Category Archives: News

Seniors Surviving on Low Income: Ms. Lew’s Story

Ms. Lew is a senior and homeowner living in Beacon Hill for over 20 years. A limited English speaker and no one with whom to live, she was grateful to access services at El Centro de la Raza. Her living arrangement is different than her peers, predisposing her to the hardship of instrumental activities of daily living. She learned about the Community Connector Program through her regular visits to our Food Bank. She became acquainted quickly and developed a trusting relationship with the program staff. Click here to read how trust can lead to empowerment.

Ms. Lew brought in her letters, including one that involved property taxes. Had it not been for the program staff, Ms. Lew would have paid more than she could afford toward her property tax. Low-income seniors live on fixed incomes and are concerned about paying property taxes on a home that is worth millions of dollars today. Our program staff helped Ms. Lew apply for a property tax exemption and renewed her lifeline assistance for her home phone.

During a politically delicate time, Ms. Lew has found a second home at El Centro de la Raza where she can speak her own language and feel safe. She has referred her neighbors and friends in need to resolve transportation challenges and food insecurity. Ms. Lew is very thankful to El Centro de la Raza for offering companionship and providing services like the Food Bank, translation, and benefits enrollment.

This holiday season, please consider donating to a program that helps low-income seniors make ends meet and develop friendships along the way.

What a citizenship question on the Census could mean

Oppose the Department of Commerce by August 7 from adding the insidious question about citizenship status on the 2020 U.S. Census.

Policymakers rely on the American Community Survey and U.S. Census to allocate resources for government services. Both datasets fail to reflect the presence of communities of color in the United States where their representation is historically disproportionate. A controversial question in the upcoming 2020 count threatens to strip away the economic, social, political, and legal rights of people of color.

The Department of Commerce plans to gather complete and accurate information by including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census questionnaire. We fear that the collection of citizenship information will be used against families and ultimately suppress the number of responses. By removing that question, we ensure a full, fair, and accurate count. Those are the principles of the U.S. Census.

We have seen the devastating, disconcerting, and detrimental impacts of the current administration’s anti-immigrant practices and policies on our children and families. Therefore, it is imperative to urge the Secretary of Commerce to reverse the misguided decision to add a citizenship question on the next Census form.

We hope you join us in this fight to remove this untested question and speak up for those whose voices have been oppressed.

Our children are the world’s hope for justice for all

Some of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history involve the barbaric act of taking children from their parents: Black children were sold as property during slavery, and Native American children were stolen to strip them of their culture. Now it is the children of the immigrant Latino community that is being victimized by Trump’s policies to halt undocumented immigration and asylum seekers.

Impacts of Family Separation on Children’s Development
Trump is violating the human rights of innocent children. Babies as young as 12 months old are being separated from their mothers. That act is child abuse. Starting in October 2016, nearly 1,800 immigrant families faced forced separation. However, since Trump took office, his administration has only inflated that figure. If we were to take a snapshot of his policies, we see that between May 6 and May 19 in 2018, 658 children were separated from 638 parents.

Separating children from their parents is so traumatic for their developing brains that it should be considered inhumane. Doctors state that separation will predispose affected children to a lifetime of health problems. According to Dr. Lisa Fortuna, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, “Separations from… parents, especially in moments of extreme distress and displacement, has [a] very negative impact on child well being, mental health, and development.” Those effects are not only detrimental but also irreversible.

False Rhetoric about Immigrant Communities
Latino children and parents are being torn apart as a mid-term election strategy for Trump to mobilize his base. Our children are being given up as political red meat while Trump is using dog whistle language claiming they are not like your children. Therefore, they are less than human.

The Department of Justice’s Zero Tolerance Policy of separating children from their parents at the border is immoral and sinful. This is not who we are as a people. This is not who we are as a country. Our values are compassion and empathy for the most vulnerable. We do not abandon those that experienced persecution, trauma, and extreme distress.

We are in a time when many vulnerable communities are demanding legal representation and protection. Therefore, we must not normalize the fears carried by immigrant families that they will be raided and persecuted. Immigrants and asylum seekers should not be used in the political rhetoric as a scapegoat to make the U.S. vulnerable. However, the effects of stricter immigration enforcement weaken our country. For example, in December 2017, NPR has reported on the anticipated landscape worker shortage as a result of the policy enforcement. We are hearing stories coming from Ohio that owners are struggling to address the shortage issue.

Take Action Now
We call upon men, women, youth, and all other people of good will to DEFEND OUR CHILDREN. We need your help in making calls, sending emails to your Congressional delegation, using your voice, and visiting holding sites to shed light on these injustices. Use all your power to force the administration to end these cruel abuses. Our children as all children should be the hope of the world. Please join us in dismantling the barbaric practice of separating families at the border by:

Urging your elected officials to support the passages of the bipartisan HELP Separated Children Act (H.R. 5950 | S.B. 2937).
Pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to abandon the costly and inhumane practice of separating families.

For more information, please click here for a timeline of Trump rolling back protections for children and what is a myth and what is a fact.


Patty Murray: 206-553-5545

Maria Cantwell: 206-220-6400

District Representatives:

Suzan DelBene: 425-485-0085

Rick Larsen: 425-252-3188

Jaime Herrera Beutler: 360-695-6292

Dan Newhouse: 509-713-7374

Cathy McMorris Rodgers: 509-529-9358

Derek Kilmer: 360-797-3623

Pramila Jayapal: 206-674-0040

David Reichert: 425-677-7414

Adam Smith: 425-793-5180

Denny Heck: 253-533-8332

Job Openings at El Centro de la Raza!

El Centro de la Raza is Now Hiring! 

Click here for a list of all current job openings here at El Centro de la Raza! We are hiring for a variety of positions and are looking for experienced and passionate individuals to join our staff as we work to build the Beloved Community.

If you or anyone you know is interested in working at El Centro de la Raza, please contact Shannon Armstrong at, or 206-957-4626.

El Centro de la Raza’s 2017 Community Needs Assessment

El Centro de la Raza conducts a formal Community Needs Assessment every three years to summarize the current needs of the Latino community in our region. This assessment directly informs El Centro de la Raza’s organizational strategic planning process to design, improve and sustain effective programs and services that best serve the community’s needs. It’s also used to advocate for the community at the local and state level.

For this year’s Community Needs Assessment, we conducted two studies using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. CBPR engages community members as leaders in planning and implementing the study as well as analyzing and creating a plan of action from the results. This approach maintains accountability to communities most impacted by the issues studied.

We found that the top three concerns in our community are in the areas of employment, discrimination, and housing. The most pressing needs are for secure, family-wage jobs; safety from interpersonal and institutional discrimination on the basis of race, language, and immigration status; and for affordable housing with access to transit, stores and businesses, and childcare. The complete report (available here) covers these findings in more detail, and includes information about the other six areas we studied (education, healthcare, financial stability, transportation, nutrition/food access, and service utilization).

El Centro de la Raza’s leadership team is developing recommendations based on our findings for service providers, funders, and advocacy work. We will release a report summarizing these recommendations later this year.

Read the Community Needs Assessment here.

A December to Remember for José Martí Child Development Center

The children of the José Martí Child Development Center enjoyed a special month of December, following the theme of the month “Family Celebrations.”

On Monday, December 11, our children, teachers and even participants from the Senior Program enjoyed the joyful spirit of Christmas with a visit from Santa! Each child received a picture with Santa in front of a beautiful winter scene, and our friends from the University Sunrise Rotary Club, who volunteered their time for the ninth year in a row, made the celebration extra special by gifting each child a new book, to encourage their love of reading and help build their home library.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, Toys for Tots made a generous toy delivery so we could provide gifts to each of the 308 students of the José Martí Child Development Center at Beacon Hill and Hirabayashi Place and our Luis Alfonso Velasquez After School Program. This was made possible thanks to the hard work of Julius Gibson and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves with support from the local fire stations. Every single one of our children was overjoyed to receive an individual gift, and these gifts helped ensure a joyful holiday season for our beautiful children!

It was a magical time for everyone and for us it is a rewarding feeling to see so many smiling faces. Mil gracias to the University Sunrise Rotary Club, JMCDC Staff, Toys for Toys and Julius Gibson for helping to bring so much joy to our children during this holiday season.

Reaffirming Our Status as a Sensitive Location for All Immigrants

El Centro de la Raza was founded in 1972 in the old Beacon Hill School as an organization dedicated to building the Beloved Community in Seattle.  Forty-five years later, El Centro de la Raza has become an indispensable community and convening center for all people, but particularly those in the Latino community.

We provide human and emergency services including a food bank, infant mortality prevention for pregnant women, and homeless assistance.  Our asset building programs include financial education, foreclosure counseling, job training, and bilingual/ESL classes.  Our housing and economic development includes the Plaza Roberto Maestas, which features 112 affordable housing units, in addition to several other housing locations in Seattle that offer another 18 units of affordable and low-income units.  In 2016, over 10,000 households took advantage of El Centro de la Raza’s services, and over 346 people were living on our properties.

But true to our roots, El Centro de la Raza has remained, first and foremost, a school.  Our world renowned José Martí Child Development Center provides bilingual and multicultural preschool curriculum to children aged 1-5.  Our after school program tutors elementary students aged 5-12.  Middle schoolers take advantage of our summer school program.  Our Roberto Maestas Youth Leadership Institute helps address the opportunity gap in K-12 education by empowering a cohort of 30-40 Latino youth in King County to grow as leaders.  And our college readiness program helps middle- and high-school students in Seattle create a post-secondary education plan with one-on-one support.  Those are just a few of the many programs we offer to help educate babies, toddlers, youth, and young adults.

But the vulnerable communities El Centro de la Raza serves are in grave danger as the federal government has threatened to implement draconian immigration policies that could tear families apart.  The young children in our preschool are worried and nervous that their parents might not come home.  Undocumented students who have grown up in this country are afraid of being sent back to a place they have never known.

While our Beloved Community has been shaken with fear and trepidation, our resolve has not wavered.  For nearly half a century, El Centro de la Raza has been a pillar in the Seattle community, a place for all people to convene, learn, and get the help they need without fear of being taken away from their families.

We therefore reaffirm that for purposes of immigration enforcement policy, El Centro de la Raza is a sensitive location, like any other school.  As with other sensitive locations, such as hospitals and churches, we expect federal authorities not to conduct immigration raids on any of our properties, including our housing developments (which themselves offer after-school programs and other educational services).

El Centro de la Raza has a moral responsibility to the community we serve.  We will vigorously defend the rights of our people, and nonviolently resist any attempt to target El Centro de la Raza with immigration enforcement raids.  From this point forward, we will have attorneys onsite or on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to ensure that our community is protected.

El Centro de la Raza will always remain a place where families can receive information and resources in a safe and welcoming place.  We call on local, state, and federal leaders to recognize El Centro de la Raza’s unique and special role in the Seattle community as a school and gathering place for all people.

Since 1972 we have worked together to build a Beloved Community in Seattle.  We will do everything we can to defend our Beloved Community from those who would threaten our values of love, nonviolence, and inclusion.


Estela's Signiture

Estela Ortega
Sensitive Location for Immigrants

Travel Ban and Immigration Restrictions

Our communities have been put in grave danger by the new executive order put in place by Donald Trump last week. Refugees, students, visitors, and legal permanent United States residents with green cards were stopped in airports across the United States, some being blocked from entering.

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was one of the places where up to 13 people were held in detention, and over a thousand people came to protest and show their support.

Although the administration is calling this a “travel ban,” it is unmistakeable that this policy directly and inhumanely targets the Muslim community. We stand with the Muslim community, and will continue to fight together against unjust policies.

It is clear that the new administration will continue to target immigrant and refugee communities. Please be aware that there may be new orders that focus on deporting immigrants who seek public assistance and social services: read more here.

It is important for everyone to know their legal rights when encountering immigration or other officers. For more resources on your rights in different situations, click here or here for information in Spanish and here for English. Children often have unique legal situations and rights: information in Spanish and in English can help families with children who are facing different immigration-related issues.

kyr infocard
To listen to a legal interpretation in English of the new executive order and what it means for immigrant families, see the video from Colective Legal del Pueblo below, or the video from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for Spanish. Please note that both of these videos were filmed last week on January 27th, and information may have changed since then.
Colective Legal vid 2NWIRP Jorge Baron vid
Left: Sandy Restrepo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Colectiva Legal del Pueblo in Burien, WA.
Right: Jorge Barón, Executive Director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, WA.

At El Centro de la Raza, we are fighting back. After our Know Your Rights Workshop in January, we discussed arrest and detention processes with over 120 attendees, but many had specific questions that needed to be addressed one-on-one. We will be hosting another free bilingual legal clinic next week on Wednesday, February 8th from 6 PM – 8 PM at El Centro de la Raza with volunteery attorneys from the Law Office of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.

To support El Centro de la Raza’s mission of bringing justice, equality, dignity, and freedom to all people, please consider donating to help us create a program to provide support for immigration issues and address other needs that may arise due to the unpredictable administration. This may include case management, legal referrals, and know your rights training. To designate your donation to immigration support, write in “immigration support” in the Program Designation field.


Plan your next meeting or event at our new Centilia Cultural Center

Now open! Seattle’s newest event space is call The Centilia Cultural Center! The Centilia Cultural Center is perfect for Quinceañeras, Conferences, Birthdays, Meetings, and more. The Centilia Cultural Center boasts a location right next to the light rail station, state of the art audio/visual equipment, amazing multicultural artwork, and seating for up to 207 people. Book Centilia Cultural Center for all of your upcoming events! Please contact Ramiro Reyes at: or 206-973-4298 for details and reservations.