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Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
The new office will promote a citywide culture that understands and values the benefits that all members of our society receive when immigrants and refugee communities are successfully integrated into our civic, economic, and cultural life.
The formation of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) recognizes that Seattle is home to many immigrant and refugee communities and that language and cultural barriers can compromise equal access to government services and programs. These barriers combined with the complex nature of issues that affect immigrant and refugee communities, resulted in the creation of the OIRA. OIRA will centralize the thinking around services such as job training, citizenship, education, and small businesses. OIRA will play a critical role in coordinating a range of programs, which will strengthen the relationship between government and immigrant and refugee communities.
Updated Timeline for Confirmation Hearings
The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will play a critical role in coordinating a range of existing and potentially new City efforts and programs that are aimed at assisting immigrant and refugee communities. There are programs in the Human Services Department intended to help families and youth with a wide range of needs such as job training, citizenship and education needs. In the Office of Economic Development, we have efforts to help small businesses that are often owned and operated by immigrants and identifying pathways for new businesses, like food trucks, that are innovative entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants. There are examples like this all across City departments where our services touch immigrants and refugees that often require a concerted effort to understand specific needs and how best to provide those services in an efficient and effective manner. OIRA will centralize the thinking around these services.
Years ago the City created the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), so we could better focus efforts and raise public awareness around the ways we can impact our natural environment. Doing so has led Seattle to be at the forefront of efforts around addressing climate change. Similarly, the Office of Education gives the City a front door to the School District to identify partnership opportunities such as the Families and Education Levy to help young people succeed in Seattle. OIRA will serve this function for our growing immigrant and refugee communities.
Providing services is one thing, but ensuring that they are effective and meeting the most pressing needs in the community is another thing. One reason Council specifically articulated during the budget process, when it added funding to create the OIRA, was that we wanted specific measurable outcomes for the dollars invested for services that support immigrants and refugees. We need to know if these are the same priorities as the community's priorities. And more important, we need to know if our efforts are working. Health, education, and economic disparities are all examples of where we want to see positive change. OIRA will look at the data and measurable outcomes to evaluate the performance of our programming.
OIRA will be responsible for reaching out to refugee and immigrant communities, so that City Hall is not isolated from learning about the priorities and interests of these communities. OIRA will be responsible for staffing the Immigrant and Refugee Commission – which will have the primary responsibility of ensuring we have proactive dialogue about the issues facing immigrants and refugees in Seattle.
"Centro de ayuda solidaria a los Amigos". Focused on Latino day laborers and domestic workers and their families. Immigrant rights, ESL, community organizing. Open 6 a.m. - 10:30 am Mon-Sat (closed Sundays).
Employment, youth, family, and elderly services for all the Asian community. Services include ESL (English) classes, multilingual computer training, senior daycare and other programs for elders, crime prevention education, crime victims assistance, domestic violence services, employment-related services, family counseling. Also preschool and youth programs intended to enhance academic achievement and bicultural identity; arts classes; Mandarin Chinese language classes.
Civil and human rights organization with social services, cultural and community outreach, citizenship program, employment program, childcare. M-F 8:30am-5:30pm. Se habla español.
Umbrella agency for over 500 ethnic and cultural organizations. M-F 11am-4pm.
Information and referrals. Sliding scale fee. Free parenting class. Drug and alcohol assessment. Youth program. Pro bono legal clinic. Domestic violence advocacy. No web site yet, but can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Available to any refugee or immigrant woman in need. Serves primarily women from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and East Africa.
ESL classes for documented immigrants, with free childcare. Also citizenship preparation, other programs (see their web site).
Employment and many other human services.
OIRA in the news
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