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.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Flickr Photo/Heisenberg Media/https://flic.kr/p/iedLj7

In a company blog post dated January 24, 2018 — just two weeks after immigration officials raided 7-Elevens across the country to find and arrest undocumented workers  — Microsoft general manager Tom Keane touted the company's relationship with the agency that conducted the crackdown: ICE.

ICE had started using a Microsoft cloud-computing service called Azure, Keane explained. The company, he said, was "proud" to support the work of helping ICE "innovate faster."

Updated at 12:35 p.m. ET

"We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says, as top Trump administration officials call out critics of its "zero tolerance" policy that calls for separating families who cross the border illegally.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

With chants of "families united" and "free our children now," hundreds of people marched to the tent city in Tornillo, Texas, where children have been detained for immigration violations.

The Father's Day march near El Paso was primarily organized by Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas, who is also running for Senate against Ted Cruz. He says the march was the brainchild of Veronica Escobar, who is running to fill his seat in the House, as well as other community leaders.

The Department of Homeland Security says 1,995 minors were separated from their "alleged adult guardians" at the southern border in just over a monthlong period.

A DHS spokesman said the separations occurred between April 19 and the end of May under the administration's relatively new "zero tolerance" policy, in which parents have also been arrested.

A two-year-old child from Honduras gets treatment for an ear infection after sleeping in the open in front of the El Chaparral port of entry, in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, April 30, 2018.
AP Photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik

Kim Malcolm talks with Beth Farmer about the experiences of asylum seekers who are coming to the United States from Central America. Farmer is director of Refugees Northwest.

Updated June 15 at 12:50 p.m. ET

This is the largest government-contracted migrant youth shelter in the country: Casa Padre, a former Walmart supercenter converted into living, recreational and dining quarters for nearly 1,500 immigrant boys.

Shelter managers took reporters on a tour of the facility in Brownsville, Texas, on Wednesday, amid criticism over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that has led to separating migrant families who crossed the border illegally.

The federal prison at SeaTac where 177 women seeking asylum have been jailed. About half of those women were taken from their children at the border. The children were between 3 and 16 years.
Daniel Berman for KUOW

Kim Malcolm talks with immigration attorney Jorge Baron about the experiences of asylum seekers who are being jailed at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. Baron is executive director of the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project.

Members of NWDC Resistance chant during the Solidarity Day protest outside of the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
Daniel Berman for KUOW

The dozens of moms jailed in SeaTac didn’t realize what was happening when they were torn from their children.


The Trump administration's policy of separating families who are detained after illegally crossing the Southern border has become a lightning rod for the White House's critics.

Hundreds of children have already been separated from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy in May — though the practice has been going on for at least several months.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it has acquired new space in federal prisons to house immigrant detainees — more than 1,600 beds.

Because of a "current surge in illegal border crossings" and the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy," ICE entered into agreements with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the agency said Thursday.

A two-year-old child from Honduras gets treatment for an ear infection after sleeping in the open in front of the El Chaparral port of entry, in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, April 30, 2018.
AP Photo/Hans-Maximo Musielik

Update: ICE confirmed to KUOW that 209 people are currently being held at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center — 177 of them women. We do not know how many of them are mothers who were separated from their children at the border.

As many as 209 asylum seekers captured near the U.S.-Mexico border have been transferred to a federal prison in SeaTac — many of them women who had their children taken from them by federal agents, immigrant rights attorneys say.


Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He was awarded that honor in 2016 for his debut novel “The Sympathizer.” Then he received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is stirring panic in immigrant communities by moving to limit who can get asylum in the United States. Perhaps no one is more alarmed than one Salvadoran woman living in the Carolinas.

She is known only by her initials in immigration court papers, so her lawyers call her Ms. A.B. She fled to the U.S. four years ago, after enduring more than a decade of domestic abuse in her home country, and requested asylum here.

Updated May 18

President Trump, speaking on Wednesday to a gathering of officials from California who oppose the state's "sanctuary" law, compared some people who illegally cross the U.S. southern border to "animals."

Daniel Ramirez Medina, left, and his brother Tony Ramirez Medina outside of U.S. District Court in Seattle on May 1st, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

It’s been more than a year since immigration officials raided a Seattle-area home and detained Daniel Ramirez Medina, a 23-year-old who was a recipient of the federal ‘dreamer’ program.

KUOW PHOTO/ Gil Aegerter

Bill Radke talks to actor Alan Cumming about home, becoming American, identity and learning to let go.

Daniel Ramirez Medina, left, and his brother Tony Ramirez Medina outside of U.S. District Court in Seattle on May 1st, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

A federal judge in Seattle has upheld, for now, Daniel Ramirez Medina’s DACA status.

During intense arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices, by a narrow margin, seemed to be leaning toward upholding the third and current version of the Trump travel ban.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the deciding vote in closely contested cases, for example, made repeated comments suggesting that the court does not usually second-guess a president's national security decisions — even in the context of an immigration law that bans discrimination based on nationality.

A federal judge has ruled against the Trump administration's decision to end deportation protections for some young immigrants, saying the White House was "arbitrary and capricious" in moving to end the Obama-era DACA program.

In a blow to President Trump, who has long railed against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia said the Department of Homeland Security had failed to provide an adequate rationale for why the program is unlawful.

Bellingham, Washington, dedicates a new monument this Saturday that speaks to the Pacific Northwest's long and conflicted history with immigration. The "Arch of Healing and Reconciliation" memorializes the past expulsions of immigrant Sikhs, Japanese and Chinese.

Virginia Cole, with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, teaches a legal aid class at the Northwest Detention Center on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Every day at detention centers around the country, lawyers give "know your rights" presentations to immigrants facing deportation. For many, it’s the only legal help they’ll get.

And the feds just pulled the money for the program.

Mary Ann Peters, "impossible monument (flotsam)" detail
Courtesy Mary Ann Peters

Last Saturday’s biological weapons attack in Syria set off yet another wave of involuntary migration. Lebanese-American artist Mary Ann Peters says that this water-based lingo isn’t an accident. 


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

Immigration authorities have detained 506 pregnant women since December, when the Trump administration ended a policy to release most pregnant women while their immigration cases are pending.


The announcement of the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire has launched calls for lawsuits, legislation and now multiple congressional hearings. In a letter written to the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has oversight of the U.S.

Noe Vasquez, right, on a state wildfire crew in the Okanogan Valley. After Vasquez lost his DACA status and his job, a traffic stop led to immigration custody.
Courtesy of Noe Vasquez

The small outpost of Tonasket sits near the northern border of Washington state, surrounded by forests and farmland. It's probably not where you want to be if you're an immigrant at risk of deportation.

Just ask 20-year-old Noe Vasquez.


Javier Maldonado arrived at the jail around 8 a.m., July 20.

Police had charged him with trespassing, a misdemeanor, after they said Maldonado entered his neighbor’s apartment in Hood River, Oregon.

Maldonado was ordered to get fingerprinted at North Oregon Regional Corrections Facilities, the jail in The Dalles. And then he was supposed to be released.

Except the jail didn’t let him go.

Instead, officials at the jail locked him up because U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement sent documents asking jail staff to hold Maldonado in custody.

Immigrant rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando speaks to supporters after an initial court hearing on her deportation case.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Prominent immigrant rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando has asked a Seattle immigration judge to throw out her deportation case.

Villalpando’s lawyers claim the Bellingham resident was unlawfully targeted because of her political activity and protests against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Father Antonio Illas was federal immigration agent for 25 years before becoming a priest.
KUOW Photo/Andy Hurst

Father Antonio Illas was a federal immigration agent for 25 years before he turned his life to God.

Updated at 5:27 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and asylum seekers, do not have the right to periodic bond hearings.

Maru Mora Villalpando, far right, joins a 2014 protest outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Newly released public records suggest a prominent Northwest activist was targeted for deportation partly because she spoke out to the media. Lawyers say the documents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raise concerns about free speech.


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