As a new president takes office Friday, the City of Seattle will mark the occasion with a huge event for immigrants and refugees. It’s a symbolic contrast to events in Washington, D.C. And it also aims to help about a thousand immigrants with citizenship applications and other legal services.
President-elect Donald Trump ran on a campaign of stricter immigration enforcement. He made disparaging comments about Mexicans, Muslims and refugees.
And on inauguration day, Seattle officials want to send a clear response.
Cuc Vu (head of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs): “That Seattle is a welcoming city and we want people to live here without fear.”
Vu is like the orchestra conductor for Friday’s event, which includes hundreds of volunteers on deck to help.
The day’s program includes family safety planning for undocumented parents who worry about deportation or separation from their children.
Attorneys will help with temporary guardianship forms, legal advice and citizenship applications.
The event will take place at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall and will cost the city $100,000. Vu says it’s a good use of taxpayer money.
Vu: "The reality is that immigrants pay taxes regardless of immigration status. They are not here using services without paying taxes. We know that. The bigger question is, ‘What kind of city do we want to be?’ We believe that by being a welcoming city and helping everybody to be productive and reach their full potential, we can create a stronger economy and a safer community."
Dozens of community partners are donating support, from attorneys and translators to food, coffee, and photocopier machines so that people can walk away with their completed paperwork in hand.
More than a thousand people volunteered to help with the event – more than the city can handle.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is encouraging local groups find other creative ways to join in this day of service and support immigrants.
Murray: "Think about an activity that you can do that day, an activity that your organization can do that day, an activity your religious organization or school can do that day – that indicates that we can make civic life in this city better.”