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Immigrant and Refugee Task Force Report and Recommendations:

In 2015 the King County Council and King County Executive formed the King County Immigrant and Refugee Task Force. The Task Force was charged with making recommendations on the creation of a King County Immigrant and Refugee Commission, including, but not limited to, recommendations on the commission’s membership, mission and scope of duties (see Ordinance 18085). The task force met over a period of nine months and held more than 20 community meetings where we heard the feedback and input of over 500 members of immigrant and refugee communities. The attached report reflects the process and the recommendations of this task force with the full consensus of the group.  Please Download the Report here.

Over a period of six weeks from early March through mid-April 2016, task force members partnered with community-based organizations, service providers and government entities to host more than 20 community conversations with immigrants and refugees in the County. In total, 505 people participated in conversations that took place throughout the County.

What emerged from community conversations is a sense that immigrants and refugees are driven by the same things that motivate us all--the desire to be connected, engaged, healthy and successful. What also became clear through these conversations is that immigrants and refugees face unique barriers that can often place these building blocks of opportunity frustratingly out of reach, but are ready to share ideas about how those barriers can be overcome.

While the input is rich and spans a myriad of topics, some themes emerged in terms of the nature of common barriers that immigrant and refugee communities face, including:

  • Discrimination
  • Language and culture issues
  • Difficulty understanding and navigating systems
  • Insufficient resources, and invisibility of communities

The communities’ ideas about how to address issues and set immigrants and refugees up for success were robust, but some common threads emerged that are worth noting, including improving:

  • Inclusion and connection
  • Representation

Call to Action

Considering community input and good practices culled from research on municipal approaches to immigrant and refugee integration, the task force concluded that the County is well poised to play a regional coordination role that could lead to significant positive advancements for immigrants and refugees, and ultimately all people in the region. While the local landscape is rich with community- and faith-based organizations, government entities, funders, and businesses engaged to varying degrees with immigrants and refugees, there is currently no organization working to convene, coordinate, and streamline efforts of all of these actors. This is a key function that should be filled, and the County is in a good position to do so.

 

Increasingly, local municipalities in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia are dedicating resources and considerable effort to integration of immigrants and refugees. While there is no single recipe for successful immigrant and refugee integration, there are common threads in the literature on good practices that point to significant advantages of establishing a fully formed office dedicated to successful integration, with an associated commission. The combination of an office with an associated commission may be optimal as the office provides a permanent platform for pursuing an integration policy agenda, improving County-wide services to immigrants and refugees, and coordinating (across levels of government, sectors, and within County government); and the commission provides structure for ongoing dialogue with communities and other stakeholders, and gives them a role in planning, decision-making, and monitoring.

King County Immigrant and Refugee Task Force Members

Mr. Habtamu Abdi, Community Resident

Mr. Ahmed Ali, Somali Health Board

Ms. Lupita Ayon, Para Los Niños

Mr. Alaric Bien, Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition

Ms. Mahnaz Eshetu, Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)

Ms. Joana Chong, Korean-American Chamber of Commerce, WA

Ms. Denise Pérez Lally, El Centro de la Raza

Mr. Sameth Mell, Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC)

Mr. Michael Ramos, Church Council of Greater Seattle

Mr. Richard Stolz, OneAmerica

Mr. Mengstab Tzegai, Network for Integrating New Americans (NINA network)

Ms. Dinah Wilson, City of Kent

Ms. Lola Zakharova, Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association

Watch some clips from interviews with Task Force members:

From Mr. Ahmed Ali, Somali Health Board

From Mr. Alaric Bien, City of Kirkland

From Lola Zakharova, Immigration Attorney

From Sameth Mell, Mount Baker Housing