Spoiler alert: When more than 1,000 people show up to McCaw Hall on Jan. 20, it won’t be in celebration of our president elect.
The City of Seattle and local organizations plan to hold a series of workshops to help 1,000 immigrants and other residents with naturalization forms, a primer on the rights of documented and undocumented people and a crash course in how to be an ally.
And, in part because it was important to Mayor Ed Murray, it’s happening on Inauguration Day.
The event, organized by the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, will begin at noon on Jan. 20 and run into the evening, with the final of three identical “know your rights” workshops beginning at 7 p.m. Immigration attorneys will be on hand to help with naturalization applications from noon to 3 p.m. and with general legal help from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There will also be a 10 a.m. “Immigration 101” training for service providers conducted by the Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, which provides free and low-cost legal representation, community education and advocacy for low-income people in Washington.
City officials will also be on hand for access to other services, like reduced-price ORCA cards and other discount programs for those that qualify.
Murray is expected to do a walk through in the late afternoon, said Joaquin Uy, spokesperson for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
City officials decided to hold the event after President-Elect Donald Trump emerged the victor of the Electoral College vote on Nov. 8, because of the greater sense of uncertainty his election created for immigrants as well as other marginalized communities, Uy said.
“I think one of the biggest differences is that no president in recent knowledge has espoused such policies as a registry for Muslim immigrants, for instance, or potentially creating a new deportation force to round up — by his estimate — two million immigrants to be deported from the country,” Uy said. “As well as a giant wall that our country won’t pay for.”
Organizations such as Casa Latina, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project plan to support the effort. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs hopes for 300 volunteers for the day, and that 30 to 50 of those be attorneys.
The need is great, said Victoria Mena, policy director and development strategist for Colectiva Legal del Pueblo. The organization, staffed with two attorneys, one legal assistant and two organizers, held 18 “know your rights” workshops before the election, and another 16 between the election and Dec. 30.
“We’re in rapid response mode, because we’re really responding to what the community is asking for,” Mena said.
When things slow down, they plan to get back to training undocumented people on how to give presentations in their community, said Norma Gonzalez, director of deportation defense with the organization.
That question about what comes next is chief in the mind of Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
“I want to remind everybody, this is a long haul,” Barón said. “There is going to be a lot of work that needs to happen, and a lot will be defensive in some ways. January 20 will be proactive, but it’s creating a lot of uncertainty in people.”
This will not be the only chance for people to get help; the office plans to hold more throughout the year, Uy said.
If you’d like to volunteer, or more information on workshops and necessary paperwork, visit the New Citizen Campaign.