Whatcom Democrats pass resolution to support city funded immigrant resource center / Press Release, Community to Community Development

Over a dozen strings of multi-colored origami butterflies, created as part of the community-wide Migration Makes Us Stronger campaign, brighten the picture window of the ideal shop in downtown Bellingham. Photo Credit: C2C

September 30, 2022 Community to Community Development



As city council prepares to draft the 2023-2024 biennial budget, community demand for immigrant resource center grows 

On Saturday September 24th, The Whatcom Democrats voted 58-0 to pass a resolution encouraging the city of ellingham to fund an immigrant resource center. This comes as Mayor Fleetwood is preparing to propose a biennial budget to city council on October 24th, 2022. 

“It’s important that the city fund the resource center because immigrants pay taxes to the city and to the state, but they don’t receive anything back for paying those taxes. We would like our tax money to be used to fund the immigrant resource center,” says Lelo Juarez, who is an immigrant farmworker and member of the City of Bellingham’s Immigration Advisory Board. 

Juarez and several other board members have been studying cities across the country with established immigrant resource centers for the past two years. On May 9th a subcommittee of the Immigration Advisory Board presented a proposal for a center to city council, who voted unanimously to move forward with budget impact and model proposals of what a city funded immigrant resource center could look like. 

Since June, immigrant families and community allies have been involved in a campaign to demonstrate the strength and beauty that migration brings to our community. Thousands of origami butterflies, folded over several months by community members, were gifted to city hall on August 5th. The city asked that the butterflies be taken down, citing potential legal issues. Since that time nearly two dozen local shops and organizations have stepped forward to offer their storefronts as hosts to butterfly displays in solidarity with the Migration Makes Us Stronger campaign. 

“The butterflies were hand-folded by many members of the community who support equitable treatment for immigrants. We do, too,” said Margaret Stroop, Creative Director at Mindport Exhibits in Bellingham, “We wanted to acknowledge this meaningful collective project and support the push to fund the Immigration Center. That’s why we gave the butterflies an intentional public exhibit space that could be seen by people inside and outside of Mindport.” 

Tara Villalba, an immigrant community member and advocate for tenant’s rights in Bellingham, stresses the importance of leadership from impacted community members in both the Immigration Advisory Board and the future immigrant resource center. “Every immigrant is subject to immigration policy,” she said, “but some people, like low wage workers, renters, and non-English speakers, are impacted disproportionately by the exclusion and racism that is baked into our financial, housing, health, and political systems.” For impacted immigrants, an immigrant resource center makes space for us to engage in our City’s civic life. “We want to engage with our City, even if the systems are not built for us.” 

As the biennial budget deadline draws closer, Whatcom Democrats chair Andrew Reding is hopeful that the passing of the resolution will move the city in the right direction. 

“Whatcom Democrats are proud of the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to build our nation and our economy,” Reding said, “We need to go beyond mere words to actual commitment of city funds and personnel to making this a reality.”