Elected representatives at all levels of government in the Seattle-King County area came together with religious, labor and nonprofit leaders to speak out against the increase in hate-related incidents that followed the election of Donald Trump at a Monday morning event at the Seattle Center Pavilion.
The gathering, organized by U.S. Rep.-elect Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, was in response to the defacement of a mosque in Redmond, whose stone sign has been damaged twice in the past month.
The crime, which police are calling an act of vandalism, is part of a swell of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim events that have taken place since the federal election on Nov. 8. It follows an 18-month campaign in which the President-elect Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists and posited a ban on Muslims entering the country, before backpedaling to include only people from terror-prone countries.
Kris Kobach, a member of the Trump transition team and author of viciously anti-immigrant policies, also created a program to register Muslim immigrants after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a policy that Trump has said he wants to revisit. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was widely considered to be counterproductive. The domestic registry was indefinitely suspended in 2011 after registering 93,000 men and boys over the age of 16.
It resulted in zero charges of terrorism against any of the people registered, and succeeded mostly at deporting thousands of people who had overstayed their visas.
The Seattle community came together 15 years ago in the same building to oppose nseers, and they were there to do the same on Monday, Jayapal told the full audience.
“Just as we fought it then, we intend to fight it again,” Jayapal said.
For his part, Gov. Jay Inslee reaffirmed Washington State’s policies surrounding immigrants and refugees, committing to continue allowing people from war-torn nations into the state.
“The Electoral College has not taken away the right to speak against hate in Washington state,” Inslee said.
Local officials also attended the event, including Mayor Ed Murray, County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena Gonzalez. Of them, only Murray made it all the way through his remarks, shouting over a group of protesters who arrived to oppose the Children and Family Justice Center, a youth jail and court complex planned for the city of Seattle.
Herbold and Gonzalez brought forward a resolution the week prior reaffirming Seattle’s “values of inclusion, respect and justice” and calling on Trump to condemn the attacks and hate speech that increased after his election.
Gonzalez convened a roundtable of groups that have been targeted by hate speech and incidents in her Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans committee held two days after the Full Council vote on Dec. 12.
Participants described the outpouring of hate and fear directed at their constituents, with Filipino residents being told to “go back to Mexico” and students feeling they must forgo college because they don’t want to fill out forms for federal funding for fear that they will cause their parents to be deported.
Gonzalez, herself the daughter of Mexican immigrants, recalled the terror in communities on hearing rumors that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were in the area.
“Neighbors with kids would black out their windows and not come out for days,” Gonzalez told Real Change. “That type of fear, that’s how it manifests itself. It’s realistic because it happens.”
Murray reaffirmed that Seattle would continue its status as a sanctuary city, a designation adopted by cities that do not ask people about their documentation status and generally don’t expend resources to help immigration officials with their work.
Gonzalez wants Seattle to do more than that, actively and consistently providing workshops and education to families that need it.
“The sustainability issue is a real question,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of it comes down to funding. We have to prioritize these needs in the budget. Know your rights workshops, citizenship workshops, they seem basic but they’re very important. There’s a huge need, a huge gap.”
Families travel from Olympia to get into some of these workshops, said Cuc Vu, director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
The office is planning workshops for 1,000 people on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
That event, held at McCaw Hall, will also include education efforts and help from immigration attorneys.