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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 Won't Get Many Syrian Refugees

A barefoot boy stands on a cement wall after his family's arrival on a dinghy from the Turkish coasts to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. About half a million refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, although few will end up in Seattle.
AP Photo/Santi Palacios
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A barefoot boy stands on a cement wall after his family's arrival on a dinghy from the Turkish coasts to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. About half a million refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, although few will end up in Seattle.

Here's the short answer to how many more Syrians are expected to resettle in Washington state: Not many. At least not in the next couple years.

“Definitely not 3,000 Syrians coming to Seattle," says Bob Johnson. Johnson heads the Seattle office of the International Rescue Committee. It's one of the largest resettlement agencies in the country. 

"We might receive an extra 35 to 40, but it’s not going to be a substantial number,” he says.

Some media outlets here have said Seattle would be welcoming thousands of Syrians. But Johnson says that's not true. 

Last year, about 25 Syrians refugees arrived in Washington state. The IRC helped resettle 17 of them. Johnson says he'd happily welcome more. “For the most part they seem to be well-educated, motivated to work and have done fairly well,” he says.

Johnson says Syrian refugees come here from camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where it can take up to two years to complete various security checks and other paperwork.

In September, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. will take in more refugees than usual next year, bringing the yearly total to 85,000. At least 10,000 will be from Syria.

As a result, many states – including Washington - will see a slight uptick in new refugee arrivals.

Washington state welcomed about 2,600 new refugees last year. Johnson expects that number will go up by a couple hundred.

Last year, most of refugees in Washington came from Somalia, Ukraine and Burma.

Year started with KUOW: 2006