Seattle City Hall. • Photo by Rootology
Seattle City Hall. • Photo by Rootology

The Seattle City Council today passed a resolution urging President Barack 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.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington State is home to over 900,000 immigrants. Approximately 230,000 of them are unauthorized to live in the United States according to a Pew Hispanic Center Report. And according to the 2012 American Community Survey, Seattle is home to 118,012 foreign born residents, of which 56,135 are not U.S. Citizens.

The resolution comes as deportations have reached a record of over two million under President Obama, rising to an annual average of nearly 400,000 since 2009.

In response to the resolution’s passage, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said: “I strongly support the resolution approved today by the Council. We are a nation—and Seattle is a city—built by immigrants. I am committed to preserving our tradition as a welcoming community that embraces all of our residents regardless of their status or how they arrived. The President must take action to stop the historic numbers of deportations that are devastating families and causing workers and employers to operate under fear and uncertainty.”

In July, local headlines reported that accommodations were prepared at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM)  in Washington for approximately 600 unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America who were expected to stay there. The children lacked sponsors inside the country to host them as they move through the U.S. immigration system. Last week, state, and federal officials announced that sponsors within the community and shelters in other states have the capacity to meet current needs need, and that no unaccompanied refugee children would be hosted at JBLM at this time.

“To pit the needs of incoming refugee children against the needs of new Americans who’ve been resettled and are now working to integrate within their communities is wrong,” Murray said. “Here in Seattle, refugee resettlement agencies are feeling the impact of having funding for existing services for refugees and their families eliminated. We can and must do better.”

Murray is directing relevant City departments to refresh their staffs’ and contractors’ understanding of the City’s sanctuary policy, which does not require proof of status from residents requesting or receiving City-funded services.

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) is starting a media campaign to raise awareness within Seattle’s immigrant communities about the City’s sanctuary policy.

OIRA, the Human Services Department, and the Office of Housing, among other City departments, have been directed to begin studying how city government can work in conjunction with community partners—churches, community-based organizations, faith organizations, and business and philanthropic institutions—in order to best support new arrivals when the need arises.

Murray said that he will send a letter to Washington’s Congressional delegation urging increased funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, both to serve the refugee children crossing U.S. borders and to restore previous cuts to services for refugees who are already here.

President Obama is expected to take executive action by the end of summer to address the immigration system, NPR reported.

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