By Alia Sinclair

352 asylum seekers are currently being housed at the DoubleTree hotel in SeaTac.

Hosts of asylum seekers, primarily from Venezuela, Angola, and Congo, fleeing violence and conflict in their home countries, have been pouring into Tukwila and the region since December, 2022.

The Seattle Times reported in February that the Riverton Park United Methodist Church, run by Reverend Jan Bolerjack, is at the forefront of relief efforts – efforts that are being pushed to their limits. The church sheltered up to 500 people at the end of last year, with more coming all of the time.

The asylum seekers currently being housed at the DoubleTree include 176 children who are enrolled in school. There are also a number of children housed there that are too young to go to school and 3 baby girls and 1 baby boy have been born since the asylees have taken up residence in the DoubleTree.

Housing at the SeaTac hotel is possible through a $3 million contribution from King County given in December 2023, and intended to keep the asylees housed until summer.

Due to federal regulations, the majority of asylees are unable to obtain work permits to secure jobs and housing on their own, making for a challenging time.

Deputy Mayor Iris Guzman commented on the situation at the SeaTac City Council Meeting on Tuesday (March 12th) stating:

“I just want to note that this is a regional approach, so it isn’t befalling just on the City of SeaTac. So, it’s not like we have these tremendous costs associated with [the asylum seekers.]”

Mayor Mohamed Egal also commented, sharing his personal story of coming to America. Mayor Egal stated that – due to a misunderstanding – he had a plane ticket to Oakland, California when he intended to go to Auckland, New Zealand. As a result, he landed in America with a visa for the wrong country.

“32 years ago, I was in that position. I showed up at the LAX International airport without a visa,” Mayor Egal said.

“I was taken to a detention center. And within two months I got my employment authorization, the card [that says] I can work. And within three months, I get a job. In the middle of that month, I get my first paycheck. I had a life in America because of the kindness of the American people. So I would like to be a part of finding a solution on this. And we can find a solution.”

Mayor Egal said that he has visited the church in Tukwila twice and the conditions are unhealthily overcrowded.

“I think we can do better,” Mayor Egal said. “[The asylees] are willing and eager and very happy to be in this country. They just need somebody or some organization to settle it so they can get up the next morning and go to work.“