The Seattle City Council passed a resolution Monday asking Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington state lawmakers to help undocumented immigrants who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure urges Inslee and the Legislature to create a “Washington Worker Relief Fund,” with an initial allocation of at least $100 million, “to provide emergency economic assistance to undocumented Washingtonians.” The vote was 9-0, and Mayor Jenny Durkan will add her signature.
The nonbinding resolution, a lobbying move that won’t change conditions on the ground in Seattle, also asks the state leaders to create a wage-replacement system for workers who don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits.
Undocumented immigrants are barred from federal assistance, so they aren’t getting stimulus checks and they aren’t collecting unemployment benefits.
The Seattle resolution, sponsored by Council President M. Lorena González and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, says more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants live in Washington. Undocumented immigrants pay various taxes and many children who are U.S. citizens live with undocumented relatives, the resolution says. González’s parents were undocumented when they came to the U.S., she mentioned Monday.
During a public comment session before the council’s vote, several undocumented parents hit hard by coronavirus-related business closures said they have been struggling to feed their children and pay their bills.
Hispanic people in King County have died from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than white people, as have people identifying as Black and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, González noted. Many undocumented immigrants are working in jobs deemed essential during the pandemic, she said.
“Yet they don’t seem to be essential enough to access basic benefits,” she said. “Now is the time for us to make sure we are giving voice to these needs.”
Inslee’s office is researching “how the state can best make sure everyone living in Washington has access to needed assistance,” spokeswoman Tara Lee said in an email.
“The governor and his staff have had meetings with community leaders on this subject, as well as other pressing issues for immigrants,” Lee added.
Durkan will sign Monday’s resolution, spokeswoman Kelsey Nyland said. The mayor last month supported a Northwest Immigrant Rights Project letter about the proposed fund, Nyland said.
“Looking out for the most vulnerable in our community is even more critical in times of crisis,” Durkan said in a statement Monday. “It is all the more important to ensure we are not pushing people further into the shadows.”
Seattle’s coronavirus relief programs are available to everyone, regardless of immigration status, and the city is working with community organizations to reach undocumented immigrants, Nyland said.