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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.

Feds freeze green card renewals of people from banned countries, attorneys say

courtesy Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

The so-called Muslim travel ban may go beyond just stopping people from certain countries at the airport.

Seattle attorneys working with immigrants and refugees have found in recent days that their clients’ paperwork has been frozen in the system.

So, for example, if an Iranian woman who lives in the U.S. goes to renew her green card, her file will be pushed aside – and nothing will happen. That green card will not be renewed unless the executive order is lifted.

A leaked federal policy memo obtained by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project – shared with KUOW Public Radio – confirms this.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, ​with the ACLU and the National Immigration Projecthave filed suit against President Donald Trump and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, saying this is the broad reach of the order.

Trump signed the executive order on Friday evening, temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries that are predominantly Muslim, including Syria, Iraq and Somalia.

Matt Adams, of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, describes the situation for the clients he represents in this lawsuit:

“Whether applying for asylum, or to renew their green card or to get new a new work permit — we’ve had attorneys reporting they’re going into the interviews and being told, ‘Well, for now I have to put this on hold and set aside the file.’ The directive instructs them to physically separate this file from all the other files.”

The leaked memo says this suspension will continue until further guidance and that there are no exceptions, including renewals for green cards or work authorizations. This does not mean, necessarily, that their applications will be denied, Adams said later by email, but that they are immediately suspended.

A subsequent statement from U.S. border patrol clarifies citizenship applications are being processed. But Adams says those applications will face additional blocks due to what he describes "a separate, secret vetting program."

The lawsuit is seeking class action status to cover immigrants throughout the country. More than 20,000 Washington residents were born in the seven countries listed in the travel ban. The executive order describes them as “countries of concern” for national security. 

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services responded to a reporter request saying it does not discuss internal employee communications. 

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Year started with KUOW: 2006