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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.

Seattle Immigrants: We're Not 'In The Shadows'

Immigrant workers and families gathered at locations across Washington state last night to hear President Obama’s immigration announcement. KUOW’s Liz Jones was at one of those watch parties in Seattle’s Central District, and filed this report.

TRANSCRIPT

Around a hundred parents, children and workers packed into a meeting room at Casa Latina. It’s a day labor center in Seattle. The evening started upbeat.

[Sound of chanting: "Si se puede!"]

Before the speech, people reminisced about chants they’ve shouted over the years. And their many marches for immigration reform.

[Sound of TV]

Then, the room sat in silence, as they watched a Spanish-language broadcast of President Obama’s speech.

Many expected the news, that Obama would offer protections for only a certain group of undocumented immigrants. Specifically, those with U.S. born children. Obama’s action allows them work permits and a shield from deportation.

After the speech, reactions were mixed … but emotional.

“This is so hard, said Nazaria Morales. “It’s been eight years since I’ve seen my mother and daughter in Mexico.”

Morales has another daughter born here. So she can benefit from Obama’s action.

Still, she choked up as she stood in front of others, who don’t qualify. And she urged them not to lose hope.

“And people who don’t qualify, don’t lose hope,” Morales said. “Keep fighting to be with our families.”

Many in the room bristled to hear Obama refer to undocumented immigrants as “in the shadows.” He used that term four times in his speech.

“We pay taxes,” said Syliva Gonzalez. “We clean your houses, we work in your yards, and you still tell us that we’re in the shadows? This is not ok.”

Gonzalez has lived in the U.S. several years. But she has no U.S. born children, so will not benefit from Obama’s policy change.

As people shared their reactions, friends hugged and many cried together.

And still, despite many dashed hopes, they tried to see this night as a victory.

“This is only the beginning, not the end,” said Carlos Martinez, a 19-year-old college student.

“Use your stories, use your voices,” Martinez said. “And please don’t lose faith.”

Year started with KUOW: 2006