Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill this week that bolsters legal protections for young, undocumented immigrants who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by their parents.
The new law puts Washington in line with federal policy, which gives legal status to some young people who are victims of abuse. The federal law applies to people up to the age of 18. But a quirk in the state's court system excluded people from over the age of 18 from getting the special visa.
Tim Warden-Hertz is directing attorney with the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project. He said this new law allows more eligible young people to get access to legal status.
"Before the passage of the law, kids who were 18, 19, or 20 in Washington state could not access that federal protection," Warden-Hertz said. "This bill gives those vulnerable young adults a chance to access the federal protection."
Warden-Hertz said this new law will be life changing for hundreds of undocumented immigrants living in Washington.
"Instead of facing the prospect of being deported back to the country where they fled danger and abuse, they're going to face a future where they're going to be able to find safety, security, and a bright future," Warden-Hertz said.
Nearly 220,000 undocumented immigrants live in Washington. Since 2009, Washington is one of only six states where the undocumented population is growing.