Seattle is a Welcoming City
As a Welcoming City, Seattle is proud to be a member of Welcoming America, a coalition of cities, municipalities, organizations, and others focused on inclusion and creating environments in which everyone can contribute to their greatest potential. As a Welcoming City, all departments consider the policies and practices we need that fit our local context and that reduce the barriers to success that immigrants and refugees often face.
Below is a brief summary of policies, actions, and programs that make Seattle a Welcoming City.
Mayor Ed Murray signs executive order affirming Seattle's Welcoming City policies.
On Thursday, November 24, Mayor Ed Murray signed an Executive Order reaffirming Seattle as a Welcoming City. The order states that City employees will not ask about the status of residents and all City services will be available to all residents, and it creates an Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet that will coordinate City efforts to protect the civil liberties and civil rights of Seattle residents. Additionally, the City will set aside $250,000 to address the needs of unauthorized immigrant students enrolled in Seattle Public Schools and their families.
The Executive Order directs City employees and departments on the following items:
- City employees will not ask residents seeking City services about immigration status, unless police officers have a reasonable suspicion that a person is committing or has committed a felony criminal-law violation.
- City employees will serve all residents and services will remain accessible to all residents, regardless of immigration status, ancestry, race, ethnicity, national origin, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender variance, marital status, physical or mental disability, or religion.
- Seattle Police officers will continue to defer detainer requests from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement to King County, as jails are in King County's jurisdiction.
- City departments will issue a letter to all contractors receiving General Fund dollars to clarify and inform about these policies.
- An Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet will be created, made up of representatives from:
- Seattle Police Department,
- Office of Civil Rights,
- Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs,
- Department of Neighborhoods,
- Office of Economic Development,
- Office of Policy and Innovation,
- City Budget Office,
- Office of Intergovernmental Relations,
- Department of Education and Early Learning, and
- Seattle Human Services Department
- The Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet develop a programmatic investment strategy for $250,000 to directly address the needs of unauthorized immigrant children in Seattle Public Schools and their families.
- The Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet will develop public awareness efforts around hate speech and crimes; review potential implications on City departments of any new initiatives and intent of the incoming Presidential administration; collaborate with immigrant and refugee communities to identify areas of need and new or expanded efforts for partnership; and develop a specific agenda and action plan to help the Mayor build a coalition of cities during the upcoming West Coast Mayor's Summit and the U.S. Conference of Mayors gatherings.
The Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs was created to increase immigrant integration in Seattle.
Created in 2012 and significantly expanded in 2014, the mission of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is to improve the lives of Seattle's immigrant and refugee residents. OIRA works to strengthen immigrant and refugee communities by engaging them in decisions about the City of Seattle's future, and improving the City's programs and services to meet the needs of all constituents. Learn more about OIRA's work here.
The Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commission was created to provide a vehicle for immigrant and refuge leaders to advise city officials on pertinent issues.
The Immigrant and Refugee Commission was created as a result of Seattle's Immigrant and Refugee Report and Action Plan released in 2007. With the unprecedented growth in the foreign-born population since the 1980s, Seattle has become an increasingly multi-cultural city, rich with diversity. In keeping with the Race and Social Justice Initiative, the mayor and city council want to ensure that city government provides high-quality customer service to all, including immigrants and refugees living and working in Seattle. The Immigrant and Refugee Commission helps the city reach its goals. Learn more about the commission here.
The Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans Committee has a specific focus on protecting immigrant and refugee rights.
The purpose of the Seattle City Council Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans Committee is to provide policy direction and oversight and to deliberate and make recommendations on legislative matters relating to: law enforcement, with special emphasis on programs and strategies to reduce crime, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and youth violence; implementation of the Settlement Agreement between the Department of Justice and the City of Seattle regarding the Seattle Police Department; fire prevention and suppression; emergency medical services; criminal justice; coordination with municipal, regional, state and federal agencies engaged in public safety issues; immigrant and refugee rights; gender equity issues; and emergency preparedness, management, and response.
Ordinances and resolutions affirming Seattle as a Welcoming City.
- Ordinance 121063 - 2003, instructs SPD officers to refrain from requiring the immigration status of any person with notable exceptions, e.g. suspect in a felony investigation.
- Resolution 30672 - 2004, reminds SPD officers to refrain from enforcing civil federal immigration violations such as lack of immigration status.
- Resolution 30796 - 2005, creates an immigrant and refugee action plan.
- Resolution 30851 - 2006, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.
- Ordinance 122441 - 2007, establishes the Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board.
- Resolution 31193 - 2010, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.
- Resolution 31214 - 2010, requests city departments refrain from sending city employees to Arizona to denounce their Senate Bill 1070 and calls for federal immigration reform.
- Ordinance 123822 - 2012, establishes OIRA and changes the advisory board to the Immigrant and Refugee Commission.
- Resolution 31490 - 2013, establishes joint city council-mayor citywide policy priorities in support of federal comprehensive immigration reform, ranging from high-tech visas to supporting DREAM Act legislation.
- Resolution 31339 - 2014, prioritizes family unity and urges President Obama and Congress to replace the enforcement-oriented federal immigration system with an immigration policy that keeps families together and respects the right of all workers to support their families.
- Resolution 31539 - 2014, calls for Obama administration to replace enforcement-oriented system with one that prioritizes keeping families together. Also mentions again that organizations funded by the city shall not consider immigration status for accessing services, among other efforts to strengthen communication between immigrant communities and the city.
- Executive Order 2016-08 - 2016, reaffirms existing policies and provides guidance to city employees on protecting immigrants' access to police protection and public services and establishes an "Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet" to coordinate city efforts to protect the civil liberties and civil rights of all Seattle residents.
The City of Seattle partners with a number of community-based organizations that provide services for undocumented/unauthorized residents.
The City of Seattle has partnered with Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union to offer low-interest loans for aspiring Americans.
In partnership with the City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) launched two citizenship loan products in June 2016 to help low-income immigrants and refugees pay for citizenship applications and increase access to banking services. More than 22,000 legal permanent residents (LPRs) in Seattle are eligible to naturalize and more than half are low-income. Many eligible residents do not naturalize because they can’t afford the total $725 application fee (as of December 23, 2016). Learn more about these citizenship loans here.
The City of Seattle's Seattle Center offers year-round events celebrating the diversity of the Pacific Northwest.
Festál, presented by Seattle Center in partnership with community organizations, is a year-long series of FREE events that honors the cultural richness and diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Festál plays a vital part in Seattle Center efforts to connect our dynamic and varied communities. Learn more about our events here.
For more information about Seattle's status as a Welcoming City, please contact the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
Banner photo credit: Alabastro Photography.