Seattle City Council will create a new department in 2012 to address immigrant and refugee issues. The new Seattle Office for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will coordinate City departments’ efforts to improve access to programs and services for immigrant and refugee communities, including addressing language and cultural barriers. The Office also will work closely with community organizations to strengthen immigrants’ and refugees’ participation in civic life.
“This is wonderful news for thousands of immigrant and refugee families in Seattle,” said Devon Abdallah, co-chair of the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commission, an independent volunteer board that advises the mayor and council on immigrant and refugee issues. “A separate office will be able to work across City departments to improve access to services for immigrant and refugee households. The office also will advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees by working with businesses and community organizations.”
Immigrants and refugees constitute 17 percent (102,545) of Seattle’s population. Immigrants and refugees face unique challenges to living in Seattle, including language and cultural barriers. Children with limited English proficiency have the highest dropout rates in the Seattle School District.
“I look forward to working with the new Office for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and helping any way I can during this transition period,” said Julie Nelson, director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, which has provided staff support to the Immigrant/Refugee Commission in 2011. “I also look forward to continuing to work closely with the Commission as the City moves forward with the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative’s efforts to achieve racial equity across Seattle.”
For more information, visit http://www.seattle.gov/civilrights.