InterIm’s Corner: InterIm CDA condemns new immigration rule, calls on lawmakers to oppose it too

Dear friends, family, and community,

Today, InterIm is expressing it’s opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s changes to immigration law. The change in “public charge” law will go into effect on October 15, 2019. This rule will make attaining a green card or U.S. citizenship more difficult for legal immigrants if either themselves or family members rely on public benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Section 8 rental assistance vouchers. This rule is extremely harmful to low-income immigrants and refugees, is meant to discourage new immigrants from coming to the U.S and aims to discourage current immigrant residents from using the programs they are entitled to.

Nationally, about 1.1 million Asian immigrants live in families earning under 125% of the poverty line, and over 80% of Asians and Pacific Islanders who received their green cards in 2018 came through the family-based system. The International District is 53 percent Asian Pacific Islander, 58 percent foreign-born, and 53 percent non-citizens. 65 percent of us are below the federal poverty level. This rule could harm countless neighbors in our community, and we must do everything we can to oppose it.

That is why we are glad to see leaders in our community oppose this rule change. We have seen Attorney General Ferguson join a lawsuit against the administration on this rule and Senator Murray recently spoke out against the administration. We are also encouraged by congresspeople Larson, Smith, and Jayapal for their co-sponsorship of H.B. 3222, which seeks to prevent federal funds from being used to enforce this unjust rule. Every Washingtonian should contact their congressional representative and ask them to sign on to this legislation. Additionally, if anybody believes they might be subject to this rule, we urge you to consult a qualified immigration attorney. One non-profit with many qualified attorney’s is the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and you can call their Seattle office at 206.587.4009.

This content was sponsored by InterIm CDA.

InterIm’s Corner: Our homelessness prevention programs place the client’s needs at the center

The NP Hotel in Chinatown-International District is one of InterIm CDA’s affordable housing buildings. Photo courtesy of InterIm CDA. 

ICDA believes that housing is just the first step. As a Housing and Urban Development certified housing service provider, ICDA helps approximately 4,000 unduplicated individuals each year to achieve their housing stabilization goals. As a housing provider, we have 25 secure units reserved for those at risk of homelessness. In many refugee and immigrant communities, information about services is spread by word of mouth. Because of our 50-year history working within the API and refugee and immigrant communities, ICDA is a trusted provider whose name is shared when families are in trouble. Without ICDA to fill this gap in human services, many at-risk refugee and immigrant individuals and families would not use these lifesaving services.

ICDA’s approach firmly places the client in the center. We provide holistic wrap-around services that include everything from accompanying clients to negotiate with landlords to helping parents sign their children up for school. Our extensive network of partner organizations allows our clients to address a host of needs from legal aid to job training in a linguistically and culturally responsive way. Our staff speak more than a dozen languages and come from the communities we serve, so they have a deep understanding of the challenges our clients face. Our client-centered approach has made us a requested partner to pilot innovative projects such as Housing First both with the city and county over the last 10 years.

Homeless Prevention

Research shows the quicker an individual or family moves out of homelessness, the better their long-term outcomes. We consequently prioritize permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness before attending to other needs. We believe that providing stable housing will give the most essential tool in empowering our clients.

Rapid Re-housing

Rapid rehousing helps individuals and families leave homelessness and find permanent housing through subsidies such as rental assistance and moving costs. Rapid rehousing assistance is offered without preconditions (such as employment, income, absence of a criminal record, or sobriety) and services are tailored to the unique needs of the household. Approximately 85% of ICDA’s Rapid Re-housing clients exit to permanent housing with a 0% return to homelessness.


Diversion offers one-time flexible financial assistance to help families exit homelessness. We facilitate families to identify safe housing options based on their available resources. ICDA was one of the four agencies chosen to participate in the 2014-2016 Diversion Shelter Pilot Project. In those two years, we served almost 200 with over 100 diverted with only 2% returning to homelessness that we are aware of.

This content was sponsored by InterIm CDA.

Demonstrators oppose demolition of Bush Garden building as as review board inspects its condition

Demonstrators outside Bush Garden on August 27 • Photo by Chetanya Robinson 

On August 27, members of the International Special Review District (ISRD) board inspected the outside of Bush Garden’s building to see its structural condition. Waiting for them, around 26 people held signs opposing a proposed 17-story development that, if approved, would likely lead to the building’s demolition.

Holding signs that read “History lives here” and “Stop Vibrant Greed, save the Bush Garden building,” people stood silently as representatives of developer Vibrant Cities, which owns the site — including CEO James Wong and members of the design team — showed members of the board features of the building’s exterior.

To build Jasmine, Vibrant Cities’s project, would require demolishing most or all of the Bush Garden building. The ISRD board reviews alterations to buildings and new constructions in the Chinatown International District (CID). As part of its rationale for demolishing the building, Vibrant Cities presented information to the board about the history and condition of the building.

“The rationale is based on structural lack of integrity and lack of upgrades to the building and lack of retrofit,” said Rebecca Frestedt, ISRD coordinator for the Department of Neighborhoods. “And so the board is looking at some of those conditions first-hand.”

At an ISRD meeting in May, structural engineer Bruce Zhong of DCI Engineers presented a report commissioned by Vibrant Cities that said the Bush Garden building is not stable because it was originally built as a one-story building, with the second and third floors added later. Zhong said the quality and workmanship of the building are poor even compared to other buildings of its era, and it remains a public safety hazard in the event of an earthquake. Zhong said the building would be unfeasible to retrofit to the safety requirements.

During the ISRD site visit, members of Vibrant Cities pointed out loose bricks, warping of the building, and noted that it was constructed on poor soil.

Demonstratos stood silently as representatives of developer Vibrant Cities, which owns the site — including CEO James Wong and members of the design team — showed members of the ISRD board features of the Bush Garden building’s exterior. • Photo by Chetanya Robinson 

Vibrant Cities’s rationale for demolition was criticized by Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle, who wrote in a letter to the ISRD board that the building could be rehabilitated, as other damaged brick buildings in the Chinatown-ID and Pioneer Square were.

Karen Sakata, owner of Bush Garden restaurant and bar, was among the demonstrators. Sakata doubted the condition of the building was as bad as the design team’s analysis, and said there’s great historic value to the building. “It holds so much history, not just for the International District and not just the Japanese American community, but Seattle,” she said.

In its heyday, the restaurant was like a little village for Japanese Americans, where everything from prom nights, funerals and fundraisers were held, Sakata said. On the upper floors of the building are the remains of tiny hotel rooms, where many immigrant laborers stayed. These floors were later used by the Toyo Club, a Japanese American crime organization.

Bush Garden restaurant and bar will move to Uncle Bob’s Place, a forthcoming housing project from InterIm Community Development Association (CDA). Part of the reason Sakata wanted to move was she didn’t think a 17-story project is appropriate so close to the historic parts of the neighborhood. “I think it’s just too imposing, it’s just too intrusive,” she said.

The demonstration included members of the CID Coalition, an organization which formed around concerns about gentrification and displacement in the CID.

“Today is about sending a message to the board that the community is watching,” said Nina Wallace, a member of the CID Coalition. Wallace said the board does not listen to community feedback enough. People will often show up to ISRD meetings and ask, “Why is there no affordable housing in this building, or why are you not taking into account how this is going to impact the neighborhood and residents?” Wallace said. “Every time what the board tells us is that equity and affordability is not within their purview. So what we want to show is…this should be a concern for them, that the community wants to see equitable development, and affordable development.”

Despite its historic significance, the interior of Bush Garden is outside the purview of the ISRD board, said Frestedt. The board also has no jurisdiction over which tenants occupy the building.

After the site visit, Frestedt thanked members of the community for being engaged, and answered questions from the public about the board’s role and process. “I just don’t want them to tear down this building,” one woman said.

The board did not express comments of feedback during the site visit, saving these for the next public briefing. The board will discuss the site visit at a future public meeting, Frestedt said, but a date has not yet been set.