Seattle kicks off Trump era with legal help for immigrants

At a citizenship workshop held in 2016, volunteers help immigrants fill out intake forms to determine any potential issues with the citizenship application process. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)
At a citizenship workshop held in 2016, volunteers help immigrants fill out intake forms to determine any potential issues with the citizenship application process. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)

As President-elect Donald Trump gets sworn into office on January 20th, an event in Seattle aims to help immigrants plan for an uncertain future.

The city of Seattle, which vowed to remain a “sanctuary city” days after Election Day, will host lawyers and others who will provide free immigrant-focused services on the same day as the inauguration.

“Hosting an event on Jan. 20 is very much symbolic, especially going into some uncertain times at the federal level,” said Christina Guros, the city of Seattle’s New Citizen Campaign program specialist.

During his campaign, Trump opposed President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action programs that shield many undocumented immigrants from deportation, and he also vowed to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and to bar Muslim visitors from travel to the United States.

Despite the city’s reassurances, Trump’s election has left many local immigrants anxious about the future, Guros said.

“It’s very much a symbolic measure that we’re taking to allow people to access services at a time when a lot of people are feeling afraid and uncertain of what’s to come,” she said.

The event, called Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families, will be part of the city’s New Citizen Campaign, which helps permanent residents become citizens. The campaign is part of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Partners include organizations such as The Northwest Immigrant’s Rights Project, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, which also hold their own legal clinics. The goal is to recruit at least 100 immigration attorneys to help with the event.

Similar city-sponsored events drew up to 300 individual participants. The goal for this event is to help 1,000 immigrants.

“We’re making sure that Seattle and King County residents understand that Seattle is in support of immigrants and refugees and that we welcome all of our neighbors to participate,” Guros said.

A family talks with a volunteer about any potential red flags regarding their citizenship application at a 2016 citizenship workshop held by the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)
A family talks with a volunteer about any potential red flags regarding their citizenship application at a 2016 citizenship workshop held by the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)

Guros said that if more people come than expected participants will be forwarded to the partner organizations.

This one-time event will offer citizenship application help from licensed attorneys and experts, and a “know-your-rights” session for immigrants. Immigrants can also ask for advice and get help filling out forms and obtaining documents from the Mexican consulate. The services are available to all immigrants in need of help. Registration is not required for talking with an attorney, but a valid state ID and proof of income will be needed for other city services. The event will be first-come, first-served.

“It’s part of that same [NCC] campaign, but this particular day of service is a bit unique in that we’re offering a wide variety of services,” Guros said.

Immigrants are a growing part of the city’s population, according to the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Between 2000 and 2014, the city’s immigrant population increased by 20 percent. In comparison, the city’s population overall grew by 14 percent. In 2014, 18 percent of Seattle residents were foreign-born.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that roughly 3.3 percent of Washington’s population is unauthorized.

The city is still accepting volunteers for the event, especially attorneys from any background as well as bilingual interpreters. For more information about how to volunteer is available on the city of Seattle’s website.

Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families will be held at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall on 321 Mercer Street. Check-in begins at noon Jan. 20 and the event will end at 6 p.m. Free parking will be available at the Mercer Street Garage across from McCaw Hall.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated requirements to register for this event. The event is first-come, first-served. 

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1 Comment

  1. Is notice of this event going out to Seattle Public Schools? Our daughter’s elementary school has a large immigrant population.

    In general, what is the outreach strategy?

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