Kent police officers delivered a 48-hour eviction notice Sunday afternoon to about 200 asylum-seekers mostly from Angola, Congo, and Venezuela, who set up camp in a field next to the Kent Econo Lodge hotel on June 1. If the refugees don’t leave by Tuesday at 3:17 pm, then they will be subject to arrest for trespassing. 

According to a Monday Instagram post, the asylum-seekers plan to stay, and they asked community members to stand with them as they attempt to stop the sweep. Rosario Lopez, an advocate from Super Familia, said the migrants don’t have anywhere to go—except maybe the empty hotel that the county owns right next door. 

“We are camping outside a hotel that could serve as an emergency shelter, but instead of opening the hotel they chose to call the police on hundreds of migrants,” Lopez said. “So they would rather send us to jail than to a shelter.”

Advocacy groups, including Super Familia King County, South King County Mutual Aid, Global Solidarity Network Seattle, Congolese Angolan Movement, and Comunidades Sin Fronteras, asked community supporters to call and email the members of the Kent City Council, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, the members of the King County Council, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and others to demand they open the Econo Lodge as emergency shelter for the refugees for 90 days.

As the Seattle Times reported this morning, King County bought the Econo Lodge in 2020 and used the 85-unit facility as a COVID-19 quarantine site. Now it's empty and seems like a natural fit for the 200 or so asylum-seekers. A press release from advocacy groups working with the asylum-seekers said that “[d]ue to King County and the City of Kent’s conveniently intractable bureaucratic disputes, the entire EconoLodge only is home to cars from a local dealership, and the state is sending police instead of services. A small change on the part of King County government and Kent City officials could rapidly ensure emergency housing for hundreds of people.”

Asylum-seekers and their allies asked King County to reopen the Econo Lodge back in April, too. At the time, King County Executive spokesperson Kristin Elia said, “No, the county does not have plans to reopen the hotel. The county is in continued conversations with the state and local jurisdictions on a long-term, statewide approach to provide support for asylum-seekers.”

The County, as of Monday afternoon, has not changed their mind. "...[W]e have a legal agreement with the City of Kent not to use this property for anything other than its original purpose, which was isolation and quarantine use. Therefore, we are abiding by our legal agreement," Elia wrote. She also noted that the County was "the first government entity to resource short-term housing options, which included $3 million in funding to retain a service provider that has worked to house over 350 individuals and families. Additionally, $2 million in grant funding was awarded in April to support four nonprofits in their work to provide urgent housing and assistance." They have exhausted all available funding at this point, Elia said. 

This chaotic situation marks only the latest episode of instability and uncertainty for the 200 migrants. Local governments, including Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, and King County have played hot potato with this particular group for months. The refugees pitch tents, public pressure mounts, and a local government or private donor foots the bill for a few nights or weeks in a hotel, only for the cycle to repeat itself when the money dries up and they get kicked out. But localities maintain that a more permanent solution will come when the State releases $32 million for shelter and resources for migrants and asylum-seekers on July 1.