of Pasco said the legislators she spoke to, who included Reps. Maureen Walsh and Terry Nealey from the 16th District, responded "very positively" to their concerns.
"It was more a discussion of where the conversation is at and how to improve it," said Morfin. "We suggested starting something at the city level."
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One of the most important subjects of the day was House Bill 1817, known as the state Dream Act.
The House of Representatives passed the bill March 9, and it has moved on to be considered by a committee in the Senate. Walsh and Nealey voted in favor of the bill.
For Bruce McCutcheln of Walla Walla, the day was educational above all else. He's a member of the SEIU 775 Caregiver's Union, which represents 43,000 long-term care workers providing in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services in Washington and Montana.
The union has an office in Pasco and is based in Seattle.
"I learned a lot about immigration reform," he said. "We really can't afford not to invest in education for the Latino community."
Many of the speakers encouraged participation in local government and reaching out to legislators. McCutcheln appreciated the sense of community that was promoted by the call to action.
"I think the best part of the day was the community," he said. "Everyone came together around a central point. What's going on with the Latino community affects all of us."
To learn more about how you can be involved, go to www.leg.wa.gov, or the Latino Civic Alliance's website at www.latinocivicalliance.org.
w Leah Traxel is a journalism student at Pacific Lutheran University.