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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.

Undocumented Immigrants Prep for Deportation Relief

Barack Obama in Virginia, 8/2/2012
Flickr Photo/Barack Obama (CC-BY-NC-ND)
President Barack Obama recently used his executive powers for a deportation deferral program.

More than 100,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state can likely benefit from President Obama’s recent executive action on deportation deferrals.

But many have concerns about the program, especially as Republicans take control of Congress next month. Immigrant advocates will address some of these questions at a public event in Seattle Thursday night.


Some people who could catch a break through this policy change face a quandary: If they apply to the program, they're essentially outing themselves to the feds as undocumented. And they question, “What happens when the political winds shift? Will they come after me?”

Matt Adams is an attorney with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Projects in Seattle. He advises immigrants to consider, what’s the bigger risk? Adams said they could take advantage of the program now and worry about its political future political or continue to live without legal status.

Adams: “And fearing every time you’re stopped for a traffic ticket or by chance you get in an automobile accident or you get somehow randomly stopped by border patrol. You know those concerns I think are a lot more daunting for most individuals who are weighing the risks.”

To Adams, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks even though the policy could always be reversed.

Obama’s executive action benefits two groups of immigrants: parents of US-citizen children and so-called “dreamers” who were brought here as kids.

They stand to gain a work permit and temporary legal status that would prevent their deportation.

Those who qualify must pass a background check, pay a fee and provide ample proof that they meet the criteria.

Some Republican leaders have threatened to block the president's action, possibly through a lawsuit or legislation.

Adams’ legal group is hosting aninformation session about the program Thursday at Seattle Center.  He expects about 500 people to attend. A similar event is scheduled next month in Yakima.

Year started with KUOW: 2006