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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.

Child migrant lawsuit in Seattle moves forward

Some new ripples this week in a Seattle-based immigration case that’s gained national attention. 

The central question of the federal lawsuit is whether the government should provide attorneys for children who face deportation hearings alone, without a parent. Record numbers of child migrants have illegally entered the U.S. in recent years, mostly from Central America.

Attorneys for the children want the case to be a class action, and extend to most minors in this situation. 

Judge Thomas Zilly has issued a tentative order that would allow the class but it would not be nationwide. Instead, it would be limited to the western states in the 9th Circuit. Zilly’s order could still be revised.

The Department of Justice wants the case dismissed, saying Congress should decide the issue. Zilly has mostly rejected that request.

The lawsuit sparked controversy in March when federal immigration judge Jack Weil stated in a deposition that he believestoddlers can defend themselves in immigration court.

"I've taught immigration law literally to 3-year-old and 4-year olds," Weil said. "It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience."

Justice officials later said Judge Weil's comments are his personal views. 

Year started with KUOW: 2006