The King County Council approved on Monday to establish a 17-member King County Immigrant and Refugee Commission.
In 2016, the council accepted the recommendations of King County’s Immigrant and Refugee Task Force that evaluated the challenges facing a growing immigrant and refugee community.
“The new residents of King County are working hard to become part of the greater community and this commission will be their voice,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, the prime sponsor of the ordinance, in a county news release. “For people newly arrived not only in the county, but possibly in the country, there are numerous challenges. The commission provides them a ‘seat at the table’ which can be invaluable in being comfortable in their new homes.”
The goal of the commission will be to act as a central point of contact, communication, and coordination for all immigrant and refugee residents, and those serving and engaging with them. It will also focus on understanding and addressing challenges faced by immigrant and refugee communities living in suburban cities and unincorporated areas of the county.
“Our country and our region have prospered because of the contributions of immigrants and refugees from all over the world,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “The creation of this commission will improve our ability to learn from these vital members of our community and to make sure we are providing the services and support they need and deserve.”
From 2000 to 2010, more than half of King County’s new population was foreign-born, a number that continues to grow, with the majority of the population being located in communities outside of Seattle. The council established the Immigrant and Refugee Task Force in 2015 and asked for recommendations that would assist the county in ensuring that these communities, in both urban and suburban/unincorporated areas, have the opportunity to successfully integrate and become “engaged, thriving members of the community.”
The adopted legislation calls for the creation of a commission that will:
• Assist and advise the county and other levels of government on issues, programs, plans, funding and policies impacting immigrant and refugee communities
• Promote civic participation and government representation by encouraging application for employment within the county workforce by immigrant and refugee residents and representation of immigrant and refugee residents on boards and commissions
• Collaborate with organizations that implement programs to enhance integration, naturalization and English-language learning
• Increase public awareness of immigrants and refugees and their contributions to our community
The commission will have 13 voting members and four nonvoting members for three-year terms, with the exception of the inaugural term members whose terms would be staggered into three, two, and one year terms to ensure continuity of experienced members in the commission. Those interested in applying to become a commissioner should contact either their local community organizations or their member of the county council.