Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan on Jan.6 to support immigrant and refugee children in Seattle Public Schools and their families, through counseling and legal services, an Inauguration Day event focused on immigrant communities and community education forums aimed at sharing information about immigrant rights and resources. The announcement is part of the $250,000 commitment Mayor Murray made in his Thanksgiving Executive Order reaffirming Seattle’s status as a welcoming city, and looks to leverage resources from partners in the philanthropic, non-profit and private sectors.
Mayor Murray made the announcement with Councilmember M. Lorena González and Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres, who has committed Foundation funds to support the partnership and will work to raise additional support from the philanthropic sector. Mayor Murray and Mestres will also convene a group of mayors and philanthropic leaders on the issue during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in two weeks.
“When I visited schools after Election Day, I saw the faces of children who were in fear for themselves and their families and today we are announcing a plan to ensure they get the support they need,” said Mayor Murray. “We cannot only be about protest as we enter this uncertain time – we must also act and this partnership aims to ensure that no child or family in our city lives in fear and that each resident feels welcome. In that spirit, I hope all Seattleites find a community or an organization to serve with on Inauguration Day and throughout the year.”
“Seattle remains a Welcoming City and today’s announcement by Mayor Murray represents our collective dedication to offer a helping hand to our most vulnerable neighbors facing documentation challenges — our youth,” said Councilmember González. “Our commitment to the kids of Seattle will continue throughout the year with legal clinics and other workshops intended to help immigrants and refugees know their rights. Together, our city will continue to defend our community, and we will be stronger and more vibrant because of it.”
“Seattle Foundation stands with the City of Seattle in saying that no student, child or young person in our community should live in fear because of their family’s race, religion or immigration status,” Mestres said. “This election season has left many of our residents wondering how they are going to find a path forward in this time of unrest and change. It is our collective responsibility to ensure there is a place for everyone on our community’s path forward, and that we do not leave anyone behind, especially our kids.”
Mayor Murray announced four elements of the plan today, including:
The Family Unity Project: This effort will consist of community education forums conducted in Seattle Public Schools and other venues, where community partners with legal expertise and experience working with immigrant students will offer information on the importance of power of attorney and resources for those in danger of or already in detention. As part of this program, trainings and technical assistance will be provided to Seattle Public Schools teachers, counselors and administrators, and attorneys from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project will respond to calls from students and parents in danger of being detained.
Counseling and Peer Support: Using successful counseling and peer support models, middle and high school youth from immigrant and refugee families, including DACA youth and Muslim students, will have access to a support group facilitated by a counselor from a community-based organization trained on the challenges faced by immigrant communities.
January 20 (Inauguration Day) Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families: This event at McCaw Hall will offer an array of free services and community education intended to support and protect families. Community education will include a training for Seattle Public Schools staff on how to best support students as well as a training for community members who want to be allies. Services provided with the support of community partners and volunteer attorneys include citizenship application assistance, Know Your Rights presentations, consultations with immigration attorneys, assistance from civil attorneys to complete power of attorney and other documents. Additionally, attendees will receive information about city, county and school services for immigrants, including voter registration, how to report wage theft, how to apply for utility discounts and discounted transit cards, and more.
Clear avenues for the public to report incidents of bias, hate speech and violence: The public can report incidents to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) via phone, email or web. In early 2017, the online reporting form will include a feature allowing residents to upload photos as part of their complaint and can be used to quickly document and report vandalism or other incidents. OCR’s Intake Investigator will review all complaints. If the incident is a crime, it will be referred to SPD. If the incident is related to immigration or other issues, OCR will refer to the appropriate government office or community organization.