New boss for city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs

Seattle's new Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director Cuc Vu (center) flanked by Mayor Ed Murray and outgoing Interim Director Aaliyah Gupta. (Photo by Kamna Shastri)
Seattle’s new Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director Cuc Vu (center) flanked by Mayor Ed Murray and outgoing Interim Director Aaliyah Gupta. (Photo by Kamna Shastri)

Tuesday morning, Seattle Mayor Edward Murray introduced Cuc Vu as the new acting director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA). Vu will be taking the place of Interim Director Aaliyah Gupta.

Founded in 2012, OIRA’s mission is to support the integration and settlement process of immigrants and refugees into the city. It advocates for the needs of various immigrant communities within the Seattle area and also works to foster a region-wide culture built on the understanding that all aspects of society can gain from the engagement of immigrant communities.

Vu grew up in Olympia, but has spent the last twenty years working in Washington D.C. advocating for a variety of social justice causes including workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights — as well as immigration issues. Before taking on the current position of OIRA director, Vu was the first Chief Diversity Officer at the Human Rights Campaign. She has also worked with the Service Employees International Union and the U.S Department of Labor.

Vu’s experience with immigration is not only professional but closely personal as well. She and her family left Vietnam in 1975 as refugees. At a press conference, Vu candidly recalled being separated from her two older sisters and father during the immigration process and also having to interpret for her mother when buying food stamps.

“That is why I believe passionately that Seattle should be and can be a leading city in the country on immigration. I know there has been a lot of feedback we’ve solicited form members of the community and now is the time for action.” Vu said.

She said she plans to immediately begin working on three main issues; community safety in light of recent shootings involving immigrants, providing language access across all city departments, and integrating immigrant communities by providing resources to learn English.

Vu added that efforts to support immigrants should be alive not just within the walls of Seattle City Hall, but all around the city.

She’ll be the third person to hold the position of OIRA director. The office was created by former Mayor Mike McGinn in 2012, with Mexican American farm worker advocate and poet Magdaleno Rose-Avila at the helm. After taking over as mayor in January, Ed Murray appointed Aaliyah Gupta as interim director and announced that he would expand the budget and staff of the office.

The Seattle P-I reported that Vu’s salary will be $125,000. According to the city’s website, Vu and her wife are new parents, and Vu has been a competitive soccer player since she was eight years old.

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