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Spring updates from OIRA!

Winter 2017 Ready to Work Graduation. Photo by Alabastro Photography.

Cuc Vu, Director, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs

Spring has sprung! I’m relieved to have winter in the rearview mirror. Here’s a brief rundown of positive news regarding immigrants and refugees in Seattle.


I. Seattle v. Trump Administration

Last week, the City of Seattle filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s “sanctuary cities” Executive Order. The order threatened to strip federal funding from cities that refused to assist the federal government in immigration enforcement. Seattle continues to be a welcoming city where City employees do not inquire about immigration status and where all services are available to every resident. We believe the order is unconstitutional and that Seattle has not violated federal law. You can read more about the lawsuit here.

And if you are a legal wonk, you can read more about the arguments supporting our lawsuit from University of Washington School of Law professor Hugh Spitzer here.


II. Immigration Legal Defense Fund

Also last week, Councilmembers Lorena González and Tim Burgess announced $1 million for an Immigrant Legal Defense Fund (LDF).

OIRA will administer the LDF, which will include a request for proposals. Eligible community-based organizations could apply for funds to hire immigration attorneys, legal staff, and legal navigators to protect and prevent immigrants from being deported. Unlike in criminal courts, people in immigration proceedings do not have the right to an attorney. Learn more about the LDF here.


III. Citizenship Workshops are Coming Up!

We have heard that many of you continue to be interested in volunteering for Citizenship Workshops, like the huge Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families event that took place on Inauguration Day. The next large-scale event is scheduled for early 2018. In the meantime, we plan on organizing smaller Citizenship Clinics for eligible legal permanent residents starting in May. We will be partnering with multiple community-based organizations for these monthly clinics:

  • Asian Counseling and Referral Services (ACRS)
  • Catholic Immigrant Legal Services (CILS)
  • Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)
  • Horn of Africa Services (HOAS)
  • Korean Community and Service Center (KCSC)
  • OneAmerica (OA)
  • Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)

If you have volunteered for a workshop in the past, you’ll be receiving an email soon about volunteer opportunities for these monthly clinics. Check back at our New Citizens Campaign page for details.


IV. One More Volunteer Opportunity…

The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals who have come together to advocate for immigrant justice issues and create a statewide infrastructure to assist immigrant families. They are looking for volunteers to help staff a hotline that will help document immigration enforcement activities. More information about volunteering for that hotline is here.


V. ICYMI: Immigration 101 Video

On Tuesday, March 21, the City of Seattle held a Day of Action for Immigration. City of Seattle staff came together to learn more about the basics of current immigration policy, the issues, what needs to be fixed, and how you can help. The Seattle Channel produced the above video of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project presentation, which also includes the slides.

We highly recommend watching this with other folks, perhaps your family, friends, coworkers, neighborhood group, or other social group. Thanks to the Seattle Public Library for their partnership!


VI. Immigrant Family Institute is in full swing!

The Immigrant Family Institute (IFI) is a new 8-week program that brings together immigrant male youth of color (ages 10-14), their parents/guardians, and Seattle police officers to learn from each other. This program started March 25 and runs until May 13 and builds off the award-winning success of the Refugee Women’s Institute.

Learn more about IFI here.


VII. Funding Now Available!

King County Elections and Seattle Foundation are offering up to $400,000 in funding for community organizations to work on voter engagement with underserved communities. Who should apply? Any organization that works to reduce inequities in voting access for marginalized communities.

More information and the application can be found here.

Well, kudos to you if you made it this far down! Thanks for all you do in staying engaged on these issues.