WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The D.C. Council is taking the next step toward permanent protection for migrants in the District. They hosted a public hearing on Thursday about new legislation that would lead result in permanent protection for migrants in the District.

“As a D.C. resident, I want my tax dollars to cover the most vulnerable,” resident Susan Saudek said during her testimony.

Thursday afternoon’s public hearing aimed to address community concerns regarding the proposed Migrant Services and Supports Act of 2022. Most of the community members who testified during the Human Services Committee hearing voiced their support of aid to migrants arriving in the District.

“Our government is attempting to provide access to health care, enrolling children in school, providing emergency shelter and assistance and attaining documents and helping to locate family members and friends in the United States,” Adam Maier, the housing director of Pathways to Housing, said during his testimony. “Our government’s emergency attempts to assist migrants need to be specialized and implemented permanently.”

Others were concerned that the new legislation could change the Homeless Services Reform Act of 2005, which could potentially limit certain migrants from accessing homeless services.

“Unfortunately, this legislation in its current form blatantly excludes immigrants and asylum seekers from the housing, medical care and other social services they are entitled to, and flies in the face of human rights for those arriving to D.C. as well as the immigrants and asylum seekers that have made dc their homes for years,” said Amy Fischer, advocacy director for the Americas with Amnesty International USA.

Title II in the new Migrant Services and Supports Act would change the definition of a “D.C. Resident” in the Homeless Services Reform Act from a person who “is living in the District voluntarily and not for a temporary purpose and who has no intention of presently moving from the District” to include an individual:

  • Residing in the District for a temporary purpose including individuals coming from southern border states
  • En route to a place outside of the District
  • Waiting to report to an immigration office outside of the District or waiting for an immigration interview outside of the District
  • Have been paroled under the Immigration and Nationality Act after January 1, 2022
  • Have been issued a notice to appear in a proceeding under the Immigration and Nationality Act after January 1, 2022

A number of people who testified in the hearing expressed their concern with this change, saying this would cut off migrants who have lived in the District prior to the influx of migrants from the southern border states. Others highlighted Title II could also potentially prevent migrants from accessing DC HealthCare Alliance, which some people use as a form of verification of residency in the District. Others feared that this leaves behind those currently experiencing homelessness in the District.

“Migrants and the unhoused community in D.C. are oppressed by the same system and the same government. We do not need to create separate but equal offices to support community members who are from where come from, in many cases not willingly staying in D.C.” D.C. resident Aura Angelica testified. “Make the OMS but don’t block people from our continuum of care.”

This is one of many steps that must be taken before this legislation can be enacted permanently.