The photo shows the first meeting of creating the Task Force, a group of immigrants met with KC Larry Gossett. From left Michael Neguse, Mohamud Yussuf, Yemane, Mehret, Larry, Ubax, Ethiopia, and Habtamu Abdi.
Summary: Executive Constantine endorsed recommendations by an immigrant and refugee task force to add resources and build on successful King County programs that welcome new residents and open opportunities.
King County Executive Dow Constantine endorsed Thursday recommendations by the King County Immigrant and Refugee Task Force to advance equity and opportunity for the more than 400,000 foreign-born residents in the region.
“At a time when hateful rhetoric targets men, women and children from around the world who seek safety, hope and a better life, King County proudly upholds the American principle that we are a nation of opportunity,” said Executive Constantine. “The task force has produced recommendations that will help immigrants and refugees in our region flourish, achieve their full potential, and contribute to our region’s prosperity.”
The recommendations endorsed by Executive Constantine include a permanent Immigrant and Refugee Commission with a dedicated staff member that will serve as a hub for activities, services and dialogue among elected leaders, community organizations and county employees. Such a hub would align organizations and critical players serving the refugee and immigrant population to achieve greater impact.
The commission would coordinate with King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice.
The all-volunteer 13-member task force included representatives from across King County with diverse professional backgrounds, including nonprofits, local governments, small businesses, health care and clergy. It hosted 20 community meetings to collect input from immigrant and refugee residents representing 18 ethnic cultures and 16 languages.
“It was an honor to serve with many passionate, multiethnic, multi-background individuals and the highly dedicated King County staff on this task force,” said Mahnaz Eshetu, Executive Director of the Refugee Women’s Alliance. “I believe the well-researched recommendations we put forward will help King County address the complex needs of refugees and immigrants and will create a more inclusive community. I sincerely hope that our suggestions will lead to a future County Office of Refugees and Immigrants. I appreciate Executive Constantine’s leadership in taking this first very important step.”
Contributing to the region’s economic growth
Local business leaders say that helping the region’s growing immigrant and refugee population succeed as members of the community is important for economic growth.
“Immigrants and refugees strengthen King County and contribute significantly to our local economy,” said Maud Daudon, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “They bring innovation, fresh thinking and entrepreneurial drive: in fact, more than 30 percent of our area’s ‘Main Street’ business owners and 19 percent of all of our local business owners are foreign-born. They also help position our region to compete against all the other parts of the world that would love to have the jobs and the prosperity we have here.”
The proposed actions would be the latest in a series of actions King County has taken to make the region more culturally and economically inclusive. King County now requires election ballots to be translated to more languages, and in 2015 it joined more than 60 other local governments across the United States as a Welcoming County that recognizes that emigration makes regions more resilient and prosperous.
King County’s draft Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan, 2016-2022 lays out specific goals and measures to diversify the county’s workforce at all levels in order to better represent and serve the county’s increasingly racially diverse population and to take further steps in all agencies – such as through increased translations – to better serve and work with immigrant and refugee communities.
Last December, during the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis, Executive Constantine rallied elected leaders from 12 other metropolitan regions across the country to reaffirm their status as welcoming communities.