King County’s growth has been driven by the foreign born immigrant population for the past 25 years. Now, a quarter of the county’s residents speak a language other than English at home. Last year, King County adopted an ordinance creating an Immigrant and Refugee Task Force to help expand access to services and opportunities for our immigrant residents.
The Immigrant and Refugee Task Force completed its work and gave its final recommendations to the Council on Monday, August 15th. The report summarized the 10 month planning process, which included representation from local immigrant leaders and the refugee community. The report also exposed how diverse our region has become in recent years.
The report highlighted the critical need for our changing community here at the County. The Task Force recommended that King County set up a dedicated full-time office for immigrants and refugees, or at least a hub, where information regarding County services and non-profit organizations would be available and easily accessible to our changing community.
The work of the Task Force is particularly relevant for District 6, which many immigrants from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures call home. Bellevue, for example, has the highest concentration of foreign born residents, with Asians and Hispanics being the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups in the city. The population for both these groups has more than doubled between 1990 and 2010.
In 2011-2013, Bellevue was more racially diverse than anywhere else in the nation (yes, even more diverse than Seattle!). Children under the age of 18 are more racially and ethnically diverse than Bellevue’s adult population, with minorities being the majority representing just over 51% of the population under 18. All of the diversity in our County needs to be reflected in how our government operates.
The Immigrant and Refugee Task Force is just one step in helping expand access for all communities. To read the report and learn more about the task force, click here.