Council member Kshama Sawant, her staff, her Socialist Alternative party, and their partner organizations have done some incredible work over the past several weeks in organizing rallies and protests to give voice to opposition to President Trump’s most abhorrent executive orders and policies. But last week she turned the rhetoric knob to 11, and in so doing argued for some actions that are not just ill-conceived but illegal, dangerous to public safety, and a threat to one of the most important foundations of our democracy. And that places her in clear and direct violation of her duties and responsibilities as a City Council member.
Daniel Ramirez Medina’s attorney went into court this morning in the hope of securing his immediate release from an ICE detention facility. That didn’t happen, but they also didn’t leave empty handed.
One of the big stories this week — locally and nationally — has been the arrest and detention of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old resident of Washington State who was brought to the US illegally as a child and has been a beneficiary of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Access for Child Arrivals (DACA) program since 2014. Last Friday he was arrested and is still being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And at a time when immigrants — both legal and illegal — are living in fear of the Trump administration’s saber-rattling about immigration policy, this has become a key test for the fate of DACA under Trump.
Tomorrow morning at 10am, there will be a hearing in his case before a U.S. district court magistrate judge. The government filed their brief this morning; Ramirez’s legal team filed their response tonight. And the stuff that’s in them is mind-blowing.
The big news this morning is yesterday’s Council resolution affirming Seattle as a “welcoming city.”
This afternoon the City Council unanimously passed a resolution that affirms Seattle’s status as a welcoming city for all, regardless of immigration status.
This isn’t just a feel-good resolution; it lists a number of very specific actions and policies for the city.
The big news this morning is, of course, Trump’s declaration of war against so-called “sanctuary cities” yesterday, and Seattle’s fierce response.
Earlier this week Council member Lorena Gonzalez, the chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee, circulated a letter for her colleagues on the City Council to sign. The letter is addressed to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and raises concerns about their proposal to increase fees for naturalization.
The fee for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, will increase from $595 to $640 — though they are also proposing a reduced fee of $320 for those whose household income is between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
The application fee for form N600/600K, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, will increase from $600 to $1170 — almost doubling. As the letter points out, this certificate is often required for a naturalized citizen to work or vote.
The fee for filing Form N-565, to replace a naturalization or citizenship certificate, will increase from $345 to $555.
Why is USCIS doing this? Simple: the entire department — all immigration and naturalization services — are funded by these fees. That includes adjudication of refugee and asylum processing, the operation of the Office of Citizenship, and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program. As the Council’s letter points out, that’s fundamentally broken.
Why should we care? Because as a recent study points out, naturalization of permanent residents provides significant economic benefits both to the new citizens as well as to the local, state and federal government.
As of 2012, Seattle had 86,130 foreign-born residents — 18% of the population — of which 56,171 were already naturalized citizens and another 22,648 were eligible to naturalize. 49% of those eligible residents have at least 2 years of college education, and only 20% have limited English proficiency, making them highly employable in our growing local economy.
The study claims that nationally naturalization causes individual earnings to increase by an average of 8.9%, the employment rate to rise 2.2 percentage points, and home ownership to increase 6.3 percentage points. That also means there is a decrease in government benefits paid to those new citizens for many programs (with the exception of SSI — a program for extremely low income citizens), and additional tax revenues from their increased income (and personal spending).
For San Francisco, which is similar in many ways to Seattle, that results in the following economic benefits of increasing naturalization:
Seattle’s numbers would actually look better than San Francisco per capita, since it has a higher percentage of eligible immigrants with college educations and a lower percentage of those with income at or under 150% of the federal poverty level.
USCIS is moving the only lever it has to raise revenues, but it does seem counter-productive to raise additional barriers to becoming a U.S. citizen when the benefits to naturalization are so clear.