Citizenship boom

Have you ever wondered what an online Citizenship class looks like? It’s part history lesson, conversation practice and quiz show, where students are asked:

“Who signed the Emancipation Proclamation?”

“Who started the first free libraries?”

“What was the Civil War fought over?”*

Last year, ReWA’s citizenship classes moved online. In late 2020, thanks to a USCIS grant ReWA doubled their class schedule because of increased interest in preparing for the U.S. citizenship exam.

For each 12 week session, students convene online and follow a curriculum that prepares them for the U.S. citizenship exam. On-screen, students can follow along with the text book, Citizenship: Passing the Test: Civics and Literacy, and see fellow classmates in the sidebar. Students are from Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. They ask and answer questions, and during the writing assignment, hold up notebooks to the camera so their teacher can check their spelling of words like “Lincoln” and “Emancipation Proclamation”.

Mai came to citizenship classes in 2019-20 and recently passed the test. Congratulations, Mai!

Researchers estimate that helping immigrants become U.S. citizens has huge economic benefits as families invest in local economies. ReWA’s programs aim to help immigrant and refugee families integrate—socially, economically and politically. We do this through English, job readiness, and citizenship classes.

Annie Dimitras, Citizenship Coordinator said, “Our students are thrilled when they pass the test and for some, their children can get citizenship through them as well. That security for the whole family is a huge motivator for our clients.”

[box]If you want to learn more about Citizenship classes,


ReWA reaches 400 first-time voters

It was Friday morning before Election Day.

My foot anxiously tapped on the floor as I considered the potential impacts of our local and national races. ReWA’s team of six voter outreach volunteers—who spoke Vietnamese, Somali, and Arabic—were in the final days of calling new voters. They had all attended ReWA’s online training in early October where they learned how to support new voters register online, answer questions about ballot initiatives, and troubleshoot last-minute requests to register. They also managed a phone/text-banking platform to help reach voters without computer access. These texts shared information about registration deadlines, maps of nearby ballot drop box locations, and step-by-step directions to Vote Centers.

One volunteer, Tawane, a Somali gentleman who came to Washington state as a refugee, said he volunteered with ReWA to stay connected with his community. “I felt frustrated [being stuck at home] because of Covid-19, so I learned how to instruct voting by phone. This has built my connection and strengthened me.” Despite being a busy graduate student, Tawane called 25 Somali clients in just one week.

Anh, another ReWA volunteer, phone banked all the way from Chicago. She shared, “My family are Vietnamese immigrants. Most of the time they don’t think these elections affect them. The more I get involved in politics the more I realize that it directly affects us, and we have to do our part.” Anh smiled, “This was my second federal election since I became a U.S. citizen and it was empowering for me to support people who were in my position before – to be a voter.”

She isn’t the only one: observing volunteers mobilize their families and communities lifted my spirits in the tense weeks leading up to the election. One new voter who escaped civil war in her home country spoke with immense pride about becoming a U.S. citizen and casting her vote. “I’ve never had a chance to vote, until now.”

ReWA was one of 39 community-based organizations that received a grant from King County’s Voter Education Fund. Our goal was to help reduce inequities in voting access for refugee and immigrant communities with limited English proficiency (LEP) in South King County. In total, ReWA reached over 400 new voters before election day.

Tawane remembered the last call he made before Election Day, to a voter in Kent. “When I asked her (in Somali) if she received the blue envelope for voting, she enthusiastically answered, ‘Yes! Yes!!'” In that moment, he felt proud. “The local Somali community is voting to show their citizenship and proceeding with their civic duty.”

Thank you to all of our staff and volunteers, past and present, who continue to uplift the voices of our immigrant and refugee community.

In community,

Emma Thordsen
Volunteer Coordinator

[box]If you are interested in volunteering with ReWA’s future voter outreach campaigns or as a teaching assistant in online citizenship classes, check out the volunteer page or email[/box]

Ready for the Presidential Primary?

Washington State starts voting for president in the Presidential Primary Election on March 10.

What is a primary election?

During this election, Washington residents choose their favorite Democratic or Republican candidate for president to help the political parties choose their nominee later this year. We will vote again on November 3rd in the general election to choose the president.

What is different this year?

This year the whole primary process has changed for Washington State. All registered voters will receive a ballot with both Democratic and Republican candidates on it. To vote, you need to: choose a political party (on the envelope), choose a candidate, and sign your name on the envelope.

Candidates on the Ballot:





Register to vote !

English | Tiếng Việt | Español | 한국어 | 漢語

Questions? contact Annie for assistance (206-721-0243 x229 or


ReWA partners with Census 2020

ReWA partners with Census 2020 so refugee communities get counted!

In the last Census, the under-count cost King County hundreds of millions in federal funding. This year, ReWA is partnering with Census 2020 to make sure historically under-counted refugee and immigrant communities get their fair share of resources for education, housing, transportation, and more.

On March 12, the Census 2020 form will be available online in Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. However, there is a heightened concern about how the data is used, especially within immigrant and refugee communities.

Here are some facts that might surprise you:

  • The Census has been used since 1790 to count everyone in this country and determine how federal funding is distributed to states.
  • The 2010 under-count cost Rainier Valley, Kent and SeaTac $600 million dollars in funding for schools, housing, health care, and other programs that support ReWA clients.
  • The Census consists of 10 questions and DOES NOT include a question about citizenship
  • Also, according to U.S. Law (Title 13), the names of respondents are removed from the other data, and the U.S. Census Bureau is prohibited from sharing data with other agencies before the names are removed.

Census takers traveled over wide distances to count rural families in the last century.

Learn more: Census 2020 timeline

Tips to Avoid Fraud and Scams

Public Charge rule: Get the Facts

In late January, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announced that the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) public charge rule  would go into effect while legal challenges are heard in lower courts.  

Most of ReWA clients are refugees and asylees and therefore exempt from the public charge rule. However, the steady stream of anti-immigrant policies from the Trump Administration have spread fear and uncertainty. 

Their concern over being labeled a ‘public charge’ is reportedly causing parents to drop food or health care benefits for fear it would impact Green Card or citizenship applications for themselves or family members. For example, ReWA’s Basic Food program which provides food stamps for refugees who can then enroll in state-funded job training programs, has seen clients drop out. Even though the ‘public charge’ rule does not apply to refugees, case managers say many clients are afraid to take the risk.

A case manager reported, “I had a refugee client from Sudan who became homeless for a time. She needed support and job training to find a job in Seattle. But after the public charge ruling, she canceled her appointment to apply for job training because it came with food stamps.”

What can be done to help?

“Fear is the real danger here. Facts are our best defense. We tell our clients, ‘Talk to your lawyer and know the facts of your case before making any decision about applying for benefits.’

She went on to say, “Of course, we will help them find work, unofficially. One the one hand, our programs are funded by government grants and contracts, so future funding relies on enrollment numbers. But at the end of the day, we are in the business to help people—so that is what we will do.”