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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.

It was a 'Day Without Immigrants' in Seattle

Day Without Immigrants rally in Washington, D.C., February 16, 2017
Flickr Photo/Lorie Shaull (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/RXtwud
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Day Without Immigrants rally in Washington, D.C., February 16, 2017

Blanca Rodriguez owns the Greenbridge Cafe in Seattle. On Thursday, she closed her doors to take part in A Day Without Immigrants, a national campaign that encouraged immigrants to stay home from work and school, close their businesses, and not go shopping.

Rodriguez is an immigrant. She came to the U.S. from Mexico 26 years ago.

"Being one myself, it's just very close to home," Rodriguez said. "I want to send a message to some of the people that think immigrants are a problem. To show people how much we bring, financially. We bring a lot. And I wanted to be a part of that movement."

But some immigrants chose to not take part in the protest out of fear. Marcos Martinez directs Casa Latina in Seattle, which advocates for immigrant workers and connects them with employment.

"Some people would be concerned that if they didn't go to work today they might lose their job," Martinez said. "But it's also important to recognize that as marginalized as some of our community are, they're still willing to make that sacrifice and forego a day's pay, just to make that point of how important their contributions are."

A Day Without Immigrants began as a grassroots campaign to protest President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration. On Thursday, a number of other restaurants closed down in Seattle, including Tat's Delicatessen in Pioneer Square, Pam's Kitchen in Wallingford, and Gracia in Ballard.

Andy Hurst can be reached at ahurst@kuow.org

Year started with KUOW: 2006