PRESS RELEASE: Victory – $25M Granted For Asylum Seekers in WA

Immigrants and refugees won crucial funding following humanitarian crisis in Tukwila and unprecedented advocacy in Olympia

Olympia, WA $25 million in aid for asylee seekers in direct response to the need for a stronger and more coordinated support system, in WA has been included in the final state budget and is awaiting signature from Gov. Inslee.

The need has been highlighted most recently by the humanitarian crisis at Pastor Jan’s Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila.

This church became the only center that provides immediate help and support to immigrant families primarily seeking asylum. Quickly, the facility became overcrowded to the point that the church facilities were insufficient and the families had to be housed in tents. 

“For a year of waiting for my case to be considered, I couldn’t work,” says Rosa Puche, a Colombian asylum seeker who fled Venezuela due to political persecution, violence and kidnapping. Rosa lived at the church with her family, including two daughters, until they were temporarily sheltered at a local hotel. “We were forced to survive by our own means, in poverty and harsh, cruel living conditions. We had to turn to charity or community help, despite finding ourselves in the land of opportunity.”

“I was arrested and tortured,” said Daniel Vingo, a political activist who fled Angola and sought asylum. “I came here to save my own life, only to live in a tent in the middle of winter.”

Immigrant rights organizations OneAmerica and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) brought together leaders such as Rosa and Daniel in two powerful advocacy days in Olympia, fighting for the humane treatment of asylum seekers.

“This allocation of $25 million dollars for newly arrived migrants is a crucial win and critical next step for all immigrants in Washington state,” said Catalina Velasquez, Executive Director of WAISN. “The arrival of asylum seekers is not new, but the lack of policies and infrastructure by government at every level have caused a situation where arriving asylees face a lack of dedicated resources that can meet their critical needs for shelter, legal aid, and resettlement services. This win could not have been possible without our collective voices putting pressure on lawmakers to support our immigrant families, friends, and neighbors. At the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network’s Advocacy Day over 400 immigrant justice advocates united in our biggest Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Day yet, and we remain committed to raising our voices until all immigrants have full political and economic rights and access to the resources we need to thrive.”

OneAmerica, a leader in immigrant rights in Washington, formed a coalition with partners to address the dynamic needs of these new community members who sought help from the church. In December, the immigrant leaders advocated for and won $3 million to get families, especially those with young children, out of the tents and into temporary spaces. OneAmerica’s work was pivotal in organizing this base of grassroots leaders.

“Asylum seekers are in an impossible situation,” said Roxana Norouzi, Executive Director of OneAmerica. “They are frustrated and angry, and often feel powerless to change their circumstances and those of other asylees. OneAmerica transformed those feelings into action, supporting them to speak with a unified voice in Olympia. They reclaimed their power by pushing the state to step in, winning a victory for all asylum seekers in Washington.”

“I’m proud to have won this funding for asylum seekers like me,” said Daniel Vingo. “Organizations such as OneAmerica and WAISN brought us together and showed us that when we participate, plan together and organize as a community of immigrants, we can achieve our goals,” added Rosa Puche.

“When I learned about the crisis in Tukwila, I knew that the state had to act. Not just for the folks in Tukwila, but for all asylees across our state. This investment sends a strong clear message. Washington state is a welcoming home for our newest arrivals whether they are asylee seekers, refugees or immigrants,” said Rep. Mia Gregerson, who led this effort in the legislature to secure this funding along with Senator Bob Hasegawa.

The $25 million will go to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance (DSHS ORIA) to provide support services including housing assistance, food, transportation, childhood education services, education and employment supports, connection to legal services, and social services navigation.




About OneAmerica 

OneAmerica advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies. 


WAISN is the largest immigrant-led organization in Washington State, a grassroots coalition of over 400 immigrant and refugee rights organizations. Distributed across 27 counties, WAISN exists to provide support, capacity, and resources to immigrant communities, build power, and act as a united immigrant justice voice statewide.