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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.

How many separated immigrant children are in Washington? The state wants to know

The federal courthouse in downtown Seattle.
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter
The federal courthouse in downtown Seattle.

Across the country, 711 immigrant children separated from their parents at the border still remain disconnected from their families. Now, Washington state wants to know how many of those kids might be here.

On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge in Seattle ordered the Trump Administration to hand over information about the separated families by Tuesday of next week. That information includes spreadsheets on 1,600 to 1,700 parents who were separated from their children as part of the administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is leading 18 states in a lawsuit over the government’s immigration policies, including separating families at the border and turning away asylum seekers. The states are asking the court to declare the administration’s practices illegal and to order the federal government to reunite the separated families.

Lawyers for the state of Washington and the Trump Administration appeared before Judge Marsha Pechman at the U.S. District courthouse in downtown Seattle on Friday. The meeting was an informal negotiation between both sides to work out a dispute regarding detailed information about parents and children detained as part of the “zero tolerance” policy. 

Washington state wants to piece together federal information to learn where the children are and what’s happening to them.

In June, KUOW reported that about nine children were being sheltered in Washington State and at least four in Oregon. 

“Many of these kids are already being released into our states,” Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell said. “They’re going to be going to public schools, they’re going to be going to public health clinics, they’re going to be needing a variety of services because of the trauma they’ve suffered.”

In court, the administration argued that the states were requesting burdensome amount of information, and that complying with the request would interfere with actually reuniting families. 

The administration has moved to dismiss the case, or combine it with a similar case filed in southern California against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as Ms. L vs. ICE. The court will hear arguments on that August 8th.

But Judge Pechman prodded administration lawyers, August Flentje and Josh Press, for answers about how the government keeps track of where the immigrants are and why providing information would be so difficult.

“You’re talking to me like it’s typewriters and carbon copy paper,” she said.

Judge Pechman ordered the administration to give Washington State documents it has already disclosed in the Ms. L vs. ICE lawsuit, as well as information on which aid organization are assisting in family reunification.