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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.

'A stalemate of stress' as Dreamers wait on decision

Graciela Nuñez says the DACA program got her though college. Now she wants to be a lawyer."

“I’m losing sleep,” said Graciela Nuñez Pargas. “A lot of us are not sleeping.”

Nuñez is one of roughly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” on edge around the country this week.

A decision is due soon about the fate of the federal DACA program that protects these young immigrants from deportation.

“It definitely puts us in a more vulnerable position,” Nuñez said. “But this threat has been going on for a while. I’ve entered kind of this stalemate of stress. Like, I can’t get any more stressed out.”

Conservative attorneys general in 10 states have threatened a lawsuit, unless the Trump Administration starts to dismantle the DACA program by Sept. 5.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era program for young immigrants without legal status. It gives them work permits and temporary permission to stay in the country on a renewable two-year basis.

“To pull the rug out from under them now would be an immoral affront,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee during a press call Wednesday. Inslee joined with nearly 1,900 state and local leadersin petition to preserve DACA.

“We have spent tens of thousands of dollars educating them; we have provided them scholarships under our local dream act and we are not giving up their dreams without a fight,” Inslee said.

If it comes to a lawsuit, Inslee said the state will seek to intervene. He said the president has the executive power to prioritize how limited law enforcement resources are used, and it’s justifiable to continue the DACA system that makes young, law-abiding immigrants a low-priority.

Republican attorneys general successfully blocked a similar Obama immigration policy, DAPA, which would’ve extended legal protections to the parents of American children. This same group of attorneys general maintain the DACA is also unlawful.

President Trump’s position on DACA remains unclear. At a press conference in January, he said, “We’re going to show great heart” and that “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me.”

Washington state is home to more than 17,000 DACA recipients.

Graciela Nuñez Pargas, now 22, came here from Venezuela at age 7. She’s relied on DACA to get college aid and jobs.

Nuñez graduated from the University of Washington last year and works full time as a legal assistant. Next stop for her is law school. But she just postponed her LSAT test next week to wait out this news.

Either way, Nuñez says she’ll stay focused on her goals and some of the lasting benefits of DACA.

“It opened a lot of opportunities for us to be more comfortable and feel that we are more American, or more accepted as Americans.”

Polls show a large majority of Americans agree with her.

Year started with KUOW: 2006