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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.

Renton Grandma Back From Mexican Prison: 'Thank God It's Over'

Nestora Salgado — an activist and grandmother from Renton — is back home. Salgado spent more than two years in a Mexican prison on charges that have now been dropped.  A crowd gathered at Sea-Tac Airport to greet her, as KUOW’s Liz Jones reports.


Most who came didn’t know Salgado personally. But they know her story and about her efforts to fight violence and corruption in Mexico.

Stokes: “When I started reading more, I got chills down my spine. This could’ve been anyone’s cousin or grandmother.”

Roberto Zavala: “She’s an amazing woman. She’s fighting  one of the most powerful mobsters, which is the Mexican government. The corruption is the worst in the world.”

That’s Roberto Zavala, of Newcastle. And before him, Iris Stokes of Seattle. They, and dozens more, waved signs as Salgado made her way through the terminal then into view.

Sound: Cheers, clapping.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Nestora Salgado and her husband Jose Avila at Sea-Tac Airport upon her arrival. Salgado, an activist, vowed to return to Mexico to pick up where she left off.", "fid": "125014", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201603/P1070275.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Liz Jones"}]]Salgado’s husband, Jose Avila, pulled her close. This was the first time they’d seen each other since her arrest two and a half years ago.

Crowd, chanting: “Si se pudo.” (Yes she could.)

Salgado: “I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to see everybody here.  I want to say thank you for everything —”

Woman in crowd (shouting): “Nestora libre!”

Salgado’s a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico. She frequently traveled to her home village in the state of Guerrero. There, she helped start a legal, community police force to push back drug cartels and political corruption.

But some in government accused her of going too far. She was held in prison on charges ranging from kidnapping to murder. Charges that were recently dropped due to lack of evidence.

Woman in crowd (shouting): “Gracias Nestora!”

Smiling to the crowd, Salgado said she plans to go back to Mexico and to keep fighting. Even if it puts her life at risk.

Salgado: “Yes, I’m scared to come back to Mexico. But I have to come back because my people need me.”

She vowed to keep pushing for the release of other members of the community police who are still in prison.  

Crowd, chanting: “Nestora vive. La lucha sigue sigue.” (Live on Nestora. The fight continues.)

Nestora’s husband said it’s a relief to have her home, finally.

Avila: I feel lighter now. (sighs)

Jones: Lighter?

Avila: Yes. Thank God it’s over. Yeah, she’s here.

At least for a while.

Year started with KUOW: 2006