Rep. Mia Gregerson. COURTESY PHOTO, Legislative Support Services

Rep. Mia Gregerson. COURTESY PHOTO, Legislative Support Services

Gregerson state bill aims to improve immigration support

Designed to better address needs of refugees, immigrants arriving in Washington state

A House bill introduced by State Rep. Mia Gregerson, whose 33rd District includes parts of Kent, aims to modernize and improve support for immigrants and refugees arriving in Washington.

House Bill 2368 is designed to support the economic and social integration of immigrants and refugees, as well as the basic needs, an issue that recently popped up in Kent when asylum seekers from Venezuela briefly settled at a local hotel before moving to a SeaTac hotel.

“This is a good government bill that aligns the things the state is already doing,” Gregerson said. “With hundreds of families seeking asylum arriving in our region, a sustainable and supportive solution is urgently needed. This bill will provide the critical support these individuals and families deserve.”

This legislation seeks to codify the longstanding work of the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, according to a Gregerson news release. While the office uses federal refugee resettlement funds to administer programs to individuals eligible for those services, it also relies on general fund dollars to serve other immigrants living in Washington who don’t qualify for federally funded services because of their immigration status.

The House passed the bill 61-35 on Feb. 13. The Senate Committee on Human Services passed the bill Tuesday, Feb. 20 to send it to the full Senate, which must pass the bill by March 1 to forward it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

Gregerson said during a phone interview that last fall she visited Riverton United Methodist Church in Tukwila, which had become overcrowded with refugees from several countries.

“I listened and learned about the issues there,” Gregerson said.

That motivated Gregerson to sponsor the bill to get the state more involved in getting funds and support to refugees with a more holistic approached from the state Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance.

“We provide a lot of support, but this is to modernize and align a way to welcome people and give them the navigation,” said Gregerson, with the office as an one stop space for folks.

The bill doesn’t include any funds but rather sets up a better approach to addressing the immigrant issues.

The state Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance has a budget and can contract with nonprofits to provide services. The office also can work with cities and counties about finding solutions.

“If we don’t have a more holistic long-term approach, folks can fall victim to misinformation and become victims,” Gregerson said. “This bill is an attempt to get ahead of that, deal with situations that pop up almost like an emergency natural disaster and when are emergency dollars appropriated. …it’s a multi-prong approach to do the best we can.”

Gregerson said she supports more funds going to the state Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance next year for one-time help with issues that this bill would set up to do that work.


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