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An Independence Day Focus on Immigration Reform

July 1, 2013

SPOKANE, Wash. - July 4th picnics are traditions for many Washington families, and picnic baskets are being delivered this week to members of Congress who have not yet committed to supporting immigration reform. Home-care workers who made the baskets said their union, SEIU Healthcare 775, represents people of many nationalities.

Janie Hauff, Spokane, collected personal stories of home-care workers to include in the international-themed picnic basket she made for her Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

"I'm giving her all the copies," Hauff said. "I just want her to sit down and have a snack, from wherever country it came from, and I want her to read every story that I have collected."

Other picnic baskets are being delivered to Reps. Jamie Herrera-Beutler and Doc Hastings.

Hauff said she has visited fellow home-care workers since May, asking about their experiences with immigration and collecting their family stories.

"The first thing people say is, 'Well, I don't have a story.' I say, 'Let me ask you one question: Were your grandparents born in this country?' 'Well, no...' 'Well then, you have a story. Where'd they come from? How did they get here? You have a story.' Some people just don't realize it," she said.

Not all the focus is on food this holiday week. In fact, today a national, weeklong hunger strike begins, with the message of "Not One More Deportation." Sylvia Aho of Seattle, said she will fast - but only for a few days, because she is caring for her 90-year-old mother. The family is from the Tonga Islands, and Aho said current U.S. immigration policy has kept them apart.

"My youngest brother cannot come and reunite with our mom," said Aho. "We have been trying so many, many times - with petitions for him to come. My mom wishes that she could ever see her son once again, before she passes."

Aho said she came to the U.S., like most immigrants, seeking a better life. In Washington, immigrants provide in-home care to many older people and those with disabilities, she added.

Nationally, while Congress debates an overhaul to the immigration system, more than 1,100 people are deported every day.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA