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Port of Seattle Expands its Efforts to Support Immigrants and Refugees

New partnerships will promote citizenship and facilitate refugee resettlement

SEATTLE – In celebration of National Citizenship Day, the Port of Seattle today announced new partnerships with One America and World Relief to support local immigrant and refugee populations travelling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). These new programs will facilitate the arrival of international refugees to the region and encourage eligible legal permanent residents to apply for U.S. citizenship.

“The Port is pleased to partner with the New Americans Campaign to encourage eligible legal permanent residents to apply for citizenship and provide support to achieve that goal,” said Courtney Gregoire, Port of Seattle Commission President. “The Port of Seattle is proud that so many foreign-born residents start their U.S. career at Sea-Tac and we have demonstrated our commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive Port. Citizenship provides an opportunity for immigrants who contribute so much to our nation to more fully participate and benefit from our American community.”

Adding a local angle to a national “New Americans Campaign,” the Port will place ads promoting citizenship throughout the airport and broadcast English and Spanish language public service announcements on Sea-Tac video monitors. In addition, you may find New Americans Campaign materials in Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The Port’s partnership with World Relief will allow refugee resettlement case workers to more easily meet refugees at their arriving flights, and help them transition to their new lives in the Puget Sound region. The Port plans to expand this partnership to other local refugee resettlement organizations as well. Earlier this year, the Port Commission passed a Welcoming Port policy to ensure the safety, inclusion and engagement of immigrant, refugee residents and foreign visitors in our region. The Port relies on thousands of foreign-born residents to provide world-class service at our airport and seaport and the trade related industries that keep our economy thriving.

“We are excited to partner with the Port of Seattle to implement the New Americans Campaign in Seattle,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of One America. “The statement the Port is making with these partnerships reflects our region’s commitment to being a welcoming community for immigrants, refugees and international travelers. By promoting citizenship, the Port of Seattle is also reinforcing an important message: immigrants are already contributing to our nation, and by becoming citizens, they will have the opportunity to benefit from and participate fully in our community and society. In so many ways, becoming a citizen is the most important means by which immigrants can protect themselves and their families at a time when our federal government appears willing to do anything it can to discourage immigration and international travel to the United States.”

Individuals who have been a U.S. legal permanent resident for at least five years (or less in some cases), are at least 18 years old and meet several other criteria are eligible to apply for citizenship. Washington state is home to 263,000 legal permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize, according to the 2014 American Community Survey.

Washington was the 8th largest refugee-receiving state in FY2016 (October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016), but the overall number of U.S. refugee admittances has declined significantly over the last two years. The U.S. is on track to admit only about 20,000 – 21,000 refugees by the end of FY2018, compared to 84,995 refugees in FY2016. For Washington state, new refugee arrivals have fallen from over 3,200 in FY2016 to barely over 1,000 so far this fiscal year.

“Refugees bravely leave behind everything familiar to seek safety, a life free from fear, and the chance for a new start,” said Chitra Hanstad, Executive Director of World Relief Seattle. “We envision every refugee and immigrant who arrives through Sea-Tac Airport welcomed by community, rooted in community, & empowered for community.”

The Port Commission’s Welcoming Port Policy identified five overall areas of focus for the Port’s efforts to support immigrants, refugees and foreign visitors:

Beyond what is required by local, state, and federal law, the Port will not deny anyone services based on immigration status – whether they are travelers, job seekers, local residents, or employees of the Port, its tenants, its vendors, or its contractors.
Beyond what is required by local, state, and federal law, the Port will prohibit any Port employees, including law enforcement officers, from asking about citizenship or immigration status or collecting information on citizenship or immigration status.
Beyond what is required by local, state, and federal law, the Port will not use its own resources to facilitate the enforcement of civil immigration law.

The Port will strive to make all visitors to its facilities to feel welcome, safe, and able to access services, benefits, and opportunities.

The Port remains committed to engaging and collaborating with local immigrant and refugee community stakeholders and advocates and with community-based organizations, and to continue identifying new or expanded opportunities for effective partnerships.

About Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Operated by the Port of Seattle, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA, KSEA) is ranked as the 9th busiest U.S. airport, serving 46.9 million passengers and more than 425,800 metric tons of air cargo in 2017. With a regional economic impact of more than $22.5 billion in business revenue, Sea-Tac generates more than 151,400 jobs (87,300 direct jobs), representing over $3.6 billion in direct earnings and more than $442 million in state and local taxes. Thirty-four airlines serve 91 non-stop domestic and 28 international destinations.