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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.

Seattle pays for lawyers to represent 300 immigrant adults, kids

A detainee sits in the intake area at the Tacoma Detention Center in 2017.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
A detainee sits in the intake area at the Tacoma Detention Center in 2017.

Unlike criminal cases, immigrants don’t have access to free legal representation.

Seattle wants to change that by giving money to six community groups that help vulnerable immigrants. 

At least 268 adults and 50 children could be helped, said Jorge Baron, director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. It’s one of the groups receiving money.

“These are individual cases but these can impact a lot of families, a lot of U.S. citizen children who might be involved in these,” Baron said. “So these numbers kind of undercount the impact that the legal defense fund is going to have.”

The city created a legal defense fund for immigrants in April as part of its response to the Trump Administration’s travel ban and other anti-immigrant policies. The city approved $1 million toward the fund with another $500,000 from King County.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the other grantees hope to make their expanded services available in October. 

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced funding for six community groups that help vulnerable immigrants.

Murray made his announcement Monday in the former federal building that once housed detained immigrants. Today people facing deportation are held in Tacoma. 

“We are in a fight to defend Seattle’s status as an inclusive city, as a welcoming city, as a city that guarantees civil rights to all of its residents,” Murray said.

Year started with KUOW: 1994