SeaTac – The Seattle media converged on our SeaTac offices last week as King County Executive Dow Constantine held a press conference here to make it clear that King County will welcome all refugees in 2016. That includes Syrian refugees.
“Here at this location we see a kind of place where every person including refugees can access services that help them achieve their potential,” Constantine said. “That is why we are here today.”
King County is expecting approximately 2,000 new refugees in 2016. Officials estimate that 100 to 200 of those will be from Syria. There are about 200 Syrian-born residents living in King County now.
“Many will arrive having suffered trauma,” Constantine said. “Many will arrive having suffered torture. Most will arrive with children – some 40 percent refugees will be under the age of 18.”
King County uses a coordinated integrated approach between public and private agencies to provide services for refugees. The county first developed this approach in 1975 when Vietnamese refugees came here following the fall of Saigon.
A major player in providing integrated services is International Counseling and Community Services (ICCS), LCS Northwest’s primary refugee assistance program in King County. Based in SeaTac, ICCS provides mental health services to refugees, asylum seekers and survivors of torture. ICCS’s Director Beth Farmer spoke at the press conference.
“I also thank Executive Constantine for standing with refugees and really putting facts over fear,” Farmer said. Farmer acknowledges she has never met anyone more patriotic than refugees.
“They know what it’s like not to have a voice. They know what it’s like not to have a vote. They know what it’s like to live under a dictator,” Farmer said. “And because of that, they value our democracy deeply, and they remind me how lucky I am to be born in a country with these kinds of freedoms and not to take it for granted.”
Constantine was adamant that refugees contribute to a better quality of life for everyone, and that their presence is one reason why the Seattle area is prosperous.
“Many will arrive with strong educations and advanced degrees with doctorates ready to participate in this economy,” he said. “They will all arrive with potential, potential to contribute and to put down roots to succeed and make a better life.”
Links to media stories from Constantine’s press conference include:
- KING5 – This story focuses on how King County works with refugees.
- KIRO 7 – Syrian refugees are the focus of this story.
- Q13FOX – The story focuses on how refugees help our community.