Friday, September 4, 2009

Asian Americans Mobilize for Immigration Reform

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 21 (New America Media) - For the first time in the nation's history, Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) groups came together this week to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

A dozen API organizations hosted activities in cities with high Asian American populations, including the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C., the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles and national chapters of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

In San Francisco's Chinatown. © centinel (flickr)In San Francisco's Chinatown. © centinel (flickr)"Immigration is often Latino-focused," said Tuyet Duong, senior staff attorney of Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), "but Asian Americans also want to activate their network and become involved."

Although Latino immigrant rights groups have been more vocal about immigration concerns, the needs within the API community are just as urgent. The API community is one of the fastest growing immigrant populations, with more than 15 million Asian Americans living in the United States. Family reunification remains the most pressing issue for many Asian immigrants.

Duong noted that according to the Department of Homeland Security, 90 percent of green cards issued to Asian immigrants are through family-based immigration.

Due to the huge backlogs, these immigrants often face an intolerably long wait time, with Indian immigrants waiting an average of 11 years and Filipinos 23 years to join their siblings in the United States according to the Asian American Justice Center.

"Asian Americans want family reunification as much as Latinos want legalization," said Duong.

However, many Asian groups also tout the need for legalization of the 1.2 million undocumented Asian immigrants in this country.

"Since Obama took office, three dozen Vietnamese and Cambodians have been deported," noted Bill Ong Hing, immigration law professor at the UC Davis School of Law.

Unlike Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans lacked a general consent on legalization in the past, with some worrying that legalization would create further backlogs. This week, API immigrants are calling for immigration reform that would both speed up the backlogs and legalize the undocumented.

"In the Korean-American community alone, one in five is undocumented," said Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. "Many of them are under the age of 18."

Michael, a 21-year-old undocumented Chinese immigrant from Hong Kong, who is currently studying computer engineering, said students like himself would benefit greatly from the DREAM Act that would give undocumented students a path to citizenship. link..


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