Immigrants and Refugees

Seattle continues to welcome immigrants and refugees from around the world. The number of our immigrant and refugee residents has increased by twenty percent since the year 2000, and eighteen percent of Seattle residents are foreign born.  Our diversity adds to the vibrancy and economic and cultural riches of our City, creating a unique beacon of hope for many. 

Despite the contributions of immigrants and refugees to Seattle, the current rhetoric portrays them as a threat to the American national security and a burden on societal resources. It is particularly critical that Seattle forcefully stand up to anti-immigration rhetoric and exclusionary policies that disregard the successful integration and contributions of our immigrant and refugee communities. We can, and we need to do more to be a welcoming city.

Over the years, I have worked with immigrant and refugee communities and listened to their priority needs and concerns. If elected, here are my priorities:

  1. Standing Together: The Trump Administration policies are a significant threat to our immigrant and refugee communities, raising confusion, fear and frustration. Seattle must continue take the moral high ground. City personnel and resources must not be used to assist and enforce federal policies that we believe to be unconstitutional and/or illegal.

  2. Access to City Hall:  It is particularly challenging for immigrant and refugee communities to effectively communicate with Seattle city government. The communities’ needs are complex, and culture/history/language can be barriers. I created the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and in this better economy, OIRA has expanded it’s services. Once elected, I will work to ensure that all departments work with OIRA through a race and social justice lens that is active, responsive, and accountable to immigrant and refugee communities. I will hold regular meetings directly with community members and city staff to maintain a dialogue.  

  3. Support of Mutual Assistance Organizations: Immigrant and refugee populations organize in Seattle based on their countries of origin. Mutual Assistance Organizations have the cultural competence to provide assistance to new arrivals in Seattle by supporting individuals and families in adjusting to a new country. Despite their history of successes, many of these organizations struggle with funding due to a lack of resources or being asked to provide their expertise without compensation. I intend to create a funding mechanism that specifically serves mutual assistance organizations.

  4. Housing: Many of the immigrant and refugee families are being pushed out of Seattle because of the high cost of housing. It is vital that the city partner with ethnic resettlement associations and affordable housing providers to secure housing for immigrants who work in Seattle.

  5. Jobs:  Immigrant and refugee communities are plagued by high unemployment. Skills or degrees may not transfer from their native countries, or they may arrive with unique talents unrecognized by employers. Once elected, I will identify opportunities to employ these hard-working individuals in our labor force, as we have done with our youth conservation corp that works in parks. Equally vital is access to training at community colleges and workforce training organizations, especially developing trainings specifically targeted to immigrant and refugee workers. We will partner with employers, training programs, and unions to ensure immigrants are a steady stream in the workforce.

  6. Seattle Public Schools:  While the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over Seattle Public Schools, there is an urgent need for collaboration when fully 36 languages are needed to reach parents of SPS students. Immigrant and refugee children often need special support, inside and outside the classroom.  I will improve programs for English Language Learners, add Family Support Workers, and support community programs that help parents interact with the SPS. One approach is to ask King County Elections and the Secretary of State to find a method to allow noncitizen voting for Seattle School Board. This would empower immigrant parents to engage in the life of their children and SPS.

  7. Citizenship & Legal Defense: The City Council has set aside funds to assist in providing legal services for immigrants who are facing deportation and other immigration issues. In additional to funds allocated by the City Council, I will focus ongoing resources for programs that assist immigrants and refugees to seek citizenship and immigration legal defense.

  8. Language Interpretive Services: I will increase and streamline access to language interpretation and translation services so that everyone has access to vital city services, ranging from early learning to  emergencies, housing and human services as well as utilities and other city services.

  9. Public Safety: Despite progress, Seattle still has a long way to go to heal wounds, increase focus on community policing, and build trust between the SPD and communities of color, including immigrants. I will support the Office of Police Accountability, Office of the Inspector General and the Community Police Commission to work with SPD and the community, with or without a DOJ Consent Decree.