Seattle Stands United
By Jenny Durkan and Lorena González
February 6, 2018
This past weekend, the City of Seattle, in partnership with dozens of community-based organizations and coalitions, hosted Seattle United for Immigrants and Refugees Mega-Workshop where 491 legal permanent residents received citizenship assistance and 535 people received immigration legal consultations. The event brought together 800 volunteers to provide a meaningful service for many of our neighbors pursuing their American Dream.
The efforts and outcomes that went into Saturday’s mega-workshop are Seattle values in action as a welcoming, inclusive, and safe City against a backdrop of unprecedented and troubling changes in immigration enforcement by the federal administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. From multiple ‘Muslim Bans’ to revoking protected status for DREAMers or individuals from TPS countries like El Salvador and Haiti; this administration continues to abuse its power to make immigrants and refugees feel like targets, unwelcomed, and unwanted.
The increase in ICE threats, activities, arrests, and raids is deeply concerning. This direction by ICE undermines the public safety of our city by undermining trust between community and all law enforcement. We have a duty to ensure public safety and protect all of our residents and workers in Seattle from increased, unjust enforcement actions. We believe it is possible to prioritize public safety and follow federal law, as the Department of Justice has already ruled that our actions as a Welcoming City is in compliance with federal laws.
In the few weeks of 2018 thus far, we have already seen stories of both sensitive data of immigrant residents being shared with ICE and increased ICE enforcement activity across the country. This has created an urgency that we, as a City, must be more pro-active and add another layer of protection for our immigrant residents and workers. We are working to create robust protocols for all City departments because not only will this bolster public safety but we believe every resident, regardless of their status, should be able to do everyday activities like call 9-1-1, visit the library, or access our City’s services knowing that they are protected.
Seattle’s laws are clear that no City employee is permitted to ask the immigration status of our residents or of those accessing City services. To strengthen this law, today a Mayoral directive was issued to create a clear process for any and all requests by ICE authorities to the City of Seattle. All requests from ICE to any City Department must be directed to the Mayor’s Office legal counsel in coordination with the City Attorney’s office for further assessment on the merit of the request. This includes access to non-public areas in City buildings and venues as well as data or information requests about City employees, residents, or workers.
In addition, the City of Seattle, in coordination with City Council, is conducting an assessment of City policies and practices – including but not limited to employment, law enforcement, public safety, IT, and social service delivery. The purpose of this assessment is to ensure compliance with our City’s current laws. This will also help us gain a better understanding of procedures or best practices by departments to ensure interaction with this administration’s federal immigration enforcement keep our residents and workers safe.
The changing direction of ICE enforcement is designed to distract and drain resources from real public safety threats with an explicit outcome of causing widespread fear and uncertainty for all immigrants in their daily lives. Let’s be clear: we won’t be bullied and we stand with our immigrant communities because it is who we as a City. Together, we will keep working to fight injustice and ensure that immigrants and refugees feel welcome in Seattle.
Mayor Jenny Durkan is the 56th Mayor of Seattle and Councilmember M. Lorena González is a nationally-recognized civil rights leader who represents District 9 in Seattle.