Dear Arc Community: These are stressful times for many of our families and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who have come to the United States from another country. From gender to race, to religion and sexual orientation - we are redefining immigration and what inclusion and diversity mean on a day-to-day basis and we must ensure that those who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities, including children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Down Syndrome and many others with childhood lifelong disabilities are not left out of the conversation.
In recent weeks, we have witnessed national attempts to discriminate against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder for these individuals to legally enter or remain in the country. Deporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in our country legally or preventing them from immigrating goes against the values of our nation.
In the words of our Arc national Director, Peter Berns, “At The Arc we believe people should have a fair opportunity to legally enter and reside in the United States and become a citizen, without restrictions based on disability. This includes those needing protection as refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking. Focusing on an individual’s need for support is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities we have seen before. But Congress, in the past, addressed the problem by ensuring that people with intellectual disability are provided accommodations as they try to enter our country legally, become citizens, and achieve the American dream like their peers without disabilities. Broadening the criteria for excluding or deporting immigrants based on need for support will harm people with disabilities and their families who have much to contribute to our society. If a family is otherwise eligible to enter or remain in our country, they shouldn’t be turned away or turned out because their child or another family member has a disability and may need to access government services to live and participate in the community.”
We can change attitudes and beliefs about intellectual and developmental disability as we engage in the local and global conversations about access and opportunity and recognizing discriminatory practices. Disability is diversity. And as you have seen in recent news, what makes our state strong and unique is our diversity, our deep sense of justice, and our willingness to stand up for and with those in need. The I/DD community is well-versed in these principles and holds them dear. Washingtonians with disabilities participate in all aspects of a modern human life including education, employment, civic engagement, social media, and getting medical care to stay healthy - and contribute significantly to our country’s economy and vitality. Including individuals with disabilities in our society is not just a good policy, it is a civil right that affects family members, employers, and our community when discrimination and injustice occur.
The idea that every child, in every community, should have the same opportunities in our strong public schools and our economically diverse communities is a notion that is embedded in our values. As Senator Patty Murray noted this week—it’s who we are—it’s in our blood.
The Arc of King County is committed to assisting anyone with a disability and all families who care for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability. That means every individual with I/DD - regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country of origin, or immigration status - and their family member or caregiver - will be safe, honored and respected when you come to us for help. We will do whatever it takes to make sure each and every person with an intellectual or developmental disability thrives in Washington state and I want to reassure you, we will do everything within our power to make sure that The Arc of King County serves as a safe and welcoming place - for all.
My warmest regards, Stacy