By Bereket Kiros
Tigrai Online, October 08, 2013
An amazing gala and a colorful fundraising for the Tigrai Community event that depicts Ethiopian diversity was concluded yesterday with the presence of the City of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn along with his wife Peg Lynch, Deputy Mayor of Community Darryl Smith, the Honorable Ambassador Zerihun Retta Consul General of Ethiopia at Los Angeles, and other high ranking officials from the City of Seattle. As he ushered to the podium accompanied by community representative for the event Abel Girmay and Tigrai community Chairman Addisu Bahta the audience responded with a standing ovation. Indeed Mayor Mike McGinn is a true defender and advocate of immigrant and refugee communities in Seattle.
Every immigrant faces challenges settling in this new Promised Land. Today an immigrant in America differs from the one that arrived at the turn of the century and the human drama of their story remains as exhilarating and their circumstances in search of freedom and opportunity continues. Mayor Mike McGinn stressed in his speech that America has been a magnet to waves of immigrants as a beacon of hope and a new beginning to seek new lives in the United States. Immigrants today account for a large increase of labor force growth in America; in particular Washington State Immigration has long been integral to America’s social, cultural and economic development. In 2007 the office of Financial Management estimated that Washington household foreign born residents contributed $1.48 billion in tax revenue, or 13 percent of the State revenue.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn understood that Immigrants play a bigger role in Washington’s economy. And Seattle is home to 100,000 foreign born taxpaying residents. Among other major contributions, Mayor Mike McGinn’s achievement is the creation of an Immigrant Voting Rights Taskforce. The taskforce is comprised of community representatives, and academicians. This has made Seattle a more voter-friendly city for the more than 100,000 Ethiopian origin residents who have made Seattle their home. The taskforce will oversee a number of questions including issues of ballot boxes, registration deadlines for individuals who have just become citizens, extra outreach around voting opportunities, and linguistic assistance for non-English speakers. The goal is to evaluate what jurisdiction Seattle has over these issues and strategize how to lift institutional barriers through changes in policy and legislation. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, created in 2012, will oversee the taskforce's work and provide staff support.
Mayor Mike McGinn recognized the perils of perpetuating discriminatory practices that keep immigrants unfairly and illegally from advancing at the job market. He concluded with high spirit and enthusiastic tone about our history and that of other societies stressing again and again that it is only when people embrace a strong organization that real change can be attained. He asked for the community support to remain being a Mayor promising to continue to empower our community to be able to attain the benefits of the American dream. I truly believe the immigrant community knows well and witnessed it in time of unfortunate tragedies in our community in the past that Mayor Mike McGinn is a caring and humble person. His message was not that of a politician Mayor Mike McGinn, but rather just like a message rendered by one of us. He is one of us and the immigrant community is indebted to his kindness. Mayor Mike McGinn campaign will succeed because he is connected with real voters, not because of how much money he raises from business enterprises. Mayor Mike McGinn’s campaign inspires a lot of immigrants who want to run for office to realize that you can do it with less money; money cannot buy everything without community support.
Given the size of the immigrant population in America and its large and growing contribution to the labor force growth, we need to further advance our understanding of the skills and economic growth that immigrants’ can play. The immigrant community needs partners of all groups who can work to end discrimination in all its forms by consistently seeking to support and advocate for the group who are at a disadvantage. The belief that race relations are a matter of getting people to uphold rules is not enough. I am a firm believer that under Mayor Mike McGinn’s leadership Seattle will engage in a civil manner to uncover blind spots in race relations where there are privileges and Mayor Mike McGinn can earn trust through his exemplary action.
As president Obama once said, “The election victory is not the change we seek, but the opportunity to fight for real change. The change we seek is to create realistic and sustainable Plainfield for all in inequalities whether in housing, education, or jobs and to guarantee peace and economic justice for all” Mayor Mike McGinn believes that democracy works best when we are engaging communities effectively. It is through this engagement that our City and State become stronger for decades to come.
I strongly support Mayor Mike McGinn’s commitment for strong community Associations that must function, and address the welfare and wellbeing of every immigrant maintaining our universal heritages and rich cultures and traditions. As immigrants, our needs are larger and the challenges are enormous. The immigrant Community in the Diaspora cannot be only an observer, but must exercise its rights in the ballot box.