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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.

Their daughter was to arrive next week. But she’s Syrian, so flight canceled

KUOW photo/Liz Jones
The older daughter of this Syrian refugee family was set to arrive at Sea-Tac Airport next week. Her resettlement here was later postponed indefinitley.

Syrian families in Washington state are devastated to learn about a new ban on fellow refugees seeking to come here.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that bans Syrian refugees from the U.S. indefinitely.

A Syrian father who gave his first name as Ahmad fled the conflict in Syria and recently resettled in the Seattle area. Ahmad came with his wife and younger children. But an older daughter still in a refugee camp was set to arrive here next week.

He spoke through an interpreter at a press conference earlier.

Ahmad: “I am waiting to be reunited with my family, and not just me but so many others are waiting for same to be reunited with their relatives and families. Right now I’m in a very sad position. I’m asking for your prayers and your support.”

The ban on Syrian refugees appears to be effective immediately. So Ahmad's family will likely remain separated for now.

The executive order also calls for a four-month suspension for all refugees coming into the country. And when the resettlement program resumes, the number of refugees allowed here each year will be cut by more than half, to 50,000 people from around the world.

The order also imposes a 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from certain countries with terrorism concerns. Trump has said the restrictions are needed to evaluate security risks in the visa admissions process.

Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, of Bellevue, is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. He calls the executive action a disastrous approach to national security.

Smith: “What this action does is it simply makes Al-Qaida and ISIS stronger. They can go to the Muslim world and say, ‘See I told you. America is against you.  America doesn’t like you. America doesn’t even want you to exist.’”

The State Department said the  90-day ban in the directive applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — all Muslim majority nations.

A statement from Republican Congressman Dave Reichert indicates he backs the security precautions.

Reichert: “My first and most important job is protecting families in our region and the American people …We must be absolutely certain we have systems in place capable of thoroughly vetting anyone applying for refugee status on American soil.”

Year started with KUOW: 2006