Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center is here to help.
A few recent executive orders signed by President Trump have left many people across the United States scared for their future and the future of their families, according to officials who work with the immigrant community. (“Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States,” signed Jan. 27; “Border security and immigration enforcement improvements,” signed Jan. 25; and “Enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States,” signed Jan. 25. Available to read online at www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-ac tions/executive-orders.)
The immigrant community in Kitsap County is no different.
“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said Marthita May, executive director of Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center.
May said KIAC has developed a presentation that they’re giving not just in Kitsap County, but also Jefferson, Clallam and Thurston counties, called “Know Your Rights,” which includes 10 talking points about the Constitutional rights of immigrants.
“One of (the talking points) is to increase the outreach to enable all eligible immigrants to obtain legal status,” May said.
Ray Garrido, immigration legal services for KIAC, said the presentation focuses on “what their rights are under the Constitution, regarding the Fourth and Fifth Amendment. How to prepare, if for some reason they are stopped or detained by Immigration Customs Enforcement.”
“We haven’t had anyone in Kitsap County that I know who’s been affected at this point (by the executive orders),” Garrido said. “But we’re here to work with them and work with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to get them help.”
KIAC, Garrido said, has two primary programs. The family services center is one. It includes a medical and dental clinic, and provides help with problems such as landlord/tenant issues, bills from medical providers and letters from school they can’t read, for example.
It is “a catch-all center to try to help people who need help,” Garrido said.
The second program is a legal center.
“We help people who want to apply for citizenship, or apply for green cards or visas to bring family members to the U.S.,” he said. “Asylum cases, cases where children come across the border unaccompanied, pretty much every kind of legal situation an immigrant might have, we provide a resource to help them with.”
One of the three executive orders impacting immigration, the “Muslim ban” that bars entry into the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries, was lifted at least temporarily by Federal Judge James Robart on Feb. 4. Robart issued a temporary restraining order at the behest of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
That ruling, however, was brought before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 7. A new ruling had not been announced by press time.
If the restraining order was overruled, Garrido said the KIAC “would be a good first stop” to get help for friends and family who may be affected by the executive order.
“If they’re not sure where to go, we can be the ones to help them get that figured out,” he said.
May said that KIAC employees “help the vulnerable people to develop readiness plans if they get detained by immigration.”
“They must have a plan,” she said, “ ‘Who should take care of my kids?’ ‘What do I do with my bank account?’ All this type of information will be provided during (the ‘Know Your Rights’) presentations.”
Garrido said he has contacted city councils throughout Kitsap County, asking them to pass a resolution stating that their particular area is a welcoming place that “wants diversity here, wants immigrants here, believes in the strength that a variety of people” from all different backgrounds bring.
Garrido said Feb. 7 that the Bainbridge Island City Council would discuss the resolution that night. He’s been in touch with the Poulsbo City Council and had not yet heard back from the Port Orchard City Council, but has conversed with a couple of Bremerton council members.
Eric Younger, Bremerton City Council president, said Tuesday that he’s seen the proposal. Younger said the council would be discussing it at their Feb. 8 study session.
Younger said that as far as “sanctuary cities” go, Bremerton doesn’t apply because there is no jail within the city limits.
“The other thing to consider is that for the last three years, we’ve had a policy through the Bremerton Police Department manualwhich basically says officers aren’t going to inquire into the immigration status or nationality (of someone they’re questioning),” Younger said. “We don’t try to enforce federal law about immigration.”
If the Bremerton City Council passes that resolution, Garrido said, “We can tell people, this is a community that cares about you, that wants you here. They’re not trying to get rid of you.”
To learn more about the Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center or to inquire about their “Know Your Rights” presentation, visit kitsapiac.org. The Family Services Center can be reached at 360-440-2376. The Immigration Legal Services Center can be reached at 360-616-0479.
Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.