Guidance for promoting access to benefits and services for immigrants

all-welcome-king-countySome King County facilities qualify as Sensitive locations with the Department of Homeland Security.  Some examples of sensitive locations are schools, hospitals, institutions of worship, and offices providing services for children, pregnant women, and victims of domestic abuse or individuals with significant mental or physical disabilities. The policy does not say that immigration agents cannot enter these locations, only that enforcement actions at these locations are discouraged and that immigration agents have to go through a supervisory review process before they are undertaken.

King County is training our employees to be prepared in case of a visit from immigration agents.

The two keys to preparation:

  • Designating “Private Areas”: Immigration agents, like anyone else, may freely access all public areas of King County facilities, but in order to access private areas of our facilities, they will need to present a warrant signed by a federal judge in the last 14 days. Our team will be working immediately to determine the most appropriate areas to designate as “private”.
  • Designating managers/supervisors to be leads: Each department and site will designate a specific person or persons as responsible for handling contacts with law enforcement officials. All other staff are to inform immigration or other law enforcement officials that only a Designated Lead is authorized to review a warrant or to consent to their entry into private areas. We will develop trainings for designated leads immediately.

A few important points:

  • Federal Law prohibits you from knowingly harboring or hiding undocumented individuals or interfering with an ongoing investigation.
  • Federal law also prohibits King County from adopting ordinances or policies that restrict employees from communicating information about an individual’s immigration status with federal immigration officials.
  • However, absent a warrant signed by a federal judge, King County employees are under no obligation to provide immigration agents with information about an individual’s immigration status, or assist immigration agents in their duties.
  • Staff should document the name/contact information of the immigration agents they interact with (ask for their cards) and, if possible, record the interactions with immigration agents (but they should announce they are making a recording). After any interaction, staff should prepare a thorough report of the interaction.

Below are highlights of steps that the County has taken towards continuing our commitment to equity and social justice:

1. Language access executive order of 2010

King County is committed to translating public communication materials and vital documents for those with limited English proficiency. A person who does not speak or read English proficiently has the right to ask government agencies, and health clinics for translation or interpretation services. It is generally inappropriate for children or relatives to be used as interpreters in many matters. Many government agencies are also required by law to provide language access in languages other than English.

2. A commitment to carrying out the 2009 Ordinance

I am sure that most of you are aware of the ordinance in place relating to ascertaining immigration status as it relates to the public health and safety of the residents of King County.  I want to ask each of you to please take 5 min to read the full ordinance here.  Some important points are:

  • This ordinance affirms the right of undocumented immigrants in King County to access and interact with the courts and employees of King County regardless of immigration status.
  • This ordinance states that otherwise required by law, any County office, department, employee, agency, or agent shall not deny access to services to any individual or family based on immigration status.
  • The Sheriff’s Office and Public health employees of King county will not request specific documents relating to a person’s immigration status to determine if an individual has violated federal civil immigration laws.

3. All are Welcome here posters, Know Your Rights and other resources for your clients

Your office should have posters put up in the building as a first step.  Please contact the Office of Equity and Social Justice if you need access to these posters.

Next Steps:

  • Executive staff have already started working with the public health team to develop the necessary guidance for employees in clinics. We will use this as a template to support all other departments.
  • Review and Revise policies/practices to mitigate any potential negative impacts on undocumented populations.
  • Review existing policies and assess how to avoid collecting patient data that can be used to identify or deport undocumented people.

More Information and Resources:


2 thoughts on “Guidance for promoting access to benefits and services for immigrants

  1. Mary, please see this response from Bookda Gheisar, Immigrant and Refugee Policy Analyst, Office of Equity and Social Justice:

    Dear Mary – Thank you for your comment. Please see this link for a series of KYR videos in Spanish and English, including what to do if ICE comes to an agency, workplace, house, etc. King County’s Office of ESJ has a lot of resources that we posted here. This page will be updated in the next few days with some new materials, including these videos. Bookda

  2. I recently saw a video on Facebook in Spanish on what to do in the case of ICE agents at your home door. It seemed to give good advice and my Hispanic relatives in Los Angeles said it is accurate but it would be nice to have a public service announcement for people here in Washington. Do you have anyone in your department that could listen to it and see if it would add value locally?

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