Venezuelan migrants staying at a Kent hotel will be heading to a hotel outside the city for the next three weeks.
City of Seattle leaders decided to pay for three more weeks of housing for the 90 families, but at a different hotel.
“To address an immediate humanitarian need, the City of Seattle will pay for a temporary stay of three additional weeks (checkout Feb. 26) at a hotel in response to the homeless migrants that requested assistance in Seattle,” said Jamie Housen, a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, in a Feb. 6 email.
Housen declined to answer which hotel the migrants will move to or the amount of money the city will spend. Several media reports have indicated the hotel is in SeaTac. The city of Seattle has paid for a week of housing at the Quality Inn, 1711 W. Meeker St., in Kent, after migrants testified at a Jan. 31 Seattle City Council meeting that they needed help to pay for rooms so they wouldn’t be evicted.
The migrants have been staying at the Quality Inn since leaving an encampment in early January at Riverton United Methodist Church in Tukwila, which had become overcrowded with refugees from several countries.
Maurece Graham-Bey, listed on the nonprofit savethekidsgroup.org website as the national director of critical reintegration services, told the Kent Reporter in a Jan. 31 phone interview that his group worked with the Quality Inn to initially bring the refugees to the hotel from the Tukwila church. He said they planned to help about 25 people relocate but that more and more people kept coming.
“There was a huge amount of people,” Graham-Bey said. “We had a target of 25 people from four families and it was vastly different from what we had organized.”
He said his group doesn’t have funds to pay for hotels but tries to arrange for other groups or private individuals to cover the costs.
Eli Min, who along with his family have owned the Quality Inn since May 2022, said last month that he needed payment from somebody in order for the nearly 160 migrants from 90 families to remain at the hotel. That led the migrants to show up at the Seattle City Council meeting since the city is known as a welcoming or sanctuary city for refugees.
Several migrants testified (with help from a Spanish translator) that they needed help, which is why they traveled to Seattle from Kent.
“I’m asking for help because we might possibly get (back) there and have no place to stay,” one mother said. “We ask you to take into consideration to help us with some kind of a solution. …families are there. …we need help with attorneys for asylum so we can get a job and pay our bills.”
Hamdi Mohamed, director of the city of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, spoke at the meeting that the city is trying to help with migrant issues.
“I sympathize with a lot of people in the room,” Mohamed said. “I came here as a 3-year-old from Somalia. My
office has been working with the state tracking migrants into the state for two years. The influx we are seeing in the state we are seeing across the entire country.”
The Venezuelan migrants traveled to the United States to seek asylum. They emigrated due to ongoing economic and political turmoil, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
“It’s a federal and international manner,” Mohamed said. “We look to the federal government for support, but we are not seeing that, so localities take it on with their own resources.”
The Seattle City Council set aside $200,000 in this year’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs budget to help with migrant issues. Housen, the city spokesperson, set that fund will be used to pay for the hotel stay in Kent and the additional three-week stay at another hotel.
”We are closely following the Washington state legislative session, where Gov. (Jay) Inslee has proposed spending $8 million toward this issue,” Housen said. “Given this is a regional, state, and national issue – and that City resources for this response will quickly be exhausted – we are looking to our King County, Washington state, and federal partners to develop and support sustainable longer-term solutions.
“The City of Seattle is committed to helping migrant families and individuals connect with regional, state, and federal resources and supports to assist them in navigating the asylum process (which is necessary to receive work permits) and finding housing resources, and our Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is partnering with community groups serving migrants as part of that effort.”
Seattle City Councilmember Cathy Moore told the migrants at the council meeting she would work to find answers for them.
“I want to thank Mayor Bruce Harrell for his collaboration and quick action to ensure these families had a safe place to live,” Moore said in a city blog. “I also want to thank the families for sharing their stories of their struggles to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
Pat Fitzpatrick, city of Kent chief administrative officer, said in an email last month that the city did not have the resources to remove and relocate individuals and viewed the issue as a matter between the hotel and the nonprofit that brought the people to the hotel.
Mohamed, the city of Seattle director of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, said more help is needed. The migrants testified that they want to work, but need permits. Most are awaiting court dates as they seek asylum.
“We are trying to come up with a regional plan,” Mohamed said. “We connect migrants with employment authorization cards so they can work and move out of hotels into homes.”
She said the city also works with nonprofits to help find answers through additional resources.
“It is a very difficult situation,” Mohamed said. “Everyone should have some type of access to shelter.”