Mayor Murray today added his voice to the national dialogue about our existing immigration laws, a dialogue also taken up this week by the Seattle City Council.
“I strongly support the resolution approved today by the Council,” said Murray. “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.”
Murray also addressed the growing refugee crisis at our borders, which made local headlines in mid-July with reports of approximately 600 unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America expected at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) because they lacked sponsors inside the country to host them as they move through our country’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.
“On behalf of the City of Seattle, I want to thank the sponsors and foster parents in our city and across the state who have opened their homes to care for the 211 refugee children until they have their claims heard in court – they reflect the best of our city, our state and our country,” said Murray. “And, as Mayor of Seattle, I also believe our City government has a strong moral and leadership imperative to address this humanitarian crisis. So I am directing City departments to work with our community partners to identify what we can do together should the current situation change and our region receive unaccompanied refugee children in the future.”
Murray said that his office will to continue to monitor the situation and remain in regular contact with state and federal agencies to keep abreast of new developments.
In the meantime, Murray will also:
- Direct 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;
- Conduct, through the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), a media campaign to raise awareness within Seattle’s immigrant communities about the City’s sanctuary policy; and
- Direct OIRA, the Human Services Department and the Office of Housing, among other City departments, to begin studying how City government can work in conjunction with our community partners – churches, community-based organizations, faith organizations, and business and philanthropic institutions – in order to best support new arrivals when the need arises.
Finally, 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 our borders and to restore previous cuts to services for refugees who are already here.
“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,” said Murray. “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.”
Throughout his career as an elected official, Murray has been a strong advocate for immigrant populations. As chair of the state House Capital Budget Committee, Murray established the first-ever state investment in farm-worker housing. As chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Murray secured funding for medical interpreters and helped make Washington the first state to protect medical interpreters with a union contract. Then-Sen. Murray was also the original sponsor of the Washington DREAM Act to open state financial aid to undocumented students, which was signed into law during the 2014 Legislative Session. In one of his first acts as Mayor, Murray doubled the size of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.