Last month President Donald Trump announced he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—leaving the future of undocumented immigrants who crossed the border as minors in limbo. It would affect an estimated 800,000 immigrants in the U.S., 17,000 of whom are in Washington state.
Seattle council members on Monday unanimously passed a resolution in support of DACA and immigrant communities, and urging Congressional support for the DREAM Act of 2017. And shortly after the council meeting, Mayor Tim Burgess signed an executive order for every city department to expand its language access intended to better accommodate those with limited English proficiency.
Monserrat Padilla, 25, said she entered the country undocumented at the age of 2. She spoke at the council meeting and told the city council it should "prepare for the worst" moving forward—a repeal of DACA—"as as we undocumented youth have been doing."
"What would our business partners do? What would employers do? What would the health care providers do?" Padilla said. "I am sick and tired, but I'm here. Thank you for being here as well."
The city's departments will come up with their own plans to expand language access in 2019 by the end of March 2018. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will review the plans that ultimately will have to be approved by the mayor.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 52,000 Seattle residents said they don't speak English "very well"; and according to the city, 129 different languages are spoken in Seattle Public Schools. Lorena González, who sponsored two resolutions for undocumented immigrants Monday, said she admired DACA recipients for their voices and wants the city to continue to support them in "everything you need to be able to continue this fight."
Council members on Monday also passed another González-sponsored resolution to support undocumented immigrants who are survivors of a crime. The legislation states that the city will "explore strategies and partnerships" to build trust and make immigrants feel safe in reporting crimes. Maha Jahsan, OIRA language specialist, said the office will work with departments—including the Seattle Police Department—to address gaps in their practices.
"At this particular time in our nation's history and in our experience, at a time of increased division ... it's important that we take a firm stand in Seattle, a stand that represents our values, and that we redouble our commitment to inclusivity and equity in our city," Burgess said at a press conference Monday. Earlier this year, González and Burgess began a $1 million legal defense fund for organizations helping undocumented immigrants fight deportation.
Marcos Martinez, executive director of Casa Latina, during the council meeting said there's been a false narrative around undocumented people "living in the shadows"—he says they continue to work, live their lives, and "you can't do any of those things from the shadows."
"They're out and about," Martinez said. "They're around us every day, and they deserve full protection of those laws."
Updated 1:49pm, on October 3 to reflect Padilla's correct pronouns. I apologize for the error.