Supporting Yakima's Immigrant Communities  |  News  |  Contact Us
Supporting Yakima's Immigrant Communities  |  News  |  Contact Us

Candidate Responses

Questions Asked of Candidates by YIRN

This is an inquiry on behalf of YIRN to better understand your approach to immigration issues and concerns in Central Washington.  We have many reports of increased ICE enforcement actions in Yakima County, and note the shift among agricultural employers towards temporary immigrant workers who lack long-term ties to the community.  We seek transparency for the people most affected.  Our particular areas of interest include:

  • Separation of immigrant parents and children
  • Collaboration between ICE/CBP and local law enforcement
  • Federal government contracts for space in local jails
  • Supporting the health and well-being of our community as a whole

We would welcome your thoughts on these areas of concern and hope that you will take the opportunity to respond.

Candidate Responses Received

Jack McEntire, Candidate for State Representative, Pos 01, 15th LD:

1:  Tearing children from their mother’s arms is abominable.  Some of these children will never see their parents again, and even those that are reunited will suffer permanent psychological damage.

2:  When immigrant communities know that the local police and ICE are working together, they become less likely to report crimes.  This combined with the fact that immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than the rest of our community makes us all less safe.

3:  Yes

4:  We can’t let people in our country die on the steps of our hospitals and we also can’t allow the spread of communicable disease.  Health care is nonpartisan and immigration status doesn’t factor in.

AJ Cooper, Candidate for State Representative Pos.2, 15th LD:

  1. Children should never be separated from their families for partisan political purposes, or as a deterrent to get asylum seekers to stop coming to America
  2. Law Enforcement Agencies should NOT cooperate with ICE and CBP on immigration issues that do not involve criminal activity
  3. Yes, end contracts
  4. There are numerous steps we could take toward the health and well-being of our communities
    1. Focusing on prevention and care of people with mental illness instead of waiting for crisis before reacting
    2. Permanent housing solutions for the homeless, with support for substance abuse, mental illness, and job or community-service training
    3. Better access to health food
    4. Many, many more…

Susan Soto-Palmer, Candidate for Yakima County Commissioner, District #3:

These horrid policies affect our friends, our neighbors, our families and our businesses.  It is pointlessly cruel and counter-productive to continue scapegoating immigrants, especially brown-skinned immigrants.

  • Separation of immigrant parents and children

I am extremely angered and appalled and saddened all at the same time by this practice.  This should not be happening in our country at our borders.  This practice is traumatizing children, families and possibly some employees who have very little choice if their employment is to follow this inhumane “law.”  These practices in my opinion are unethical and should be illegal.   We are a nation of immigrants, and should be ashamed of ourselves.

  • Collaboration between ICE/CBP and local law enforcement

I agree with the ACLU that:

Cooperating with federal immigration enforcement puts public safety at risk when immigrants are afraid to call 9-1-1 to report crimes, medical emergencies, and other emergencies for fear that local officials will turn them over to ICE.

Local economic development requires a labor force ready to do the work. Cooperating with ICE could shrink the size of available work force and discourage investment and entrepreneurship.

Getting tangled up in federal immigration enforcement has exposed us to expensive lawsuits that threaten to drain scare local resources.

We should put our local community first and not the needs and wants of Washington D.C.

  • Whether you would consider ending the contract with the federal government to house immigrant detainees in Yakima County

Yes.  However, while this should be a goal, we need to realize that it will not be an easy task.  There are three Commissioners and we know Commissioner Leita is most likely not open-minded to this (not that we shouldn’t try) and Commissioner Anderson is probably not too open but may – may – be moved to support.  It will take public organizing on this issue and it is going to take time and patience, resources, people, and money.

  • Supporting the health and well-being of our community as a whole

I support immigration and related issues and try to attend as many vigils, rallies, protests, meetings, etc. that I am able to.  In 2016, one of the first things I did after the general election was meet with Mayor Kathy Coffey, Reps. Norm Johnson and Gina McCabe, Sen. Curtis King, Rep. Dan Newhouse, Sheriff Brian Winter and Police Chief Rizzi to discuss the concerns and fears of the communities.  I had their assurances that our immigrant community had nothing to fear.  We now know that was not quite accurate.  We now know about this contract and the administrative warrants which allow this seemingly illegal ICE practices to occur.

Bengie Aguilar, Candidate for State Senator, 15th LD

  • Separation of immigrant parents and children- Unacceptable- Un-American – Unconscionable – Immoral.  This is not who we are.
  • Collaboration between ICE/CBP and local law enforcement- It amounts to beating up on the innocent/vulnerable caught in unjust situation – Again: Not who we are
  • Whether you would consider ending the contract with the federal government to house immigrant detainees in Yakima County- Absolutely.
  • Supporting the health and well-being of our community as a whole – Yes; Common Sense says this is the way it should be for ALL who live in our communities, regardless of immigration status

Sasha Bentley, Candidate for State Respresentative, 14th LD, Pos. 1

We’re almost a week from the election and I’m spending a lot of time talking to voters and making sure they turn in their ballots. I really appreciate your organization and you reaching out to me.

I’m running because I realized the privileged and responsibility I had, and the skills and experiences I have are what makes a good representative. I want to work for everyone but my passion is to make sure disenfranchised communities receive more attention and a stronger voice in places of power. I’m running to ensure equity in our society and economy. We are faced with a lot of big issues and we need to come together and find common ground. Divisive rhetoric is something I’m passionate about limiting and so is civic engagement. We need to get out the vote, especially in Yakima County which as low voter turnout. Our hard work campaigning this year is resulting in higher turnout but I will continue organizing in this district to make sure everyone realizes the power of their vote.

Separation of parents and children, whether immigrants or refugees, is heartbreaking and needs to be stopped.

Washington State needs to be extra clear that our local law enforcement will not collaborate with ICE and more importantly, we need to make sure this rule is implemented and followed.

Washington State should be moving in the direction of criminal justice reform and limiting the need for local jails, or turning them into rehabilitation centers. This change would free us of the need to contract with the federal government, due to policy Washingtonians do not stand by.

I’m running to get to the root of our problems and be sure that people who need support, receive it, but that fewer people need that support in the future. Because they are educated and healthy and supported by their community. I’m ready to work for healthcare, education, and housing as priorities because that is what I’m hearing from the people at the doors and in the community. I know federal issues like immigration and Native Rights are important too and I’m ready to work with our federal officials. Climate change is another issue we need to solve together, but Washington State can be a leader.


Jim Honeyford, Candidate for State Senator, LD 15

Immigration is a Federal Goverment responsibility. As a state senator I do not have any authority in this issue. I recognize that reform of the federal policies is needed and hope that congress will soon act on reforms. 

Liz Hallock, Candidate for State Representative, LD 14, Pos. 2

Please see my Facebook video response to sanctuary City question in Goldendale, opponent also responds