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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.

In a 'gray area'? Free immigration lawyers at Seattle Center Saturday

Musa Sesay completes paperwork while waiting to meet with an immigration expert at McCaw Hall in Seattle on January 23, 2017.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang
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Musa Sesay completes paperwork while waiting to meet with an immigration expert at McCaw Hall in Seattle on January 23, 2017.

Immigrants and refugees can get some free legal services this Saturday at the Seattle Center. For the second year, the city is hosting what it calls a “mega workshop” that aims to help more than a thousand people with citizenship applications and other immigration issues.

It can be a complicated process to go from a green card holder to a U.S. citizen. In Washington state, nearly 200,000 people are eligible for citizenship, but have yet to take the plunge.

Seattle immigration attorney Bonnie Stern Wasser said procrastination can be risky.

"The thing about a green card is that it can always be taken away," Stern Wasser said, noting that green cards can be revoked due to certain crimes or extensive travel outside the U.S.

Stern Wasser is helping to oversee legal staff at the city’s free immigration workshop this Saturday. She said people delay citizenship for decades, for various reasons.

"Number one would be the filing fees," said Stern Wasser. "They are $680 right now, which is a lot of money for many families. They might not know waivers are available."

People also wait until their language skills improve and they can pass a test of English language and American civics.

The workshop will also offer general consultations for people who have DACA, temporary protected status or other immigration concerns.

DACA is the program for undocumented immigrants who came here as children. It's become a political football.

Stern Wasser sees U.S. immigration policy as a moving target right now. She suggests people in any kind of gray area to get advice from qualified attorneys and start thinking about plan B options.

The city’s legal workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on February 3 at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall. 

Year started with KUOW: 2006