Sally Hudson Tellekson of Bainbridge Island has joined the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center as the center’s new executive director.
Tellekson recently began work, and will lead the agency’s efforts to address the growing challenges faced by local immigrants in the current political landscape.
“The need for legal services has skyrocketed since the 2016 Election,” Tellekson noted.
“We currently have over 350 open legal cases and many in removal proceedings, some of whom are children. Hundreds of local immigrants are being held in the Tacoma Detention Center,” she said. “We’re training new legal assistants and expanding as quickly as possible.”
The workload is extensive, but the support has been as well, she said.
Community funding has enabled the center to expand its resources, Tellekson added.
“We’ve seen an outpouring of support from Kitsap County residents and organizations who want their immigrant neighbors to get the support they need. We’ve raised enough money to step up our legal defense efforts and will be looking for more ways to fund these costs because the truth is, many immigrants are living in fear,” she said.
Part of Tellekson’s new role will be overseeing the agency’s move to larger Bremerton offices early next year, consolidating family and legal services.
Founded in 2004, the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center has stepped up its services in the past year, and has served an estimated 17,000 immigrants in Kitsap County alone.
In addition to legal services, the center’s family services offer citizenship workshops, medical and dental clinics and language learning resources. Clients come from more than 35 countries of origin and the center’s programs are offered in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties.
“Many of our immigrant neighbors are worried about issues like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and deportation,” Tellekson said. “They need legal representation in order to have any hope of finding justice in our courts. Their families also need community health resources they can’t always afford.”
“My job is to make sure they find this support in the face of rising need,” she said.
Tellekson practiced law in Chicago and brings more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and consulting to her new position. She is also active in social justice and serves on several community nonprofit boards.