City of Seattle, King County release joint request for proposals for Legal Defense Fund

Today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, along with the King County and Seattle City Councils, announced a joint request for proposals (RFP) to provide legal services, guidance and referrals to legal services for immigrants and refugees from a $1.55 million fund. Local organizations providing these services can apply for the funding, which will assist people living in the area in need of representation for issues related to their immigration status. Both the City and the County passed legislation authorizing these funds earlier this year as President Donald Trump threatened immigrant and refugee communities through rhetoric and unconstitutional executive orders.

“Dating back nearly two years to the start of his campaign, President Trump has disparaged, targeted, and attempted to exclude immigrant and refugee communities,” said Mayor Murray. “Seattle has stood up against Trump and stood with our friends and neighbors by taking action. We are working together with King County to provide support and critical legal services for those who are being targeted because of their status, and for families that face being ripped apart. We are strong because we are a city of immigrants and a welcoming, inclusive city, and we will continue opposing Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.”

“The actions of our national leaders do not reflect our local values,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.  “Here, in Martin Luther King County, we uphold the Constitution and respect the rights of all people. Along with the City of Seattle, we are supporting those on the front lines of the resistance, providing legal assistance and standing up for the rule of law. In doing so, we declare that our region is, and will always be, a welcoming community.”

Two RFPs are being administered by the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) and the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice (OESJ) for:

  1. Community navigation services (i.e. guidance and referral) for legal representation for residents of King County who are in detention, facing deportation, or in danger of losing their status; and
  2. Legal representation for residents of King County who are in detention, facing deportation, or in danger of losing their status.

With immigrant and refugee communities facing the threat of deportation and being targeted by the Trump administration, both Seattle and King County have acted. Seattle reinforced its status as a Welcoming City, where no City employee will ask a resident about their immigration status and all City services are available to all residents. Since November, the City has responded to the federal administration’s anti-immigrant actions by funding peer support groups and counseling for immigrant and refugee middle and high school youth, and expanding naturalization assistance through citizenship clinics and large-scale workshops. Seattle has also bolstered community collaboration, education, and access to know-your-rights information and resources. Additionally, Mayor Murray created the Inclusive and Equitable Cabinet to address threats to civil rights, including to the immigrant and refugee community, and Mayor Murray signed an ordinance shepherded through Council by Councilmember M. Lorena González, establishing Seattle’s legal defense fund.

“We stand with our County partners in our steadfast commitment to ensuring that our immigrant and refugee community members have an opportunity to access free civil legal aid in immigration proceedings,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González. “In partnership with trusted community organizations, this investment will support our immigrant and refugee neighbors, friends and family at a time of critical need. Today we send a message to our immigrant and refugee neighbors throughout the region – we stand with you during these troubling times and beyond.”

King County’s legal defense funding is part of a broader, comprehensive strategy which includes education and know-your-rights trainings to work more upstream and prevent people from having the need for legal defense. In addition to legal defense, King County is supporting immigrant and refugee organizations with $450,000 to increase the protections of vulnerable residents in the county; via a Resilience Fund, the Seattle Foundation and other philanthropic partners have added to this funding for community organizations.

“It was an obvious choice to partner with the City of Seattle after we passed, on the same day, funding for legal aid for immigrants and refugees in our communities,” said King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. “We stand together in our work to ensure our region is a safe place for all residents, and this collaboration should be a model for jurisdictions around the country who want to protect and empower immigrant and refugee communities within their borders.”

King County is a Welcoming County, and it has passed ordinances that prohibit conditioning provision of services on immigration status and that stipulate that the County only honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers if they are accompanied by a criminal warrant issued by a federal judge.  King County Executive Dow Constantine has also led more than 80 elected officials from throughout King County who have signed a pledge to promote safe, welcoming, and inclusive communities. Information on applying for a Resilience Fund can be found here.

Both RFPs are due by July 12, with funding decisions to be announced in August.

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