Washington State House passes access to justice legislation

OLYMPIA – The impartiality of our justice system is the cornerstone of our democracy.  On February 17, the House passed Representative My-Linh Thai’s bill to protect this foundational right by making sure that everyone feels safe accessing our courts and our justice system.

Substitute House Bill 2567 would prevent immigration officials from conducting civil arrests in and around courthouses and court facilities, except when made pursuant to a valid court order or to prevent an imminent risk to public safety. It also restricts judges or court staff from collecting or sharing immigration or citizenship status information.

Everyone has a right to seek justice regardless of their citizenship status. People go to court for all kinds of reasons – to seek protection orders, to serve as witnesses, or to plead their innocence. If courthouses become dangerous places for people of color, people will avoid going to the court out of fear, and we all become less safe.

“As a refugee, it took me a while overcome my mistrust of the legal and judicial system, and to appreciate that those who work within it are in service to justice,” said Representative Thai, who came to the United States at age 15 as a refugee from Vietnam. “This bill is about restoring trust in that system.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.