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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.

Donald Trump on Syrian refugees: wrong, wrong and partly true

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
These kids were some of the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Seattle this year.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump warned against Syrian refugees during his recent visit to Washington state. KUOW’s Race and Culture reporter Liz Jones takes a closer look at the candidate’s claims.

Claim #1: "These people are totally undocumented. There’s no proof. They have no paperwork."

We turned to Sarah Peterson for a response. She’s Washington’s refugee coordinator.

Peterson: "All refugees are required to take fingerprints, and pictures and they go through many databases to screen them."

Peterson says the security screening is exhaustive, especially for Syrians and others from the Middle East. Clearance can take several years.

Claim #2: "We can’t bring them to Washington state. You don’t even know where they’re going."

Peterson: "Yes we do."

Peterson says a handful of agencies help new refugees find homes here. Most come to King County, but they’re not required to stay.

Peterson: "Once they are here, they are free just like everyone else to travel to wherever family and employment needs are."

Peterson says around 90 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Washington since 2012, when the conflict broke out.

President Barack Obama has called for the U.S. to take in up to 10, 000 Syrians this year. But the intake is still very low due to the lengthy screening process.

Washington typically accepts about 3,000 new refugees annually, from all around the world.

Claim #3: "More than 90 percent of the recent refugees from Middle East receive welfare."

That figure comes from a 2013 congressional report, specifically a survey about food stamp use.

Ninety percent is high. The estimate for all refugees is about 75 percent.

But in that same report, Middle Eastern refugees are below average for use of public housing – another form of welfare.

Overall, the report also shows, most refugees find a job within their first six months here.

So on Trump’s three counts, we’ll say false, mostly false and partly true (with some asterisks).

Year started with KUOW: 2006