Immigration Reform | KUOW News and Information

Immigration Reform

As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.

Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.

Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Dozens of murals hang on the walls at the Northwest Detention Center. They're painted by detainees, and the designs must be approved by staff. Painting is also considered a voluntary job, and the artists are paid $1 per day for their work.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

A federal program that gives legal status to some undocumented youth is under legal threat.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was established five years ago under President Barack Obama. But a deadline is looming that could dismantle the program.  

KUOW Photo / Amina Ibrahim

The process of immigrating to the U.S. is complicated and getting harder all the time. Abdulai Yakubu immigrated from Ghana to go to Cornell University and ended up in Seattle. 

He has made it most of the way through the immigration process. Now he’s now wading through the questions of the U.S. Application for Naturalization.  Click or tap on the photos above to see his answers. 

Adeline Guerra is a 19-year old nursing student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, and is one of 1.4 million people living and working in the U.S. under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The Burien City Council. (Back row) Councilmember Debi Wagner, Councilmember Austin Bell, Councilmember Stephen Armstrong, Councilmember Bob Edgar. (Front row) Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz.
Official photograph

Bill Radke talks with Craig Keller and Pedro Olguin about a Burien city ordinance meant to protect immigrants. The ordinance makes it illegal for city employees to ask residents about their immigration status.

On Monday, the Burien City Council voted to put Ordinance 651 up to a public vote this November.

The Burien City Council. (Back row) Councilmember Debi Wagner, Councilmember Austin Bell, Councilmember Stephen Armstrong, Councilmember Bob Edgar. (Front row) Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz.
Official photograph

The Burien City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to keep its sanctuary city status. The council passed its sanctuary city law with a 4-3 vote earlier this year.

Now, they're debating an initiative that would undo that measure. The council can either approve the initiative, or send it to voters to decide.


Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing back against the federal government.

On Monday, the city is filing suit against the Department of Justice, which announced it would withhold millions of dollars in police grant money from so-called sanctuary cities.

Emanuel is suing because he says new rules for a federal crime-fighting grant go against the Constitution and the city's values.

"Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate," Emanuel said.

A family waits to speak with an immigration attorney at a free legal clinic hosted by the City of Seattle
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Kim Malcolm talks with Wired Magazine senior writer Issie Lapowsky about a new Senate proposal that would overhaul the legal immigration system in the U.S.

It would cut in half the number of immigrants admitted to the U.S. and scrap the current system, which favors family reunification.

Instead, it would introduce what the president calls a "merit-based" system. Immigrants with English proficiency, education and high-paying job offers would be given preference to acquire a green card.

Through the smokey haze and in an air conditioned building, Chris Vance, Cathy Allen, Bill Radke and Erica Barnett.
KUOW Photo/ Kara McDermott

Are you hot? We're hot. It's hot. Not as hot as it could be because of the smoke from British Columbia's wildfires, but we're still in a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s. 

Davino Watson told the immigration officers that he was a U.S. citizen. He told jail officials that he was a U.S. citizen. He told a judge. He repeated it again and again.

There is no right to a court-appointed attorney in immigration court. Watson, who was 23 and didn't have a high school diploma when he entered ICE custody, didn't have a lawyer of his own. So he hand-wrote a letter to immigration officers, attaching his father's naturalization certificate, and kept repeating his status to anyone who would listen.

Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who garnered nationwide attention for his crackdown on illegal immigration, has been convicted of criminal contempt by a federal judge in Arizona. The ruling carries a possible maximum sentence of six months in jail and a monetary fine for the 85-year-old Arpaio.

Dr. Anisa Ibrahim with her two children
Courtesy of Anisa Ibrahim

My cousin Anisa Ibrahim is 30 years old. She’s funny, kind, and compassionate, and an amazing sister, mother, and doctor. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, she came to America when she was 6 years old and has accomplished so much since then. 


Floribert Mubalama speaks with Julia Donk about his experiences as an immigrant on  July 22, 2017 as part of KUOW's Ask An Immigrant event.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Questions surrounding immigration are regular parts of the news cycle these days. We hear stories of immigrants being harassed, detained and deported. We hear stories of families separated.

Many of us may not have the opportunity to talk to immigrants about their experiences. KUOW created a space for those questions recently at an "Ask an Immigrant" event in Bellevue. 

KUOW’s "Ask a ___" events create a safe and respectful environment for people to explore each other's views. 

A detainee sits in the intake area at the Tacoma Detention Center in 2017.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

When the Department of Justice ordered a group of Seattle lawyers to stop helping in some immigration cases, the lawyers fought back.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones sided with the lawyers again in a nationwide ruling.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

The Trump Administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants is causing some people to avoid seeking medical care.  Public Health Seattle-King County is taking steps to reassure patients.


Dozens of murals hang on the walls at the Northwest Detention Center. They're painted by detainees, and the designs must be approved by staff. Painting is also considered a voluntary job, and the artists are paid $1 per day for their work.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The policy changes came fast as President Donald Trump took office.

In Seattle, a city where roughly one in five people are immigrants, protests erupted. First, when Trump ordered a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.

The Trump Organization is asking the federal government for special visas to hire scores of foreign workers for two of President Trump's private clubs in Florida — the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach and the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter.

The crowd at a 2016 public meeting in Tacoma rises when asked to stand if they oppose the proposed methanol plant.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Environmental issues haven't been a big focus in the race to become Seattle's next mayor, but they're playing a key role in Tacoma.

The author (left) with her mother, Maria Espinoza, at the Womxn's March on Seattle in January 2017.
COURTESY OF MILLA ESPINOZA

When my mom, Maria Espinoza, came to the United States from Russia at age 13, it was toward the end of the Cold War, and some Americans were openly hostile to Russians. 


Jacinta Morales learned she was pregnant after she was processed into ICE detention. She said she was happy to be pregnant.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

She wears a yellow uniform, loose, with a sweatshirt underneath. Her long hair, braided in tight cornrows near her temples. Her handshake, timid.

We talk in a small meeting room at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, with her attorney and an interpreter.


Detainee at theImmigration and Customs Enforcement's Tacoma Detention Center in July, 2017.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with Franco Ordonez, White House correspondent for McClatchy, about the uncertain future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA shields some immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.

Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington
Flickr Photo/Michael Matti (CC-BY-NC-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/gx9bsh

International students would face tougher scrutiny under a proposal being considered by the Trump Administration.

According to the Washington Post, foreign college students would have to reapply for their visas each year in order to stay in the U.S. Currently, international students can live in the U.S. as long as they're enrolled in college on full-time basis.

Manuel stands next to a window in his English class.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Every year tens of thousands of children unlawfully cross the border without parents or guardians. They’re fleeing violence and poverty.


The U.S. refugee program surpassed the Trump Administration's 50,000-person cap on Wednesday, meaning that many refugees will now be denied entry into the country.

courtesy Agenda Migrante

As some Dreamers feel less welcome in the U.S., Mexico is making a play to attract them back. A small delegation from Mexico recently visited Seattle to meet with local officials, advocates and undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.


South Lake Union neighborhood, home to many Seattle tech companies
Flickr Photo/Tim Eytan (CC-BY-SA-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/9yHUyP

Emily Fox talks with immigration attorney Tahmina Watson about President Trump's decision to put an end to the International Entrepreneur Rule, which would have allowed some foreign business owners to build their companies in the U.S.

An immigrant detainee knits at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

President Trump’s vow to crack down on illegal immigration has focused renewed attention on the detention centers built to hold immigrants awaiting deportation.


The Pentagon is considering pulling out of a deal it made with thousands of noncitizen recruits with specialized skills: Join the military and we'll put you on the fast track to citizenship.

The proposal to dismantle the program would cancel enlistment contracts for many of the foreign-born recruits, leaving about 1,000 of them without legal protection from deportation.

Irfan Fazl, center, a dual citizen of the UK and Kenya, reunites with friends at Sea-Tac Airport after his flight from London. He's Muslim and his friends worried the travel ban might cause problems.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban is now reinstated at U.S. borders. It places new visa restrictions six Muslim countries and refugees — except for people with a close connection to the U.S. KUOW was at Sea-Tac airport Thursday night as the ban started and the first international flight came through.

 

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

A portion of President Trump’s travel ban on six majority Muslim nations is set to be reinstated on Thursday. Much has changed since the initial ban rolled out in late January, leading to a weekend of chaos and protest at Sea-Tac Airport. This time around is likely to be more subdued.


KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke talks with KUOW immigration reporter Liz Jones about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments this fall on President Trump's revised travel ban. The high court also allowed portions of the travel ban to take effect beginning on Thursday.

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