The Kent City Council meeting held on Tuesday night, June 4, 2024, saw a surge of public comments from international refugees seeking a solution to their dire living situation. Dozens of asylum seekers from Venezuela, Congo, and Angola spoke about the hardships of living in a makeshift camp in Kent, highlighting their need for shelter, sanitation, and the ability to work towards a stable life. Mayor Ralph acknowledged the complex situation involving their request for the use of a property controlled by King County.

Refugees Seek Use Of Vacant Hotel

Dozens of men, women, and children who are currently living in a refugee camp spoke during Public Comments. Interpreters were available for several languages. Due to the large number of people signed up to speak, Mayor Dana Ralph informed the room that each speaker would only have two minutes to speak, reduced from the usual three minutes, and that included the time required for interpretation.

Before commenters spoke, Mayor Ralph explained that on June 1st a number of asylum seekers from Venezuela, Congo, and Angola had created a camp on property that is currently being leased by King County. The county has told the city of Kent that no permission was given for this camp, and the group was advised on June 2nd that they are trespassing and must leave. However, a more recent update made clear that the King County Sheriff will not participate in enforcement of that trespass order– and nor will the city of Kent. Mayor Ralph said the city does not own or control the land or the hotel that the refugees are asking for the use of.

Public Comments

Speakers shared touching stories of traveling through many countries for several months, trekking through jungles and dealing with kidnappers and other violations along the way. They said they had left terrible violence and persecution in their former countries. It was explained that the crowd who came to the meeting is only a small part of the more than 200 people currently living in the refugee camp, who have been out in the rain and wind with only tents for shelter from the elements.

They are seeking the use of the vacant Econo Lodge Hotel currently leased by the county. They cannot send their kids to school without a fixed address, and many expressed the wish for a simple shower on a regular basis. They also shared that they would like to work so that they are not a burden on the government. They said they just need assistance so they are no longer living in tents, and help with getting work papers. They said they keep getting moved and have no stability, no way to plan ahead for their families, nor to get work.

Mayor Dana Ralph again expressed that the county controls the property and has not submitted any request for a permit to use the hotel for this purpose.

Employee Of The Month

The City of Kent’s employees chose Christy Stewart as June Employee of the Month. Stewart was originally hired in 2001 as a judicial specialist for Kent Municipal Court. In 2006 she was promoted to a lead, and her duties include taking care of all administrative details for the court. She also provides training to new hires. She was chosen because she is exceptionally positive, hardworking, pleasant, and a great person to work with. She also performs her job thoroughly, is a hard worker, and is extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

Pride Month Proclamation

Mayor Ralph read a proclamation in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. According to the proclamation, the month of June was chosen to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which is recognised as the catalyst for gay rights. The proclamation also states that Washington State and King County have been leaders in protecting the civil rights of all people. 

The proclamation was accepted by a representative of Utopia Washington, a queer & trans, people of color led, grassroots organization in South King County. It was said that this year there were 515 proposed anti-LGBTQ legislations throughout the country, with five of those in Washington State. She said that local activism was able to defeat all five from being enacted.

Mellow DeTray

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 17 years raising her family in the region. For many years she published a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.

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