As fear grows in King County’s immigrant and refugee community, County Executive Dow Constantine on Wednesday announced a plan to provide rapid response services, including a legal defense fund that will help residents navigate the naturalization process and support for community organizations on the front lines of immigrant rights and education.
The proposed one-time $750,000 funding would also help ensure that immigrants and refugees know their rights if they are approached by a federal agent or are the victim of a hate crime, according to a county media release. King County will also ensure that all of its key facilities are prepared to help those at risk and welcoming to all residents.
“People in our community are afraid – afraid for their human rights, their families and their safety,” Constantine said in the release. “Our message to the White House, the country and the rest of the world is clear: We proudly uphold the fundamental American promise that we are – and will be – a nation of hope, freedom, and opportunity for all.”
Constantine on Thursday will propose an ordinance to the King County Council that would provide $750,000 for rapid response services in three categories:
• Establish a legal defense fund that will provide pro bono guidance through the naturalization process.
• Develop and distribute Know Your Rights material and training throughout the county so that immigrants and refugees know what to do if they are approached by federal agents or are victims of a hate crime.
• Strengthen information and response hubs operated by nonprofit organizations so that everyone in King County – including those who want to support immigrants and refugees – knows where to go for resources, alerts, and opportunities.
All are welcome here
Constantine announced that so far 65 local elected officials have signed a pledge affirming that King County is a welcoming community for all.
King County will also ensure all its facilities are ready, safe and equipped to assist immigrants and refugees starting with signs in multiple languages that let everyone know that “All Are Welcome Here.”
A permanent Immigrant and Refugee Commission
The new King County Immigrant and Refugee Commission – which will act as a hub for immigrant and refugee services and align efforts by governments and nonprofits – will be staffed and operational later this year. But given the immediate need for services, Constantine and the County Council plan to expedite funding and ramp up critical activities sooner with an ordinance.
The council approved funding for the permanent commission in the 2017-2018 budget that was proposed by Constantine. A task force of community leaders recommended creating the permanent commission in a July 2016 report.
King County has been working on this strategy announced on Wednesday with organizations that were part of the the Immigrant and Refugee Task Force and other organizations, including Greater Church Council of Seattle, OneAmerica, Colectivo Legal Del Pueblo, Northwest immigrant Rights Project, Somali Health Board, Para Los Niños, Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition, Refugee Women’s Alliance and El Centro de la Raza.