illegal immigration

Martha Kang / KPLU

Move-in day at the University of Washington is a jumble of boxes and emotions for incoming freshman Carlos Escutia.

"I'm so happy I get to move in first. I get to pick the bed," he says, grinning and carrying a bedspread into his new dorm room. 

For the past 15 years, Escutia's family has worked hard in hopes of celebrating days like this. His parents left Mexico when Escutia was 3, dreaming of better lives and better education for their children. Going to a four-year college has always been Escutia's goal.

A year ago, it wasn't even clear the Lynnwood High School grad would make it to this day. As an undocumented immigrant, Escutia didn't qualify for government loans to cover his college costs. He'd have to apply for competitive private scholarships and hope for the best.

Then the state legislature passed the "Dream Act," granting many undocumented high school graduates access to state-funded college grants. Escutia was among the first to apply, and he is now part of the state's first wave of so-called "dreamers" to start classes.

Most American families have some kind of immigration lore. Think Ellis Island, the Oregon Trail and slave ships.

At dinner tables across the Northwest, some Mexican-American families tell their own vivid tales. They regale each other with stories of relatives swimming to better opportunities across the Rio Grande or crossing the desert at night.

Yes, these crossings are illegal, but they also are part of a family’s history. If the U.S. Congress adopts comprehensive immigration reform this year, these types of border stories could begin to fade.

Federal prosecutors say a Washington state herb farm forced to fire more than 200 illegal immigrants because of a government audit, rehired dozens of those workers — paid them cash and asked them to work at night — because production began to plummet.

Per Ola Wiberg / Flikr

A crackdown on illegal immigrants would put local strawberry farmers out of business.

That’s what one leading farmer in Skagit County told the Bellingham Herald