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.

Most aspiring chefs long for the white hat, the gleaming kitchen, the fancy menu.

But Nigeria-born Tunde Wey stumbled into a different version of the (American) chef's dream. He wanted to see the country and share the food of his West African childhood with friends and strangers along the way.

So a few months ago, he packed up his knives and his spices at his home in Detroit and started crisscrossing the U.S. by Greyhound bus.

A farmworker in Western Washington.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Hundreds of farm workers from Mexico are now making their way to the Northwest after a major delay.

A computer glitch crippled the U.S. visa system, including a guest worker program that Northwest farmers increasingly rely on.

Officer Michelle Vallor and community leader Vung It.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Seattle police officers don’t get involved in immigration issues as a rule – but that doesn’t mean their relationship with refugees is easy.

The city wants to change that by bringing together officers and people who often avoid them – like Officer Michelle Vallor and 19-year-old Vung It.

The Department of Homeland Security says it is changing its family detention policies, but critics say the steps don't go far enough.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin releasing families now being held at ICE facilities who are "successful in stating a case of credible or reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries."

The families will have to post a monetary bond or other condition of release.

Ta Kwe Say, 23, says this drawing in the book 'Forced to Flee' depicts how Burmese army recruits are programmed to choose violence over justice.
Courtesy of Erika Berg

What would you do if you were forced to leave your country and couldn't go home? For refugees in Washington state, that's more than a hypothetical question.

Seattle Playwright Yussef El Guindi.
Courtesy ACT Theatre

Seattle-based playwright Yussef El Guindi was born in Egypt. But he feels more at ease in his adopted home.

"Egypt is always going to a part of my background, my heritage," he says. "But I've been here 30 years now. I definitely consider myself American."

New American citizens take the oath at Seattle City Hall on Flag Day on Sunday.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

"I wanted to feel I belong."

On Sunday, KUOW partnered with CityClub, Citizen University and One America to celebrate citizenship and civic life at City Hall on Flag Day. The day started with a naturalization ceremony and ended with food, live music and an offering of resources for new citizens, including library cards, voter registration and "Civic Action Toolkits" to take home. 

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

Guaranteed payments to contractors at federal detention centers have helped to create a quota system for immigration enforcement, according to a report released Thursday by advocates for detainees.

Flickr Photo/Wonderlane (CC-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde talks with University of Washington philosophy professor Michael Blake about the ethics of proposals by companies in this region -- like Microsoft -- to hire more foreign workers.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Immigration officials have busted an Eastern Washington farm for major violations. Now, the farm is set to pay the largest fine ever in the state for illegally hiring workers.

Aneesh Sheth speaks at KUOW's Storywallahs event in early May at the Kirkland Performing Arts Center.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

The South Asian community in the United States has roots in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The community represents one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country. From 2000 to 2010 their population grew by 81 percent nationally, in Seattle the increase was 173 percent.

photo courtesy of Sumaiya Mahee

(Reader's Note: Sumaiya Mahee wrote this essay "You're Not Who You Say You Are: Beyond the Single Story" for her 8th grade English class in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was part of a course that taught all students that they each have been stereotyped — and how those stories are generally all wrong.)

Outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

The immigration detention center in Tacoma has been hit this week by new allegations of abuse by guards.

An incident in mid-April set off this recent flurry of complaints against the Northwest Detention Center. Several detainees say they witnessed guards allegedly assault an elderly man from Honduras.

Hector Alonso, 38, says he came to the U.S. to help support his parents and seven siblings. He was 18 when he left home.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Undocumented immigrants around the country had hoped to celebrate Tuesday. It’s the day a new federal policy was set to kick in, offering new benefits to many parents of children born in the U.S.

But that plan is currently tied up in court.

KUOW's Liz Jones stopped in at a rally held to mark the day in Seattle.

Somalis moved to Seattle in two waves -- one in the 1970s and the second after 1991. Somalia's prime minister stopped in Seattle to ask for their help.
Flickr Photo/City of Seattle Tech

We need your help.

That’s the message from Somalia’s former prime minister as he tours the U.S. to meet with Somali diaspora communities. There are about 100,000 Somalis in the U.S., most of them in Minnesota, Ohio and Seattle.

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