Thirteen high-profile community leaders have been appointed to serve on a new commission focused on immigrants and refugees. Passed unanimously by the King County Council, the panelists are now tasked with developing recommendations for the county to better help address the needs of these oft underserved communities.
The appointment of the commission members is the culmination of a collaborative effort between the County Council and the County Executive to help King County’s growing immigrant and refugee population. In 2015, the council approved the creation of the Immigrant and Refugee Task Force to develop recommendations on what steps the county needed to take to ensure that these new residents have the opportunity to successfully integrate and become engaged, thriving members of the community.
One of the recommendations of the Task Force was the creation of a commission focused on the issues facing immigrant and refugee communities. The council approved the creation of the commission in 2018 with legislation sponsored by Council Chair Rod Dembowski and Councilmember Larry Gossett.
The Immigrant and Refugee Commission, whose members are appointed by the executive and approved by the council, will focus on integrating, strengthening and valuing immigrant and refugee communities, and upholding the county’s commitment to being a welcoming community.
The members of the commission will focus on a number of issues including: achieving fair and equitable access to county services for immigrant and refugee communities, improving opportunities for civic engagement, setting annual goals, and participating in important dialogue on County policies and practices that impact the community.
Commission members will serve three-year terms, with the exception of the inaugural members, whose terms would be staggered into three, two, and one-year terms to ensure continuity of experienced members on the commission.
“I’ve seen first-hand and heard from many community members about being displaced by rapidly increasing rents for their homes and businesses, or even deliberate efforts to erase immigrants from communities. This is an issue where the Commission will be working hard to find solutions to end displacement and create communities that are welcoming for all.
Quotes from some commissioners
“As a bilingual immigrant who grew up in South King County, speaking my language was not celebrated or encouraged at school, and many of my peers lost their home language and with it, the connection to their culture and benefits of being bilingual. I’m looking forward to working with the Commission to close the opportunity gap for immigrant and refugee students by promoting dual language learning and shifting our mindsets to view being bilingual or multilingual as valuable and a strength.”
–Nimco Bulale, One America, Co-Chair, Immigrant and Refugee Commission
“The Commission is presently involved in working collaboratively with County Executive and Councilmembers to address the displacement of immigrant owned businesses in the City of SeaTac. These businesses have been in operation and serving a larger immigrant communities for over a decade. The Commission will act as regional partner between the County and City in discussing financial and relocation services for those who have been evicted or facing eviction.”
–Minal Kode Ghassemieh, Immigration Attorney Co-Chair, Immigrant and Refugee Commission
“Immigrant and refugees are instrumental in the rich economic, cultural and creative diversity of our region. We make history today in appointing the first members of our Immigrant and Refugee Commission to formalize the voices of these communities in our local government. In these trying times, these brave leaders have stepped forward to help build the new Commission and assist the County in efforts to fully embrace all our residents. I am humbled by their dedication, and I look forward to partnering with them to continue to strengthen our county.”
–King County Chair Rod Dembowski
“King County has always been a welcoming refuge for communities fleeing civil conflict and economic hardship and looking for a place to build a future for their families. This commission, and the members who will serve their communities, will be a vital resource and a strong voice for the new residents who now call Martin Luther King, Jr. County home.”
–King County Councilmember Larry Gossett
“Having a permanent Immigrant and Refugee Commission reflects King County’s steadfast commitment as a welcoming, inclusive community. The commission members will help guide our work as a local government to ensure that all people who come here seeking the American promise of freedom and opportunity are able to achieve their full potential.”
The full picture of the commissioners