Columbia Legal Service – POLICY REFORM

OVERVIEW

On January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health announced the first case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington State. Many agencies, hospitals, direct service providers, and advocates are taking vital steps to address this pandemic, but some communities aren’t receiving adequate or equitable attention. When it comes to addressing this public health crisis, we are all only as healthy as the most vulnerable in our community.  

Columbia Legal Services is working closely with the communities we serve and our allies to help mitigate the impacts facing communities at most risk during the current COVID-19 outbreak. We’re calling on local and state leaders and the Department of Corrections (DOC) to take swift and decisive action to protect the public health of all Washingtonians, including people who are incarcerated or detained, farm workers, and the 30,000 largely Mexican H-2A workers across our state. If we don’t take bold, proactive action now to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in jails, state prisons, detention centers, and the farm worker community, we put an already vulnerable population in danger and the broader public at further risk. 

This webpage includes many COVID-19 resources, including joint letters to Governor Jay Inslee and the DOC, media releases and coverage, and letters that we have signed onto with allies and coalitions across Washington and the nation. We’ll update this page regularly.

On April 10, the Washington Supreme Court made an initial ruling.

TEAM

Kimberly Aleman
Kimberly Aleman
Legal Assistant
Nick Allen
Nick Allen
Deputy Director of Advocacy
Travis Andrews
Travis Andrews
Director of Equity and Community Engagement
Alex Bergstrom
Alex Bergstrom
Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist
Ali Bilow
Ali Bilow
Attorney
Julia Bladin
Julia Bladin
Legal Assistant
Cheli Bueno
Cheli Bueno
Legal Assistant
Elvia Bueno
Elvia Bueno
Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist
Janet Chung
Janet Chung
Advocacy Director
Amy Crewdson
Amy Crewdson
Attorney
Merf Ehman
Merf Ehman
Executive Director
Diana Garcia
Diana Garcia
Assistant Deputy Director of Advocacy
Antonio Ginatta
Antonio Ginatta
Policy Director
Tony Gonzalez
Tony Gonzalez
Attorney
Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez
Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez
Attorney
Kim Gunning
Kim Gunning
Attorney
Adriana Hernandez
Adriana Hernandez
Communication Coordinator
Lori Isley
Lori Isley
Attorney
Maureen Janega
Maureen Janega
Paralegal
Bonnie Linville
Bonnie Linville
Attorney
Charlie McAteer
Charlie McAteer
Communications Director
Joe Morrison
Joe Morrison
Attorney
Sarah Nagy
Sarah Nagy
Attorney
Rachael Pashkowski
Rachael Pashkowski
Paralegal
Andrea Schmitt
Andrea Schmitt
Attorney
Cheryl Seelhoff
Cheryl Seelhoff
Legal Assistant
Laurel Simonson
Laurel Simonson
Attorney
Brandy Sincyr
Brandy Sincyr
Advocacy and Community Engagement Specialist
Nick Straley
Nick Straley
Assistant Deputy Director of Advocacy
Xaxira Velasco Ponce De Leon
Xaxira Velasco Ponce De Leon
Attorney
Hannah Woerner
Hannah Woerner
Attorney

VIDEOS

Local Group in Wenatchee Urges Local Leaders to Listen to Science, Experts, and Essential Workers

Criminal Justice Reform, Immigrant Justice, Systems Reform, Worker Justice | Impact Litigation |
'Local Group in Wenatchee Urges Local Leaders to Listen to Science, Experts, and Essential Workers'

The Immigrant and Latinx Solidarity Group (ILSG) is a group of community members from diverse professions that have direct contact with the local Latinx and Immigrant community. In recent months, they have been working to promote Latinx voices in the Wenatchee Valley’s efforts to reopen. After hearing ILSG’s concerns that local leaders were excluding the Latinx community from meaningful participation surrounding re-opening, Columbia Legal Services submitted a public records request to the Chelan Douglas Health District to investigate.

The public records revealed a troubling and premature rush to reopen Chelan and Douglas counties, with pressure by local politicians, the county sheriff, and the District’s Board of Health. These local leaders ignored the expert advice of local health care professionals and were instead driven by the needs and wants of the local business community. For example, in emails between board of health members prompted by a local business, Barry Kling, former Health District Administrator, urges County Commissioner Kevin Overbay to “not use the Health district as a tool in [political] efforts.” These efforts became so frequent that both the District Administrator and the Chair of the Board pleaded Board Members to stop forcing their personal agendas and to trust the health experts.

In another email from June that shows local government officials were attempting to justify excluding the local Latinx population from reopening discussions. In that email, the local Health District’s Health Officer explained that excluding farm worker housing from collected data made sense because “it isn’t Chelan County’s fault that there are a whole lot of migrant farmworkers entering congregate housing facilities right now.”

The ILSG submitted an op-ed to the Wenatchee World hoping to raise these concerns for the entire community. The ILSG believes reopening should be done safely, based on science and public health recommendations, and with input from essential workers who are most directly impacted.  According to members of the ILSG, “We hope that by raising these issues now, we can find ways to work together going forward to protect the health of every member of our community.”

Media Contacts

Tony Gonzalez, CLS Attorney
509-662-9681 ext.124, tony.gonzalez@columbialegal.org

Krista Herling, ILSG Communications,
ilsgwenatchee@gmail.com

Adriana Hernandez, CLS Communications
adriana.hernandez@columbialegal.org

Additional Public Records Documents Mentioned in Opt Ed

LEGAL DOCUMENTS