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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.

Rallies For Immigration Reform From Seattle To DC

Supporters of immigration reform call the outside of the Federal Building in downtown Seattle their patio. That’s because they’ve gathered here so many times in the past decade to push for an overhaul to the country’s immigration system, including a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in  the US illegally.

At a rally Wednesday, organizers estimated about 150 people turned out for the event. They paraded in front of the Federal Building with signs and chants of “si se puede,” or “yes we can.”

Immigrant Araceli Hernandez has attended these protests at the Federal Building for about 15 years. She said she’s ready for a successful end to this tradition.

“I don’t want to return for the same cause,” Hernandez said. “I’ll return for another fight.”

The Seattle rally echoed a gathering of thousands in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, also calling for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Supporters have watched past immigration bills fail in Congress, most recently in 2007 and 2010. But this year, organizer Jorge Quiroga said the political stars seem to be aligning. The big difference, he said, is more Republicans are now on board after the 2012 election showed eroding support from Latinos.

“This election showed very clearly that, yes, we do care and we vote according to that,” Quiroga said.

Congress members working on a bill have said legislation could be introduced as early as this week. Quiroga said he’s nervous to see what details will be included in the bill and he fears it may fall short of what immigrants expect.

The Seattle rally drew no visible opposition, but on the national level, groups that are critical of reforms reiterated their concerns. On its website, the group Numbers USA issued an alert Wednesday urging people to reject efforts to give unauthorized immigrants legal status to work in the US.

Mexican immigrant Alma Gutierrez of Tacoma has attended these rallies at the Federal Building for about 10 years. In that time, she said she has watched immigrants’ attitudes change from doubt to certainty that Congress will pass a reform bill.

Looking out at the crowd of families, students and union workers, Gutierrez rated her confidence level at 100 percent that reforms will happen soon.

Year started with KUOW: 2006