Tukwila Church Overwhelmed by Migrants, Pleads for Emergency Declaration

A pastor near Seattle is urging local officials to take responsibility for overwhelming their town with migrants and declare a state of emergency after transporting thousands of asylum seekers to the suburban community.

An article in The Seattle Times highlights the desperation of Riverton Park United Methodist Church in Tukwila, Washington, just south of Seattle. Led by Pastor Rev. Jan Bolerjack, the church has been turned into a temporary shelter for migrants, many sent from Seattle by police citing a lack of resources.

Bolerjack has responded to the crisis as Seattle officials have refused to open sufficient shelters, according to The Seattle Times. The pastor initially expected temporary housing until government assistance arrived, but Seattle police continued sending migrants for 18 months, stopping only when the church reached capacity in March. Families with babies and children have been turned away.

Despite being the first to send migrants, Seattle officials have ignored Bolerjack’s pleas for help and failed to declare an emergency. The Seattle Times reported that by 2023, the pastor was overwhelmed and seeking assistance, including from Hamdi Mohamed, director of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Mohamed suggested calling King County’s crisis line and searching the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network’s Resource Finder.

The church property is now home to over 300 people, including elderly, newborns, pregnant women, and jobless men, with more than 2,000 having passed through. Bolerjack has asked Seattle for help multiple times, but has received little response, including an appeal from Jennifer Tenorio, a former border patrol agent who now oversees Seattle’s community service officers.

Tenorio said shelters are full in Seattle, prompting her to call Bolerjack. She wrote to city leaders in April 2023, warning of a worsening crisis. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has been reluctant to declare an emergency, citing budget constraints. Donations to Bolerjack’s church are running out.

An automatic reply to a request for comment from Fox News Digital says “WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING NEW ARRIVALS TO OUR TEMPORARY SHELTER AT THIS TIME,” listing needed items, including eggs, milk, toothbrushes, towels, and baby wipes.

The Tukwila website warns asylum-seekers of limited shelter and service space, with 350 people living on church grounds.

City and county officials are discussing using a $2 million King County grant to address the crisis. Harrell’s office said the city supports migrants “as best we can, particularly in a resource-limited environment.”

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