…and our shared commitment towards social justice and racial equity.
Cuc Vu, Director, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
Whether you are an African immigrant or an African American who is a descendant of slavery, Black Lives Matter.
As the director of the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), please know that we, the staff of OIRA, stand with the protestors across the country calling for profound systemic and institutional change.
We strive to remain accountable to you and our immigrant and refugee community members, and we lead with racial justice when working against xenophobia and White supremacy and for immigrant justice. And we continue to be committed to cultivating productive dialogue between immigrants and law enforcement through such programs as the Immigrant Family Institute.
While many immigrants new to the U.S. may already have an understanding of how chattel slavery and historical/institutional racism has led us all to this moment, this may not be true for all.
If you are a recent arrival to the U.S. or know of immigrants who want to deepen their understanding of this political moment, here are some tips compiled from our staff:
- Talk with your kids about racism. As a mother, I have had some really difficult, but powerful conversations with my own young children. Research shows that without direct conversations about race, children will absorb the bias against Black people that pervades our media and systems, including policing. Also your older children may have a deeper understanding about U.S.-based systems of oppression. They may be able to help explain the many reasons for the protests across the U.S., which go beyond the recent police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
- If English is your second language, as it was for my family growing up, reading about racism in English may be challenging. But here are three helpful reading lists. Maybe read a book together as a family:
NYT: These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids
USA Today: Looking for books about racism? Experts suggest these must-read titles for adults and kids
NYT: An Antiracist Reading List
- If you are a White person who wants to understand race and are committed to learning and grappling with these hard questions, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights has recommended a number of resources to our staff specifically for White people who want to engage in meaningful ways:
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Seattle-based Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Seattle-based Ijeoma Oluo
RACE – The Power of an Illusion, a video and discussion series by California Newsreel
- The right to join in peaceful assembly and to protest is a core First Amendment right and an important foundation of America. But currently the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 can be quite high in these gatherings. We encourage you to safely/hygienically talk with friends/neighbors who have been attending recent protests to deepen your understanding of the issues. If you do attend a protest, please wear a cloth mask, and try to practice social distancing. Public Health – Seattle & King County has this helpful blog post about lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission while protesting.
Also, if you have been out to some of the recent protests, we encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. The City of Seattle has launched two new FREE testing sites for anyone who lives, works, or regularly visits Seattle, regardless of immigration or citizenship status. While the testing is free, if you have health insurance, we encourage you to bring proof of that insurance. More information about testing, as well as how to register before going can be found here: seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/covid-19-testing.
Here are a few more updates that you may find informative.
OIRA Quick Hits:
- OIRA recently bid a fond farewell and Happy Retirement to our friend and colleague Glenn Davis. After more than six years helping to grow the successful Read to Work program and many more years advocating for progressive workforce policies on both the East and West Coasts, Glenn is taking a well-deserved rest to spend time with his family and hopefully soon explore the world.
- OIRA says hello and welcome to new team member Lynn Livesley! Lynn will be taking over for Glenn, and she starts at a very challenging time. If her name seems familiar, it is because she was previously the Executive Director of Literacy Source. You can learn more about Lynn here.
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Seattle Field Office is now open. According to the USCIS website, staff there have resumed “non-emergency face-to-face services to the public,” and application support centers will resume services at a later date. Also, we are hearing that USCIS has resumed oath ceremonies and have instituted Public Health-recommended hygiene practices at these events. You can find more information at the USCIS website here.
- OIRA continues to monitor the U.S. Supreme Court on their forthcoming DACA decision. As soon as a decision is announced, we will be quick to publish our analysis and next steps. As you might know, we recently collaborated with Facebook and El Centro de la Raza to offer financial assistance for DACA renewals. A small number of scholarships is still available. You can apply here. And, we are currently organizing DACA online legal clinics to help people after the ruling. As the situation evolves, we’ll have the latest information about that here: www.seattle.gov/daca.
Our office continues to be closed, and staff are still working remotely. We are promptly replying to voicemail messages at 206-727-8515, to emails directed to email@example.com, and to messages via social media.
We know that times are tough right now for too many people here and across the world, especially our Black neighbors and friends. The entire City remains committed to figuring out solutions to these growing problems in collaboration with you. We here at OIRA wish you all safety and health during this challenging and uncertain time. Please continue to look out for each other and support each other.