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Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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On immigration, hunger for change

Seattle Times staff reporter

Hassan Sayed, 17, a high-school senior in Shoreline, fears he may never be able to bring his brother to America if the new immigration bill passes.

"They should find more ways to make it easier for us to be united with our relatives," said Sayed, who came with his mother as political refugees from Afghanistan in 2002. "Instead, they're making it harder and harder."

Sayed was among a group of advocates who kicked off a 24-hour fast Tuesday at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle to highlight their deep concerns about that bill, now under debate in the U.S. Senate.

The bipartisan bill introduces new ways illegal immigrants can become citizens, as well as creates a temporary-worker program and increases border security.

It also augments the current system, which is geared toward reunifying families with a point system that rewards skills and education.

The fast's organizers — representatives from church, labor and immigrant communities — said the bill's provisions will break up families, create an underclass of workers and erode illegal immigrants' rightful due process under the law.

"It is inhumane, anti-worker, anti-family and anti-human rights," said Diane Narasaki, executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service. Other groups at the event included Hate Free Zone, The Church Council of Greater Seattle and Washington Community Action Network.

Those groups want any immigration changes to keep the current family-based system and emphasize fair legal treatment in court, strong worker protections and a simple legalization process for illegal immigrants.

As part of the event, an interfaith vigil and public gathering was held at 6 p.m. on the building's plaza. Participants spent the night at Seattle First Baptist Church and expected to end the fast at noon today.

Some other people around the state, such as Sayed and his mother, committed to fast at home. After he graduates, Sayed plans to attend Shoreline Community College, transfer to the University of Washington "and, hopefully, become a surgeon."

Marsha King: 206-464-2232 or mking@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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