2016 Immigrant & Refugee Youth Forum (Part I)

By | September 5, 2019


Liz Dunbar: …Mayor Strickland, who has been a leader in the welcoming cities movement for Tacoma, so, Mayor Strickland, thanks. Mayor: Thank you very much and good late afternoon and evening, everyone. My name is Marilyn Strickland and I have the honor of
serving as Mayor of Tacoma and I’m very excited about this forum tonight for a few
reasons. In 2015, the City of Tacoma decided to become a Welcoming City and
this is a national movement that is taking place among cities around the
country – there are 23 of us right now – who have decided to say we want to be a Welcoming City for immigrants and we want to be a place that sends the message that we
welcome people from around the world and what does that mean? It means that we
want to make sure that every person who chooses to call Tacoma home, regardless
of their country of origin or documented status, has the opportunity to live up to
their full potential. That means access to services, it means
being included when we talk about boards of commissions, but it also is about making
sure that when we see or hear discrimination we are not afraid to call
it out and to correct it. Now, there are some people in the room
that I had the honor of working with who’ve been very, very instrumental in doing
this work and the first person I want to actually call out is Carmen White, who
has worked really hard in our Equity and Human Rights Department to put these
together, she was responsible for forming the Latino Town Hall meetings that we
did, and I just want to make sure that we thank and recognize Carmen for her work. I also want to thank and recognize my
longtime friend, Diane Powers, who leads the department and just for her tireless advocacy
and steadfastness in wanting to make sure that this is part of who we are as
a city. When people ask me to describe Tacoma I describe us as an
international waterfront city that is a leader in education, the arts, and
environmental stewardship, but we’re known for our cultural diversity. And,
instead of the word “diversity” I want to flip that and talk about inclusion. It’s one
thing to be diverse and to acknowledge who lives in your community or who chooses to
call it home, but inclusion is the act of embracing. And when I hear terms like “I’m
colorblind,” in many ways I tell folks that’s not a term you should use because
I want you to see me as I am. I want you to accept me as I am, and regardless of
where your country of origin is, we want you to be you, and to do you, but to
have the opportunity to thrive in the best possible way. So I’m very excited about this, I’m
excited to hear from the young people in our community today, and what I hope to
learn from this when I get the report out is that if there are any policy decisions
that we need to make in the City of Tacoma or in Pierce County, or the state of
Washington, or even in Congress, let’s make sure we create a list to ensure
that people who live in our country whether you’re an immigrant or refugee, have
opportunities that are afforded to all of us even those people who were born here. So
thank you very much for being here tonight and please enjoy this evening. Liz Dunbar: Thank you very much, Mayor, and appreciate
your participation, your remarks and the financial support of the city which
helped make this possible today. The mayor does have another commitment – she has lots of those – so she may not be able to stay for the whole evening, but
we really appreciate you being here. So, I would like to again say welcome and thank you
all for being here. I am so pleased that we reached out to a very diverse group and
we were successful at having a diverse group in attendance today. So we have
people here from education, both K-12 and higher education, we have people here
from local government, from congressional offices, state legislative offices, we
have people from all kinds of human services agencies, some that specifically
focus on youth and others that provide a broad array of services. So it’s a great
group here and I’m looking forward to the dialogue and the conversation that we
can have today with these young people. Again, I want to thank all of our
partners who made this happen. You will see all of their names and contact
information on the back of the program, but this really was a partnership effort,
pulled together very quickly, I might add. But only possible through the
partnership of all of those folks on, that you see in the program: Catholic
Community Services, Proyecto MoLE, the REACH Center, the City of Tacoma, UWT, TCC, and the National Welcoming America organization. So we thank all of
them for helping make this happen today. To begin with I wanted to start with
some background information and I guess it’s appropriate that we’re in a
classroom setting and I’m going to show slides, but I only have about five, so it’ll be
short, I promise I’m not gonna lecture I assume because we have a diverse
audience that we have different levels of awareness about what the immigrant and
refugee population looks like in the region and I thought it’d be helpful to
provide a little background and we are very fortunate in Tacoma to have Dr. Ali
Moderras, head of the UWT Urban Studies program, who is an amazing researcher and
very knowledgeable on the subject of immigrants and immigration in particular
and so he allowed me to use some of his slides to illustrate what we’re trying to talk
about today. Also in your program are some definitions and some facts so we
also wanted to give you something to take away with you that gives you some
more information about the folks that we’re talking about today. So let me
begin with – oh, and I should back up and say thanks to a Tacoma-area refugee youth who did this artwork for us as our symbol today
that Tacoma is a welcoming place. So, our first slide – and I don’t want to get in the way of the audience, can you see alright? – This is – I’m going to start at
the national level and work our way down – so these are population projections for
the 15 to 19-year-old population in the United States from 2012 to 2040
the blue line at the top is the white population the purple line is the Latino
population the red line is the African American population and the
green line is the Asian population so as as you can see, for a variety of
demographic reasons, that youth population is going to decline except
for Latinos. Now… we’ll talk about a – in a lot of cases we have data by ethnic
group and not by immigration status whether they’re US-born or immigrants so these
are sometimes a proxy measure and not certainly meant to assume that all Latinos
are immigrants because certainly they’re not but it gives you an idea of the
changing face of America which a lot of us know but it’s interesting to see
the numbers, to see the charts. The next one is about the Latino population in
the state of Washington and again this goes from 1980 on the left to
to 2013 on right and you can see that the Latino population in the state grew from
2.9 percent to 11.9 percent in that time period. And now Latinos are
the largest ethnic group in the state of Washington. Next is – this is specific
about foreign-born population and this is a map of the region and shows the
percentage of population that is foreign-born by census tract and red is
thirty percent or higher foreign born in that location, orange is 20-30
percent and yellow is 10-20 percent so obviously there are parts of
King County which is… this is King County and South King County lots of immigrants living in those areas
but we also have some fairly large areas in Pierce County and Tacoma as well so
the Eastside and the Southend in particular – fairly high percentages of
immigrants in our community Next is, where are these immigrants
coming from? And so we have both the Washington State and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue
region – the top 10 countries of origin and you can see that these are similar
but not exactly the same for those regions and actually for Tacoma
Community House, our profiles are a little different than even the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue profile. For us it would be Mexico, Vietnam, Ukraine, Moldova, Cambodia, Yemen, Kenya, El Salvador and the Philippines. So again, some overlap with the list you see
there but some uniqueness for the Tacoma-Pierce County area. Again, I’ve shown slides before
about the Latino population growth but again to focus specifically on Pierce County, the Latino population has grown 3,300% between 1970 and 2010 and… from 2010 to 2013 that population has continued to grow by 11%, and the
Asian population has also grown considerably over 8%, and
again those are not all immigrants but a large percentage of those population
increases have come because of immigration. I want
to say a word about refugees because we will have a panelist who’s a refugee and
people often think of “immigrant” and “refugee” as interchangeable but they’re
not. All refugees are immigrants but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees
have to meet a very specific definition and go through a very extensive process
in order to be admitted to the United States and again we have a little bit of
information and definitions in your program for your reference. So that’s all the data
and slides I’m going to show. I’m happy to answer any questions that people have
about that before we move on to our panel, which is what I know you’re here
for. Yes? Audience Member: One really quick – it’s funny on your slide it did show the Latino population and then underneath we have the “non-Hispanic,” and one of the things that I’m always trying to search for is, alright, they’re not interchangeable, per se, Hispanic and Latino but we tend to put them together Is there a really solid difference that the average individual should really know? Liz Dunbar: Well, I – not being Latino or Hispanic, I am reluctant to give you the – what’s the right answer. Yes, [Latino and Hispanic are]
often used interchangeably – the definitions that I’ve heard [are] that
“Latino” refers to anyone whose ethnic origins are in Latin America, and
“Hispanic” refers to anyone who comes from a Spanish-speaking background. So, I
don’t know if the Latinos or Hispanics in the room would have a better
definition but that’s the one that I’ve heard. Audience Member: Yeah, it’s just like you said with referencing Hispanics it’s funny, but they always put it in that category, and you’re like…okay. Liz Dunbar: Yeah, and then you have the US census which really makes it complicated, but we won’t go into that. Okay, well then I’d like to really move on
to the real focus of our program this evening which is to hear from young people, so if I
could ask our five panelists to come up and take a seat at the front table we will
get started. Yes, and I appreciate you making them
feel welcome some of them are not experienced at
public speaking and so we want to make them feel comfortable here tonight.
Although I will say that Liban was, uh – spoke to the Tacoma City Council last week when we accepted the Welcoming Week Proclamation for the Mayor, so he does
have public speaking experience – Liban: [Something witty] Liz Dunbar: The logistics are little challenging here
too so hopefully this will work, we have two mics for them to share and go back
and forth. We want to make this as much of a dialogue as possible so we’re
asking them to start by giving a very brief introduction of themselves. Their name, where they were born, and how did they get to Tacoma. So that will
get us started and then I have a series of questions that I’ll be asking them, and
then we’ll give all of you an opportunity to be in dialogue with the
panelists, as well. So Paola, can we start with you? Paola: Hello, good afternoon – My name is Paola. I was born – Liz Dunbar: Oh, think they’re still muted, sorry. Paola: Okay. Hello, my name is Paola Ramos, once again. I was born in Hidalgo, Mexico. I was here since I was six and that would make it 12 years being stable in Washington State. I’m currently in hold for the Visa Youth(?), but I have no status here. Liz Dunbar: Yes, Liban. Liban: Hi, good afternoon. My name’s Liban Ali. So I’m originally from Somalia and I’m think – I’m the only refugee here, I guess, today. Ok yeah. So, I was born in Somalia. I had left Somalia when I was 8 and I’m 21 now so you can do the math. So I was here for a while – I’m here in the United States for four years I weren’t a refugee before I come here and, like, [Liz] said refugee takes a lot of process – it was about like a year and a half I really loved school so I think they see – would think about me and they say that, this kid really deserves second chance So, June of 2012 there is someone say that, that I should be
come to United States. So I came here 2012 and I went to high school in Centralia, so I’m not technically from Centralia but I get a lot of support – comes from Tacoma. I went to school – I graduated high school this June so I’m going to Edmonds Community
College trying to get a degree in […] and Human Rights. So, I’m hoping to go to that degree, thank you guys. Liz Dunbar: Okay, Alma. Alma: …and then I get really nervous when it’s my turn […] so here I go. My name is Alma Vargas and I, I am from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. That’s where I was born. I came here, like Liban, at the age of 8, and I am 22 so just a year – just one more year, for those of you who did the math. So 14, 13… 13, 14 years? So yes, I came here – we initially landed in California, that’s where we had family from my mom’s side of the family. After
my dad lost his job there, or couldn’t find a stable job – we moved to Tacoma, and this is where my grandma used to live and she offered support for us to find a house, and for my dad to find work So that’s how we decided to move here to Tacoma, specifically and I’ve lived, um, since I got here – I lived in Tacoma so this is my home. Just Tacoma. Other than that, I just wanted to say
that after moving here to Tacoma I really – I found a lot of support from the
community, so… This is my home. I feel welcome. So thank you. Liz Dunbar: Great, thank you. Okay, Sayorn. Sayorn: You guys wanna hear my heart beating? Hi, my name’s Sayorn and I was born in Vancouver, Washington. So yeah, I think I’m the only one here with papers. Growing up, I didn’t really speak English. You know, I was in class drawing ice cream cones, and the teacher was telling me to do something else. And, anyways, What was I gonna say? Oh yeah, hold up, gotta rehearse this real quick. Oh yeah, I was born in Vancouver, Washington but I was mostly [in] Tacoma, for like, basically my whole life ’cause… That’s the place – my family thought it was a good place, ’cause they came from Cambodia and my mom’s, like, from the village, so I – where it’s like – you see nothing but – they live in these huts and stuff. no doors, no windows… a lot of crazy stuff. and my dad’s […] and I guess, like, Tacoma’s a good place for them. They thought it was good for me ’cause they went like – before they even had me they went, like, cruising around the whole U.S. and stuff. So I guess they picked Tacoma ’cause this is the City of Destiny, you know? Oh yeah, right now I didn’t graduate high school but I’m getting my GED so I can go to Clover Park [Technical College] and hopefully get my Ph.D [sic] in environmental science. So I can, um, try to like help others out in the same shoes as me or in what I’ve been through And… there’s a lot of opportunities out there, and, yeah Liz Dunbar: Great, thank you. And last but not least, is Marco. Hi, my name is Marco Flores Garcia. Um, I came from Mexico here to the U.S. at the age of nine. I landed in Chicago and I didn’t live there for long, lived there for about two months. My mom had decided that that wasn’t the setting she wanted me to live [in] ’cause there was way too many gangs So then we moved here to Washington because she found a job here welcome there is no they will have its
over there but it was the night the right setting for us so we came here to
come and we saw that there was a lot of hispanic people here so we hear it shows
up on a job here and we don’t hear that i just started going to school here and
right now my TC trying to get my transfer in green history teacher and eventually teach
students always happen so you know they can learn from our mistakes good live
five thank you all for you to see yourself and now we have a chance to ask
us any questions and I feel funny because i’m behind you have to adjust
around here so we have a number of questions we’d like to ask these young
people and they’ve been very gracious and being willing to answer them and so
the first question I’m going to pose to Alma and that is $OPERAND many people
have misunderstandings about what it means to be a refugee so as we’re
starting this conversation what is one misunderstanding that you here often and
would like to correct i think i’m not understanding the difference in general
especially and then usually everyone all the people here obviously
that is true we do work really hard I think harder than everybody else I was always told during high school bag
i should work because attention that i should work ten times harder than any
other student just so i could be competitive enough for scholarship
opportunities and/or me into a college so that is an expectation that i have
been lazy all in and none of us here in the room especially and on this side of the table feel that
way obviously we do contribute financially
in coverage out here no matter if you have papers or if you have a Social
Security of thankful sort Social Security you’re still paying taxes it doesn’t matter that’s for sure for
sure we’re not coming off like they mentioned we are all one two skool skool
on track to going to school just finishing high school community college
obviously right and we’ll find online people have a misunderstanding about
your not educated immigrants but also our parents and they don’t speak English
and that could be true for some pain and agony that they don’t understand that
they can’t read or that they can write most parents can read and write right
but you just don’t feel comfortable speaking so if you ever find yourself
speaking to any parent feel free to talk to them and look at the area because
they will understand they may not feel comfortable to respond to you right and
that’s when they might use their science or their daughter to translate something
that people understand talk straight when you want to communicate with one
another go back already here I’m over young but sometimes you’re here
and what is my mother she loved that we have two older ladies I was a nice goal
for about three years without and when she was identical with those never gonna
see her because she was working so here I’m going to be here and to weapons and
too much for family when she’s here she called them and change just because how much I love to left so
she left everything just to get a better indication have pain what we deserve she was common and I want to take full
advantage of and his heart and to my phone in my left to pay a lot of the
cultural stuff because i think to myself to what American culture in between that
from here I come thank you allah and that kind of leads
to our next question which is that Steve Coleman has declared itself a welcoming
city joining a national network of city and county governments dedicated to
building immigrant friendly and inclusive communities how your
experience in tacoma in both welcoming and unwelcoming and look tomorrow and
see if you going to take on that question first so important ever since I school sixth grade when I
mad to create tamale and I mean that’s a program that you and I got welcomed
there because you know they help me out I’ll end by chance always there trying
to make hearts and crowds for somebody special to me and then they decided that
they saw something in me so that I guess that they can try to get me to come back
eventually i liked it and even though that wasn’t like that could have been
when i was on the days of evil and you into thinking they’re being the family
that I don’t have especially now that yeah yeah doesn’t tell me all you know you can
trust to get the bowl and the first ones to trust helped me out so much that I’m
here you know what the special party because you know i’m always looking oh my god me you know my mom had it but
I’m here by myself so there is the city that I was able to find someone that can
help me out you don’t like a family suppose that’s
not welcome because the program that i have here that are really helpful were
never here yeah that one was worried you wouldn’t come for the ones who always
order or anything good come here so you know that slightly but i love the bucket
see they have they have a program where they have those programs here for other
students because I don’t have anyone the way I know there’s a lot more that you
do exactly way and that continued my education also hear the same thing at
TCC I felt this low as soon as i started so that’s y compartir tu because it’s
good on show you see that going you know to keep supporting those things because
they’re helping a lot of students so we have that apartment and I’m sorry about
that you don’t want to impart hard always wanted to be a lease option that
but there’s a program I wanted to join which was to come up
with these floors program and i went there and i was allowed to join social
so getting you a reason why I always going to love you too old just call me we can tell you why so in
my hair my my permanent something that I so you know we’re on for secondary I
motivation you know because like that’s something I really wanted to do just for
me not to have a couple of inches under my hand for opportunities to be picking
like it is really hard so especially easy someone who wasn’t really
interested on doing that going in there and take an opportunity right week so
does like the Muslim welcoming . you know going to that yeah

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