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.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Seattle area immigration attorney Luis Cortes knew this was a case he had to take. 

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET.

The U.S. Justice Department has escalated its approach to so-called sanctuary cities, writing at least eight jurisdictions Friday to put them on notice they could be failing to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Alan Hanson, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's grant-making arm, warned the cities that they're required to submit proof that they comply with federal immigration law.

At the public library in the rural Morgan County town of Brush, Colo., Marissa Velazquez welcomes her students to class. It's a sunny Saturday morning, and the day marks the halfway point in Velazquez's class, a 10-week crash course on American history, civics and English.

Nearly all of the students work in either meatpacking or dairying. Everyone in it has the same goal: become an American citizen. In two hours, Velazquez runs through voting rights, the legislative process and some grammar tips.

Pop quiz: When do we celebrate the venerable American holiday of Flag Day?

Bill Radke talks with Emily Parkhurst, editor-in-chief of the Puget Sound Business Journal. Parkhurst discusses President Donald Trump's most recent executive order which orders a review of H1-B visas. Parkhurst explains that these visas are what bring much of the specialized tech workers to the U.S., but that there is also a high potential for fraud and exploitation of immigrants.

Volunteers help with citizenship forms.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

In two separate measures passed Monday, Seattle and King County set aside money for low-income immigrants who may need a lawyer or legal advice.

That would include people who face deportation, most of whom don't have an attorney.

President Trump is trying to put more muscle into his campaign slogan of "Buy American and Hire American" and is preparing to sign an executive order Tuesday aimed at strengthening existing government policies to support domestic products and workers.

Trump is expected to sign the order during a visit to the Snap-on tool company in Kenosha, Wis.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicle in downtown Seattle
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Kim Malcolm talks with New York Times reporter Caitlin Dickerson about new regulations that would roll back health and safety standards for detained immigrants. 

Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

A class action lawsuit says the company running an immigration detention center in Colorado is violating federal anti-slavery laws. It’s the same company that runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, scene of an expanding hunger strike.

Victor Pizarro, who runs a cab company in Plattsburgh, N.Y., started noticing something unusual in January, around the time of President Trump's inauguration.

People who didn't speak English were getting off at the bus station in the city, located about 20 miles from the Canadian border, and handing his drivers a piece of paper that read, "Take me to Roxham Road. How much?"

Pizarro had never heard of Roxham Road. It's a narrow street that dead-ends in a ditch marking the border between the U.S. and Canada.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Bill Radke speaks with Ramilya Salem and Yunus Alhobane, two students at Edmonds Community College. Three years ago, they came to America for a 10-month high school exchange program through the state department.

Then, a civil war broke out in their home country of Yemen. It was too dangerous for them to go home, so the State Department extended their stay.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Wednesday that its affiliates had filed 13 coordinated Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, demanding government documents related to implementation of the president's executive orders on travel and immigration.

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

Kim Malcolm talks with Axios tech editor Kim Hart about recent rule changes to the H-1B visa program, and what they could mean for tech workers in the Puget Sound region.

A file picture from Oct. 17, 2008, shows the 'B' cell and bunk unit of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Immigrants at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma are continuing a hunger strike, according to immigrant advocacy group Latino Advocacy.

Latino Advocacy director Maru Mora Villalpando said up to 200 people were participating in the hunger strike Monday.

President Trump's updated executive order, the one restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries, is blocked for now.

But administrators at Northeastern University in Boston aren't taking any chances.

"We're in a state of limbo," says Mike Armini, who oversees government relations. "We don't quite know what's going to happen next, so we've advised them to stay here," he says, talking about the 250 Northeastern students from those six countries.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Liz Jones talks with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson about the role of local governments in federal immigration enforcement. The Attorney General's office produced a document that lays out best practices and policies for police departments, schools, hospitals, and other public agencies.

Read the full document online here.

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