The King County Council on Tuesday approved a first-in-the-nation program to help immigrants apply for documented status and citizenship, sponsored by Council Chair Claudia Balducci, and began deliberations on an $11.3 million general relief fund to support undocumented King County residents, proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
The King County Council on Tuesday approved a first-in-the-nation program to help immigrants apply for documented status and citizenship, sponsored by Council Chair Claudia Balducci, and began deliberations on an $11.3 million general relief fund to support undocumented King County residents, proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine. The combined investment of more than $16 million will help King County immigrants overcome barriers to legal status and assist those who have not been able to access federal benefits associated with COVID-19 relief.
“Our community was the first in the nation to be hit by an outbreak of COVID-19 and King County has done much to support thousands of families with relief funds. However, many of our immigrant residents have been categorically excluded from receiving emergency relief and we cannot recover and move forward as a community while leaving thousands of our neighbors behind,” Balducci said.
“Today, we are the first in the nation again, but this time it’s by providing support for immigrants to apply for legal status. Coupled with the proposal of a relief fund to help support basic needs like food and shelter, we are ensuring that our immigrant neighbors, who face disproportionate need for assistance and who have been excluded from most relief, have access to the rights and support they are eligible for.”
Executive Constantine also applauded the package:
“This region and nation owe a debt of gratitude to all essential workers who put their lives on the line during the pandemic. The fact that so many are undocumented immigrants underscores our responsibility to help those now seeking legal status. King County has long advocated for people who have come here seeking a better life,” Constantine said. “I appreciate the work of the King County Council to pass this groundbreaking legislation providing legal aid and the Council Chair’s partnership in proposing a fund to provide much needed financial relief for our undocumented neighbors. Together we can ensure prosperity and opportunity are shared with all those who call this place home.”
The program includes two components:
- Fee Support: The supplemental budget approved by Council Tuesday includes $5 million in to help immigrants apply for legal status, including filing fees with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Immigration application costs vary from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per applicant. When multiple family members apply for relief together, the cost burden can be insurmountable for low-income families.
Applicants must be living, working, going to school or currently detained in ICE facilities but previously living, working or going to school in King County in order to qualify.
- Relief Program: As part of the County’s eighth COVID budget, Executive Constantine proposes $11.3 million for grants to immigrants to meet basic expenses. Immigrants have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, but many have not been able to access federal relief funds due to their legal status. This program uses county General Fund dollars to start to redress that inequity.
Approximately 18,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients live in Washington state and about one-third to half of them reside in King County. In addition, King County is home to approximately 94,000 undocumented immigrants.