How We are a Welcoming City

Jump to a specific section to learn more about Seattle's Welcoming Values and Actions:

Citizenship Day and Welcoming Week 2021

Welcoming Week - September 10-19, 2021

Welcoming Week is a time to celebrate the growing movement of communities that welcome immigrants and refugees and to showcase local events that contribute to Seattle's vibrant and welcoming culture. Welcoming America is a broad coalition of local governments, community-based organizations, and individuals leading these celebrations across the globe.

Citizenship Day - September 17, 2021

Citizenship Day commemorates the date in 1787 when the U.S. Constitution was officially signed. It is an opportunity to celebrate citizenship and enourage and assist eligible lawful permanent residents to start on the process to become U.S. citizens.

Below is a list of local events celebrating citizenship and a culture of welcoming:

People out and about at Pioneer Square welcome back event
Photo by Jenny Crooks, Courtesy of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

Free ACRS Virtual Citizenship Clinic - Throughout September

During this clinic, a team of DOJ-Accredited Representatives, volunteer attorneys, and paralegals from Asian Counceling and Referral Service (ACRS) will meet with eligible green card holders to complete their application for citizenship. Appointments will be held by video-conference and includes a FREE legal consultation. You can register for this citizenship clinic here.

Free September Mini Citizenship Clinic - Throughout September

A citizenship clinic is an event where volunteer attorneys, interpreters, and others assist eligible green card holders with completing their N-400 naturalization application through an organized step-by-step process. Clinic attendees can receive help completing a fee waiver application or information about low-interest loans to pay for the naturalization application processing fee. These September clinics are sponsored by Entre Hermanos and Horn of Africa Services, offering free help via phone or video calls. Learn more about these citizenship clinics here.

Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival - September 12

Seattle Center Festál presents Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival in partnership with the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival Committee. The festival shares cultural roots and contemporary influences of Hawaii through music, hula, ono food, marketplace, workshops, and more. This event is free and open to the public.

Headshot of OIRA director Cuc Vu with text encouraging eligible immigrants to become U.S. citizens.Celebrate Black Lives Matter Festival - September 18

The City of Seattle is partnering with Legendary Children and local Black-owned small businesses and creative workers to host a Celebrate Black Lives Matter Festival at City Hall Plaza. This festival will be a presentation of art, music, and performances by queer and transgender artists. Learn more about this event here.

Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias Virtual - September 18-19

Seattle Center Festál presents Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias in partnership with Sea Mar Community Health Centers. Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias commemorates the independence of Latin American countries, many of which celebrate their national independence day in the month of September. It is a festival to celebrate history, while taking pride in the new generations of Latinos who now call the United States home. This event is free and open to the public. More information about the event here.

Welcome Back Seattle Finale Concert - September 19

The City of Seattle is hosting a Welcome Back Seattle finale concert at the Mural Amphitheatre at Seattle Center! The Vera Project will provide free screen-printing of an exclusive Welcome Back Seattle design. Local Seattle hip-hop, soul, and R'n'B artists will perform until sunset, with local artist Adra Boo hosting! Learn more about this event here.

 

City of Seattle advocacy in support of immigrants and refugees

September 8, 2021
Letter from over 700 elected officials, including Mayor Durkan sent to Congressional leadership affirming our united support for a path to citizenship for millions of Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers.

August 30, 2021
Letter from Mayor Durkan sent to Congressional leadership regarding the consideration of immigration priorities, such as pathways to citizenship, while working on Budget Reconciliation.

 

Public comments the City of Seattle has submitted against proposed federal anti-immigrant rules.

In 2017, the federal government started proposing administrative rule changes that inequitably target immigrant and refugee communities, especially communities of color. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs quickly mobilized to comment against these proposed rules in the Notice of Proposed Rule-making (NPRM) process to assert the City's dissent on the public record. Below is a list of federal anti-immigrant rules and our comments opposing them.

March 15, 2021
Public comment strongly opposing the proposed revision to Form N-400 Application for Naturalization by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that would implement unnecessary complexity and burdensome requirements for lawful permanent residents attempting to apply for U.S. citizenship (OMB Control Number 1615-0052). This rule was submitted in the final days of the Trump administration.

December 14, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the revisions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Policy Manual: Civics Educational Requirement for Purposes of Naturalization (November 13, 2020 Policy Alert) that would create an unnecessary burden for individuals applying for naturalization.

November 2, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the Department of Homeland Security's proposed "Affidavit of Support on Behalf of Immigrants" rule (RIN: 1615-AC39) that will cause confusion and fear and will ultimately deter sponsors from supporting family members' path to legal permanent residency.

October 13, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the Department of Homeland Security's proposed "Collection and Use of Biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services" rule (RIN: 1615-AC14) that would greatly expand biometrics data collection for immigrants.

August 10, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)'s and Department of Homeland Security's proposed "Security Bars and Processing" rule (RIN: 1125-AB08 and 1615-AC57) that seeks to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for practically eliminating an applicant's ability to obtain asylum-related relief in the U.S.

July 15, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)'s and Department of Homeland Security's proposed "Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal; Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Review" rule (RIN: 1125-AA94 and 1615-AC42) that would drastically limit asylum protections for immigrants who have well-founded fears of persecutions.

December 23, 2020
Public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fee schedule rule (RIN 1615-AC18), which creates a "pay-to-play" approach to citizenship and is part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration to remake this country to exclusively serve wealthy immigrants.

October 25, 2019
Public comment strongly opposing the Department of Justice, Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)'s proposed reorganization of certain offices within EOIR (RIN: 1125-AA85) resulting in the elimination of the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP). This rule would ultimately lead to reduced access to legal services for immigrants and refugees with low incomes.

October 6, 2019
Public comment to the OMB USCIS Desk Officer strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' proposed rule to modify Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions (OMB Control Number 1615-0060). This USCIS revision would unnecessarily make it more difficult for disabled lawful permanent residents to become U.S. citizens.

August 18, 2019
Public comment to the OMB USCIS Desk Officer strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' proposed rule to modify Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, which would needlessly place obstacles to lawful permanent residents attempting to renew their green cards (OMB Control Number 1615-0082).

July 9, 2019
Public comment strongly opposing the Housing and Urban Development Department proposed "Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status" rule (RIN: 2501-AD89) that would result in over 55,000 children being evicted from their homes across the U.S.

July 3, 2019
Third public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' proposed rule to modify Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver (OMB Control Number 1615-0116), which would disproportionately harm immigrants with low incomes who want to apply for U.S. citizenship, (see below).

May 4, 2019
Second of three public comments strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' proposed rule to modify Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, which would disproportionately harm immigrants with low incomes who want to apply for U.S. citizenship (RIN: 1615-ZB79). This comment also responds to USCIS responses to the November 2018 public comments, (see below).

April 16, 2019
Public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' proposed rule to establish a tip form that will only further victimize vulnerable immigrants (Federal Register Number: 2019-02381).

April 2, 2019
OIRA and the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) submit a joint public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed rule to further restrict food assistance to immigrant, refugee, and people of color communities (RIN: 0584-AE57).

April 2, 2019
Public comment strongly opposing the Social Security Administration's proposed rule to remove "inability to communicate in English" as an education category (RIN: 0960-AH86).

December 10, 2018
Public comment strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds rule, which would expand the definition of "public charge" (RIN: 1615-AA22). The City of Seattle also signs onto Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's public comment with King County Executive Dow Constantine. Multiple other City departments also submitted their own public comments, including the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Office of Sustainability and Environment, and Office of Housing. Individuals across the U.S. submitted 216,102 comments on the proposed rule, far surpassing the original goal of 100,000 comments.

November 27, 2018
First of three public comments strongly opposing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services proposed rule to modify Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver (RIN: 1615-ZB79), which would disproportionately harm immigrants with low incomes who want to apply for U.S. citizenship.

 

Summary of policies that make Seattle a Welcoming City.

  1. 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.
  2. Resolution 30672 - 2004, reminds SPD officers to refrain from enforcing civil federal immigration violations such as lack of immigration status.
  3. Resolution 30796 - 2005, creates an immigrant and refugee action plan.
  4. Resolution 30851 - 2006, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.
  5. Ordinance 122441 - 2007, establishes the Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board.
  6. Resolution 31193 - 2010, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.
  7. 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.
  8. Ordinance 123822 - 2012, establishes OIRA and changes the advisory board to the Immigrant and Refugee Commission.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Executive Order 2017-10 - 2017, intended to increase the City's capacity to serve limited English proficient immigrant and refugee residents.
  14. Mayoral Directive on Seattle's Protocols on Federal Immigration Enforcement - 2018, requires that all requests from federal immigration enforcement agencies 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.

A few members of the OIRA team.

 

Overview of services and programs that make Seattle a Welcoming City.

All City of Seattle services are available to eligible residents regardless of your citizenship and immigration status.

This City of Seattle Affordability Portal is an online resource to help you find benefits you may be eligible for. The below list of programs and services offered by the City of Seattle can make living here a little more affordable for you. Learn more about finding help in Seattle with childcare, food, transportation, and utilities.

 

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 refugee 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 Governance & Education Committee has a specific focus on protecting immigrant and refugee rights.

OIRA staff meet with the GESCNA CommitteeThe purpose of the Seattle City Council Governance & Education Committee is to provide policy direction and oversight and to deliberate and make recommendations on legislative matters relating to: regional, state, federal, and other governmental matters including Charter review, code improvement, the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, and rules of the City Council; City personnel issues, including labor-management relations, collective bargaining agreements, and other issues related to salary rates, hours, and other conditions of employment; the Office of the Employee Ombud; the City Auditor; the Office of Hearing Examiner; ethics and elections, including the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission; immigrant and refugee rights, including the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs; and education and early learning initiatives, including the Department of Education and Early Learning, the City's Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy, with a goal of improving City schools and student success rates and reducing achievement gaps. The committee meets regularly every 3rd Tuesday at 2:00pm.

More about the Governance & Education Committee 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.

Festal images

Banner photo credit: Alabastro Photography.