Tukwila declares state of emergency to address increase of asylum seekers

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(The Center Square) – Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg has issued a state of emergency in order to address a drastic increase of asylum seekers in the city.

According to a press release from the City of Tukwila, the number of asylum seekers living at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church increased from 50 to more than 200 people over the last 10 months.

Ekberg issued the state of emergency declaration with the intention of adopting emergency zoning rules, seeking funding from state and federal sources, and suspending competitive bidding.

Current wait time for the people who have been lawfully admitted into the U.S. while awaiting adjudication of their asylum request averages upwards of four years from the date of their asylum application.

“The situation at the Riverton Park United Methodist Church constitutes a humanitarian crisis where the need for resources for safe sanitary shelter is acute and beyond the capabilities of Tukwila itself to manage,” the state of emergency proclamation reads.

Ekberg said that the Tukwila community has always been welcoming to refugees and immigrants, adding that the city has been home for many on their pathway to citizenship.

The Riverton Park United Methodist Church hosted a roundtable discussion with representatives from the city, King County, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and other entities attending on Oct. 2. Following the discussion, the city began coordinating with other government entities to find the necessary services for the asylum seekers.

“Addressing the needs of asylum seekers is bigger than one city and requires leadership and support from King County, the State of Washington, and the Federal government,” Ekberg said in a statement.

According to the proclamation, the Riverton Park United Methodist Church expressed the same concerns to other nonprofit organizations within King County that are helping the homeless population. The organizations told the church that they are at full-capacity.

Mike Faulk, spokesperson for Inslee’s office, told The Center Square in an email that members of the governor’s team have been in touch with local leaders about the situation. The governor’s staff committed to working with the Washington state Department of Social and Human Services, Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, and local partners to identify potential resources to help the asylum seekers.

Faulk added that discussions are continuing.

The Center Square reached out to the city of Tukwila for more information on the state of emergency, but did not receive a response at the time of this publication.

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