Where's the API Immigrant in Immigration Reform?

May 29, 2007

One of the most offensive provisions is the so-called "merit-based system" which would favor factors such as an immigrant's job skills, English-speaking ability, and education level in awarding green cards. That means that one's chances of getting a green card could depend on their class background and level of assimilation, meaning that poor uneducated immigrants could potentially be left by the wayside.

Meanwhile, the bill would favor visas for highly skilled workers, which could generate a wave of Asian professionals immigrating to the United States. That aspect of the bill is reminiscent of the 1965 Immigration Act that similarly enabled Filipino doctors, engineers and nurses to enter the country.

Family reunification is one of the most important immigration issues to Asian Americans. There are many Asian Americans and Latinos who have to wait decades to be reunited with loved ones. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) of Southern California, an organization that I've volunteered for, worked with local API community organizations to draft the APIA Principles for Immigration Reform [pdf], which states that China, India and the Philippines have some of the longest wait periods. Filipino Americans who sponsor their siblings have to wait an outrageous 23 years before their siblings can get an immigrant visa!

Some proposed legislation would limit family visas while the Clinton-Hagel Amendment purports to keep families together and is supported by Asian American civil rights organizations like the Asian American Justice Center in Washington D.C., (which works with the APALC and Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco). Disproportionately separating the families of certain racial and ethnic minorities for long periods of time runs counter to the popular conception of traditional American values concerned with promoting family and lamenting the disintegration of American families.

The livelihood of undocumented Asian American immigrants is also at stake. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that 1.5 million of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country are Asian. The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) reports that 1 in 5 Korean Americans is undocumented, including a large percentage that is under 18. A plan that can offer a humane and legitimate path to legalization for undocumented immigrants is a step towards acknowledging the humanity of undocumented immigrants and stopping the raids, racial profiling, detention and deportation of Latino, Cambodian, South Asian, and Filipino immigrants. The passage of the Dream Act would also ensure the ability of undocumented Latino and Asian American youth to attend and afford college.

In trying to keep up with the all the changes being proposed, I've wondered how much influence Asian Americans have had in Congressional deliberation. Given that Asian Americans are woefully underrepresented in the House and Senate, the chances are slim that there have been any Asian Americans at the drawing table at all. Thank goodness for the many Asian American organizations that have continuously advocated to increase the visibility of APIs in the immigration debate that has been framed primarily as a "Latino issue." Asian American organizations like the AAJC and the APALC have also worked to build coalitions with Latino immigrants rights groups advocating for comprehensive reform.

Will the immigration bill be a watershed or a blip? Will it actually be comprehensive or fall short of its potential? We'll have to wait and see what the outcome is. In the meantime we can do what we can to demand that our politicians on Capital Hill prioritize families and the human rights of immigrants.

You can help play a vital role in influencing immigration legislation so that it benefits APIs by calling both your Senators and urging them to support family reunification for APIs by supporting the Clinton-Hagel amendment. You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the offices of your Senators.

(This post is representative of my viewpoint only and should not be taken as representing the viewpoint of Hyphen, the APALC or any other community organizations).

Carmina is a student at UCLA School of Law and is specializing in Critical Race Studies. She has worked as a legal intern at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and is currently a legal intern at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York. She has served as the Co-chair of the UCLA Asian Pacific Islander Law Student Association (APILSA) and as a Comments Editor for the Asian Pacific American Law Journal at UCLA.




Any argument against immigration (legal or illegal) is pathologically blinded to the fact that the United States enjoys its luxuries on the back's other peoples around the world. One only needs to look under their own collar to see the "Made in China" labels or the "seemingly" endless supply of gasoline that runs your cars. This isn't a coincidence. We have because they ain't got! This is an endless thirst for world domination rearing it's ugly head in the most pervasive way possible - through international law, business, policy and guns. The reality is, the world we Americans live in can only exist at the expense of others! What America and it's multinational corporations do to other countries is why immigrants run, climb, swim, and sneak their way here. Who are we to deny their liberation from a situation that we put them in? Hypocritical! Let them rightfully come in and see what a farce our system is!
all asians are dumb muther fuckas!!!!!!!!!
Yoshi:The U. S. isn't the only country that exploits other countries. I mean we have practically sent our manufacturing base to these countries. Its not America to blame for this its big business. So I get, open our borders to the world, let anyone that one to come in, come in. Forget about assimilating, and change the face of American culture. So from what im hearing in here is that everyone has a right to come to the U. S. No one in here believes in enforcing the laws right.
I would like to draw your attention to SAALT's work as well around immigration reform. Last week, SAALT testified in the House re. immigration reform and how it affects the API community. Please see their work at http://www.saalt.org/testimony_sub.php
I just have one question, why should our government go out their way to assist the needs of undocumented workers? Why should non-citizens have a voice in the first place? THEY ARE NOT CITIZENS. All those people that went through the Immigration process legally, waited with patience before approval to come to the states. What kind of message are we sending. Why should we pay for bi-lingual education? In the post it appears that you have a problem with these people assimilating into American culture. So this is the message we are sending. Move to America illegally, break the laws and demand rights. The most important question of all. WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THESE UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS NATIVE COUNTRIES?
The previous poster does not get the issues surrounding immigration. Same old barrel in the dump argument:"some come legally, dont let others get privileges illegally." At the end of the day these are workers, that is right workers, lets stop the hypocrisy and admit that we benefit more from them than they benefit from us.
Im curious to know How? Many think immigration reform is just amnesty in disguise?