SPOKANE, Wash. - They came to America to seek a better life and now lawmakers in Olympia are considering cutting the only source of food for hundreds of Marshallese.
"When we came here we came with nothing,"said Yuriko Jack, who moved to Spokane from the Marshall Islands several years ago.
"We don't have anything some of these people came with like nothing," said Jack.
Marshallese have been seeking refuge in Spokane and cities across the country since the United States used their islands to test atomic bombs in the 1940's and 1950's.
Around 1,300 Marshallese now call the Inland Northwest home.
Man of them can't work because of health issues so they rely on the State Food Assistance Program for help. The program is now at risk for being cut from the state budget.
The senate budget proposes cutting the $13 million dollar program entirely, while the house budget calls to cut funding in half.
Lawmakers are currently in week two of a special session trying to agree on a final budget.
"As it is they only get $4 per person per day in food stamps and cutting it in half means less than $2 per person per day," said Linda Stone with Children's Alliance.
"Even in the best case scenario it's going to have a devastating effect on families in our community," she said.
And, that's why Stone and Karen Morrison with Odyssey World International organized a rally Wednesday night.
During the meeting, dozens of Marshallese wrote letters to lawmakers urging them to save the food assistance program from the chopping block.
"I will not live,"said Jabba Ankie, who moved to Spokane 20 years ago.
"I will not live if they don't give me food," he said.
Ankie believes radiation from the testing caused the lung and heart disease he now struggles with every day.
"The state of Washington made a commitment back in 1997 to provide food assistance to folks who are legally here," said Stone.
Stone now hopes lawmakers will take the letters to heart and continue to fund this vital program.