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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.

This Immigrant Family Got Bellevue Hot For Squash

Shabana Khan stands in front of a painting at Pro Sports, Bellevue, that depicts members of her family playing squash. (Shabana is the one in blue, while her brother Azam is in the center of the painting at her left).
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
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Shabana Khan stands in front of a painting at Pro Sports, Bellevue, that depicts members of her family playing squash. (Shabana is the one in blue, while her brother Azam is in the center of the painting at her left).

The world championships for squash are in Bellevue this week -- and it's all thanks to one family. 

Azam Khan, one of the organizers, learned the sport from his dad. His dad grew up working at British squash courts in Pakistan and India. He was one of many boys who fetched stray balls for British officers. But the boys had a secret.

Azam Khan: “They would play in the middle of the night, when it was dark.”

 They became better players than the British. Then one of them went on to win the world championship in 1951.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Azam Khan at Pro Sports in Bellevue", "fid": "122188", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201511/Azam.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]Azam Khan: “The whole country just loved it. He was like a hero coming back. He had roses all around him, flowers.”

Squash exploded in popularity in Pakistan. And where Pakistanis went – they took their love of squash with them. 

Khan’s father brought squash to Seattle. Later Khan brought squash to Bellevue.

At Pro Sports Club in Bellevue, two athletes compete for the ball in the qualifying rounds. The crowd follows their every move. Many of these fans were drawn to the sport by the Khan family.

Khan trained his sister Shabana in her quest to become a squash champion. She says he was a tough coach.

Shabana Khan: “I’d ask for water, and he’d say, ‘I don’t think so.’ He would not let me go get water! And he’d make me play and play, and he’d say, ‘OK, now you can go get your water.’”

[asset-images[{"caption": "Two squash players warm up at the 2015 Men's World Championship in Bellevue.", "fid": "122181", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201511/IMG_0031.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]Shabana Khan put in the bid that brought the international championship here to Bellevue.

The Khans love seeing squash flourish here. But at the same time, Azam Khan says squash has declined in Pakistan.

Azam Khan: “I don’t think they have the same hunger that they used to.”

The hunger has passed on to another country.

Azam Khan: “Egypt. Egypt’s taking over.”

[asset-images[{"caption": "Omar Abdel Meguid, a squash player from Egypt in Bellevue for the men's world squash championship.", "fid": "122180", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201511/Meguid.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]Egyptian players are getting a shot this week at the tournament. One of them is Omar Abdel Meguid. He says Egyptian players don’t have a lot of support back home. So they’re all self-motivated.

Meguid: “We just want to win, and I think it’s just how we live. It’s a very hectic kind of life at home. So we’re very competitive – maybe even more competitive than anyone else, so I think that’s why we’re good at what we do.”

The  2015 Men's World Squash Championships run through Sunday at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.