In anticipation of court decisions and rule changes that will likely have a huge impact on our immigrant and refugee communities in the next year, the City of Seattle has appropriated $375,000 for a one-time Rapid Response Fund for addressing anti-immigrant/refugee issues in 2020. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) in consultation with community partners has identified strategies and activities to enable us to respond quickly to the expected Supreme Court decision on DACA as well as impending rule changes to public charge, immigration fee increases, and the elimination of immigration fee waivers.
On Thursday, January 2, 2020, we will be soliciting Letters of Intent (LOIs) and letting you know about other opportunities to engage with us on what we are calling “rapid response.”
Our multi-layered approach includes:
Free in-person consultations and legal clinics for DACA recipients. We anticipate a surge in the demand for legal consultations, for screenings for other potential forms of relief, and for renewal applications after the Supreme Court issues its decision on DACA.
Community education workshops on public charge. Once the rule changes go into effect, they will likely create confusion. We must be able to explain the rule changes and their impacts in simple, plain language. Workshops would be hosted by organizations trusted by community members featuring experts provided by OIRA.
Training service providers on public charge. We understand that many residents rely on community-based social service agencies to answer questions about the impact of public charge rule changes on their client families. We need to ensure that those who are working in direct contact with community members have the knowledge and resources they need to provide accurate information. Both service providers and attorneys will receive training on the public charge rule changes as those become final.
Expanded naturalization services prior to fee increases going into effect. The recently proposed USCIS Fee Schedule significantly raises fees for many critical immigration benefits, including an 83 percent increase in fees for the naturalization application and the elimination of the reduced fee and fee waivers. We plan to increase naturalization services by scaling up Citizenship Day events prior to the scheduled increase and/or increasing capacity of in-office naturalization service providers.
Organizing and outreach. The need to keep our communities informed about these changes is critical, as is the need to direct them to the services they need. Community-based partners who are already organizing within immigrant and refugee communities and have deep community relationships play an important role in our overall rapid response plan.
Please stay tuned for further details. You can find out more about our work at our Welcoming City site.