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Mayor Harrell Signs Executive Order Supporting Culturally Responsive Victim and Family Support Services for Immigrant and Refugee Families 

SEATTLE (February 1, 2023) – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new Executive Order directing City departments crisis response teams to work together to coordinate and adopt practices and procedures which are culturally, linguistically, and religiously responsive under the law in situations related to sudden, unexpected, and unnatural death.  

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order is inspired by the needs and feedback of immigrant, refugee, and non-English speaking families who have experienced resource constraints in criminal legal systems, including lacking the adequate interpreter services and accessible informational materials required to navigate supportive services during the unexpected death of a loved one. The Executive Order will enhance access to information and reduce barriers to supportive services for immigrant and refugee communities.  

“Truly building One Seattle requires seeking sustained and meaningful input from immigrant and refugee communities, learning from their experiences to address unique needs and work in partnership to develop solutions that make our city the inclusive, welcoming, equitable place we want it to be,” said Mayor Harrell. “This Executive Order will reduce barriers to information and make victim and family support services more accessible and culturally responsive to immigrant and refugee communities following a crisis response situation, giving them crucial support in their time of need.” 

“The impact of crisis situations and unexplained deaths is physical, psychological, and economic,” said Hamdi Mohamed, Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. “Mayor Bruce Harrell recognizes that it takes partnership, coordination, and collaboration to provide culturally relevant services to immigrant and refugee families with the support they need during such devastating times. We’re not naïve about the challenges, but we know the urgency of this work and providing equitable access to information, services, and resources in preferred languages.” 

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order directs City departments to work together to:  

  • Publish in-language information and provide translation of all available resources to help non-English speakers navigate City Departments. The City will coordinate across departments to designate culturally and linguistically skilled community liaisons to be available to connect with immigrant and refugee communities at all hours during a crisis when communicating is necessary for support. 
  • Establish guidance for linguistically, culturally, and religiously diverse immigrant and refugee communities. This will allow for requests for accommodations to be honored that align with the needs of the respective community involved while following federal, state, and local guidelines and laws.  
  • Invest in the evaluation of language needs and implement language access activities to address those needs over time. The City will identify an outreach strategy and engagement plan that will helps efficiently and effectively engage immigrant and refugee communities in need. 
  • Form and Interdepartmental Team within 90 days of the execution of this Executive Order and will present the Mayor with a report that addresses the specific needs of immigrant and refugee communities. This team will consist of the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Human Services Department, and the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs action. This team will provide a strategy that provides consistent and equitable access to grief support services, medical treatment, and protections for immigrant victims and family members who require language access and enhances safety and access to information for immigrant and refugee families who have experienced a violent crime and/or experienced the murder or disappearance of a loved one. 

“Exposure to crisis-producing events, grief, and traumatic loss are pressing issues in our communities. Our dedicated staff members through The Victim Support Team (VST) provide short-term advocacy and resources to victims of violent crimes. VST primary goal is to listen to survivors, help them identify what next step they want to take, address immediate safety concerns, and offer connections to resources in the community,” said Tanya Kim, Acting Director of the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD). “Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order is uplifting the work of VST and ensuring that we are working in collaboration with our city partners and ensuring that work is culturally responsive, and approach reflects the diversity of cultures and languages.”  

What People Are Saying: 

We appreciate the City of Seattle’s leadership putting its equity values into action. We understand system change takes time, but this Executive Order speeds it up and helps create the coordination and access to comprehensive information for immigrant and refugee communities and accommodate religious beliefs and language needs allowed under the law.” Muslim American Youth Foundation Executive Director Dr. Yahya Suufi 

“We welcome Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order instructing City departments to provide equitable crisis response, but especially, we thank the youth and their families impacted by violence in our community for organizing and speaking up. Day in, day out, we see how hard it is for immigrant and refugee families to navigate government services in general, but it’s especially sad when resources available to others never get to our families only because there hasn’t been an effort to really understand our lack of access to those in the light of a tragedy, including the ways we grieve. We hope that this mandate of equal access to emergency services also opens the door to equitable access to prevention services, for all ages, but especially the youth in our communities.” Lake City Collective Founders Cesar Garcia and Peggy Hernandez 

“Every day the Filipino Community of Seattle sees the benefit of helping immigrants navigate services and partnering with city departments like the Seattle Police Department. This executive order will bolster the work immigrant and refugee communities do to support victims and survivors following a crisis.” Filipino Community of Seattle Program Director Jennifer Cruz

Mayor Harrell signs the executive order with stakeholders behind him.