How Seattle is a Welcoming City

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

 

City of Seattle advocacy in support of immigrants and refugees

December 7, 2022
In October, advocates sent a letter to Mayor Harrell and other governments requesting greater collaboration and resources to help migrants, such as asylum-seekers recently arriving to Seattle. Director Hamdi sent this response on behalf of Mayor Harrell detailing the City's actions in response to this evolving issue.

December 1, 2022
Mayor Bruce Harrell signed onto this U.S. Conference of Mayors letter to the  U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, urging Congress to add funding to the FY 2023 omnibus appropriations bill to boost the capacity of local organizations to respond to the increasing number of asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border.

November 29, 2022
The City of Seattle joined 70 Cities for Action Mayors and County Executives to sent a bipartisan letter to Congress calling on them to enact permanent protections for Dreamers, including DACA Recipients, before the year's end.

November 18, 2022
Representatives from OIRA joined with Cites and Counties for Citizenship (CC4C) and advocates from across the country in a meeting with Senator Patty Murray's Office to in supporting various pro-immigrant and pro-refugee Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations, including an increase of funds for USCIS backlog reduction, a legal representation pilot program, and FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

September 16, 2022
Thirty-three Cities for Action mayors and county executives sent a letter to President Biden encouraging the administration to reaffirm the United States’ longstanding commitment to refugees by at the very least:

  • Maintaining the refugee admission goal for FY 2023;
  • Taking all necessary steps and providing needed resources to meet this goal; and
  • Strengthening other humanitarian programs to assist individuals in need of protection from disasters, conflicts, oppression, and emergencies.

September 15, 2022
We joined more than 200 partners calling on the House of Representatives to advance equity and inclusion in the workforce by passing the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act. Read the sign-on letter sponsored by World Education Services.

August 29, 2022
Mayor Bruce Harrell joined state and local officials from across the U.S. in calling on the Biden Administration to urgently rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program in Fiscal Year 2023. You can read the sign-on letter sponsored by the advocacy organization Refugee Advocacy Lab here.

July 27, 2022
OIRA signed onto this letter led by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) requesting additional funds for USCIS' Citizenship and Integration Grant Program and backlog reduction efforts.

July 14, 2022
OIRA was proud to join with cities across the country in sending an advocacy letter to the IRS requesting that they extend the deadline to claim the enhanced Child Tax Credit to ensure more tax-paying immigrant families are able to equitably access this important relief. Learn more about this issue at the Cities for Action website.

July 7, 2022
OIRA signed onto the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights advocacy letter to USCIS Director Ur Jaddou asking USCIS to support taking greater responsibility for voter registration activities at naturalization ceremonies.

May 25, 2022
OIRA signed onto the NALEO Educational Fund letter urging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Mendoza Jaddou to decrease or maintain its naturalization fees to prevent increased financial barriers to naturalization.

May 16, 2022
The City of Seattle signed onto the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition-coordinated letter that supports the LIFT the BAR Act (H.R. 5227), removing the 5-year waiting period for certain immigrants to access public benefits.

April 26, 2022
The City of Seattle joined with the Vera Institute for Justice and National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) to support the Fairness to Freedom Campaign for Universal Representation, a movement to support federal legislation to establish a universal right to legal representation for anyone facing deportation regardless of who they are, where they are from, or their history with the legal system.

December 14, 2021
The City of Seattle joined 24 other Cities for Action municipalities to release a multi-city advocacy letter to the Biden Administration calling for expanded parole protections for Afghan and Haitian migrants and federal funding to assist localities with housing challenges and legal service needs.

December 1, 2021
Led by the City of Seattle, mayors and county leaders representing nearly two-thirds of all asylum-seeking families on a new, accelerated court docket sent a letter to the Biden administration opposing this new policy and asking the administration to halt its implementation immediately. The leaders explained that without a program to guarantee legal representation for the families, the policy would prioritize speed over fairness, eroding due process and denying families equal access to justice.

November 15, 2021
OIRA and the Seattle Office of Labor Standards joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in signing a letter in support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) plan to change its worksite enforcement practices to support enforcement of wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other employment laws and standards. The coalition highlighted several key recommendations to ensure that DHS' immigration enforcement policies and practices facilitate the ability of state and local labor enforcement officials to advance fair labor standards. UPDATE: Unfortunately, it appears that our concerns have come to fruition: Report: Many asylum-seeking migrants not getting lawyers once put in 'Rocket Docket'.

November 4, 2021
OIRA signed on to a Naturalization Working Group comment letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding changes to the Form N-648 and other practices related to the adjudication of waivers from naturalization test requirements for applicants with disabilities.

October 19, 2021
OIRA signed on in support of the Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition comment responding to the Department of Homeland Security's advance notice of proposed rulemaking on a new public charge regulation. We support "public charge regulations that shield immigrant families and safeguard our nation's future."

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 rules related to immigration and our comments opposing or supporting them.

July 14, 2022
The Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs submitted this public comment supporting the integration of simpler, more concise, and contemporary language in the form N-400 questions, as well as launching an easy and effective online filing tool that does not discriminate against applicants who need a fee waiver. This comment was in response to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) notice of a proposed extension of a currently approved collection of information, Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

May 25, 2022
The Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs submitted this public comment to the Department of Homeland Security interim final rule: "Procedures for Credible Fear Screening and Consideration of Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and CAT Protection Claims by Asylum Officers," which makes a number of changes to asylum regulations.

April 25, 2022
The City of Seattle submitted this public comment in support of the Biden administration's proposed Public Charge rule changes that would codify the "1999 field guidance" and propose additional clarifications to limit the harmful chilling effect that keeps eligible immigrants from accessing supportive programs.

November 22, 2021
Public comment generally in support of the proposed changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program proposed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Docket ID Number USCIS-2021-0006-0001). However, OIRA also proposed a number of recommendations to strengthen and expand this important program.

October 19, 2021
Public comment supporting the proposed rules on Procedures for Credible Fear Screening and Consideration of Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and CAT Protection Claims by Asylum Officers (RIN 1615-AC67) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that gives USCIS asylum officers the authority to adjudicate withholding of removal and CAT cases, in addition to asylum.

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.

 

Policies that help 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 structure 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 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.