By Courtney Gregoire and Ryan Calkins
Port of Seattle Commissioners
The Supreme Court ruling upholding the third “travel ban” was another reminder that we are in the middle of a fundamental national conversation about our commitment to welcoming immigrants, refugees, and international visitors. For the Port of Seattle, engaging with people from around the world is essential to our success and we remain committed to ensuring that our region remains a vibrant and welcoming global gateway.
It is past time to reform our outdated immigration system: moving undocumented migrants out of the shadows and into the legal economy, increasing temporary worker visas, welcoming more refugees and asylum seekers, and reuniting families. Most of us can recount family lore about a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent arriving in the United States in pursuit of a better life. As we reflect on our family stories, the contributions of our forbearers to America are obvious. Yet, rather than ascribing to the newest Americans, what has been true of previous generation of immigrants, some in our society choose to demonize them and play on our fears. They conjure stories of criminals pouring across our southern border and seize on any instance of an immigrant committing a crime to paint a picture of a surging epidemic of violence. In reality, undocumented immigrants are far less likely to commit crime than native-born residents.
The Port sees the benefits of immigration every day in tangible and significant ways. We benefit from the international travelers who use our airport and cruise terminals and the global trade that transits our facilities, which relies on an immigrant labor force — from Eastern Washington agricultural products to technology companies and global health organizations that connect with customers all over the world. Every day, we welcome thousands of immigrants who work at Port facilities, including dining and retail staff, taxi and rideshare drivers, drayage truck drivers and the ship crews that serve at our facilities.
We welcome their participation in the family wage jobs that the Port helps create.
Last month, the Port of Seattle Commission passed a new policy that demonstrates our deep commitment to immigrants, refugees, and international visitors. It follows similar proclamations by our peers at the City of Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington and was a logical next step in our efforts to play a local and national role on this issue.
Since President Trump’s original travel ban executive order was put into effect on Jan. 27, 2017, the Port of Seattle has been focused on efforts to ensure fair and just treatment for all travelers, including submitting an amicus brief to the Supreme Court’s first consideration of a challenge to this policy. We have also called for permanent legal protections for those eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as supporting comprehensive immigration reforms that will ensure our region’s and state’s economy has the workforce to remain internationally competitive.
At the Port of Seattle, we recognize that commerce — the movement of people and goods between countries — does more to strengthen goodwill and peace than any treaty or armament. We lend our voice to local, state, and federal leaders from our region who are working every day to move past the divisive rhetoric and blatant falsehoods toward a permanent, sustainable solution that recognizes that we all benefit when hard-working, talented, and diverse people are welcomed into our country with open arms.
We look forward to the day when all of our immigrant communities, refugee residents, and foreign visitors can fully participate in and be integrated into the social, civic, and economic fabric of our region.