Mayor Murray (right) and the director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Aaliyah Gupta (left)
  • City of Seattle
  • Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Aaliyah Gupta (left), and Mayor Ed Murray (right) at City Hall today.
Mayor Ed Murray announced today the fulfillment of a commitment he made in his State of the City speech: improving the "understaffed and underfunded" city Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. The OIRA was created by former mayor Mike McGinn in 2012, and has long been staffed by only two people, the director and a single policy analyst. (Currently, that analyst is the fantastic Sahar Fathi; you can read about Fathi in last year's feature on The Smartest People in Seattle.)

In a press conference late this morning, Murray announced that he's requested $409,238 in supplemental budget funds from the city council in order to double the size of the office, hiring two new full-time staffers and adding some consultant work. If the council approves the funding, this expansion will start in April.

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He also announced a "five-point action plan" for the office, an outline of which is below. You can read a more detailed version on the mayor's website.

• Strengthen Seattle's language access policies and protocols
• Expand access to ESL programs
• Support for immigrant-owned small businesses
• Create neighborhood hubs to promote citizenship and naturalization
• Implement a Refugee Women's institute to build relationships between immigrant communities and SPD

It's a great move—as Murray noted in his speech, "one in five of Seattle residents are foreign-born," and Washington State is considered a "new-growth" state for having such rapid growth in our immigrant and refugee population over the last decade or so. This department deserves the funding and the attention.

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