Immigration Advisory Board Frequently Asked Questions

This is a new page to provide short answers to questions posed by the public during meetings of the Immigration Advisory Board. Questions and responses will be added regularly.

People who are concerned about COVID’s impact on immigrants are encouraged to contact members of the City Council and the Mayor.  Community members can write to the City Council at ccmail@cob.org or 210 Lottie Street, Bellingham, WA 98225.  In addition, community members may provide public comment remotely during Council evening meetings at 7:00 PM. To do so people should navigate to the Council Meetings webpage (https://meetings.cob.org/) and click the tab for “Upcoming” meetings. The agenda will include directions for signing up for public comment.

Currently, the primary means of communication with the public is through the City of Bellingham (COB) website. The COB maintains web pages to specifically support the work of the Immigration Advisory Board (IAB).

The main page URL is: https://cob.org/gov/public/bc/immigration-advisory-board.

IAB Meetings are listed on the COB calendar at https://cob.org/events.

Agendas and other meeting materials are available online at: https://cob.org/gov/public/bc/immigration-advisory-board/immigration-advisory-board-materials

In addition, as an advisory board, it is expected that the work and findings of the IAB will be presented to the City Council and the Mayor at future public City Council meetings. Additional communication avenues are possible and anticipated in response to the work of this advisory board.

Any findings of the IAB regarding racial profiling, or other concerns that negatively impact immigrants in the City of Bellingham, will be presented to the City Council and the Mayor for consideration and further action as appropriate.

The City Council continues to explore possible development of a civilian board to provide oversight of the Bellingham Police Department, specifically related to officer misconduct.

The Mayor is providing access to City staff as needed to help support the work of the Board. For each year in the City’s 2021-22 biennial budget, $7,500 is allocated for translation and interpretation services, most of which will be used to support the work of the IAB. The City Council staff also provides direct support for this board.

Information on the City Budget, including links to Council budget discussions, can be found at: https://cob.org/gov/budget.

The IAB will continue to regularly review and analyze the federal contact data. A presentation to the Board by WHAT-COMM – our local emergency response system —  occurred on December 15, 2020 during the monthly IAB meeting. This meeting helped the IAB better understand some of the patterns reported in the federal data. The IAB may invite representatives of law enforcement from other jurisdictions to present at a future meeting to better understand how law enforcement from these jurisdictions interact with federal agencies. For example, some small city police departments likely have “mutual aid” agreements with federal agencies to provide backup for law enforcement activities, especially along the US / Canada border. Additional data may also be requested from other County agencies such as the jail to understand whether some of the federal contacts are leading to incarceration.

The IAB has requested the interlocal agreements between WHAT-COMM and local governments to better understand practices and procedures that occur when law enforcement is dispatched in different areas. It is important to note that the IAB is an advisory board for the City of Bellingham, therefore its ability to change practices adopted by other jurisdictions may be limited.

The Bellingham Police Department has indicated it is monitoring activity that could threaten the safety of the Bellingham community. In addition, the City Council continues to explore legal options available, if any, in response to the presence of armed militia within the city limits.

See IAB discussion on this topic at the IAB Nov. 2, 2020 meeting, at: https://cob.org/gov/public/bc/immigration-advisory-board/immigration-advisory-board-materials.

According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), receiving services and support for the following purposes or programs generally DO NOT result in a finding of a “public charge”:

  • Testing, treatment, or preventive care for COVID 19
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Recovery rebate for individuals
  • Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (food assistance that replaces free and reduced-price lunch)

For further information specifically related to COVID-19 and the Public Charge Rule see AILA Practice Advisory: https://www.aila.org/advo-media/aila-practice-pointers-and-alerts/practice-alert-covid-19-and-the-public-charge-rule

For further information about the Public Charge Rule in general see US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Q&A: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/public-charge