On Tuesday, July 15, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Cuc Vu as his choice to lead the City’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) as its director.
OIRA is tasked with facilitating the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into Seattle. The office also advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees and promotes a citywide culture that values the contributions of immigrants and refugees. Seattle is home to refugees and immigrants from more than 112 countries. Over a third of Seattle residents are persons of color, and 19 percent are foreign born. Washington State is the eighth largest refugee resettlement state in the country.
“I am honored and truly excited to join Mayor Murray and his team at City Hall, the most diverse cabinet I have ever seen in City government,” Vu said. “I share the Mayor’s vision for immigrant and refugee integration in Seattle and commit to achieving real progress and equity for Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities.”
Vu brings an interesting dichotomy in her new role as Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs—as a refugee, she knows first hand the stigma of having to live on food stamps and also has 12 years of experience working on immigrant and refugee affairs as an advocate, issue organizer, and non-profit founder and executive.
According to her bio on the OIRA website: “Vu came to the United States with her family in 1975 as a refugee of the Vietnam War, barely making it through the gates of Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon as U.S. troops were evacuating Vietnamese refugees on the last day of the war. Following an uncle’s advice, Vu’s family chose Olympia, Washington as their new home. While her mother worked in a minimum-wage job for more than 20 years, Vu fulfilled her father’s greatest wish—for his children to be the first generation in their family to graduate from college. Vu carried the hopes of her parents on her shoulders and earned an undergraduate degree at Pomona College and a graduate degree as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.”
Vu most recently served as the first Chief Diversity Officer for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) where she provided the vision and strategy to help the organization fulfill its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. She has also worked at SEIU, AFL-CIO and the U.S. Department of Labor. As OIRA director, Vu will earn $125,000 annually.
“I hope to establish Seattle as a leader in immigrant and refugee integration and create an environment that welcomes the participation and engagement of immigrants and refugees in all areas Seattle,” Murray said. “Cuc is the perfect choice to lead the office, as her experience on immigrant and refugee issues is bolstered by her passion for equity and equality, working for two decades on some of the most important civil rights issues of our time, including the rights of workers, women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”