WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 28, 2014) — The Organization of Chinese Americans – Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national membership-driven organization of community advocates dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), seeks bipartisan immigration reform.
On Wednesday, March 26, House Minority Leader Pelosi introduced the “Demand a Vote” discharge petition on House Resolution 15 (H.R. 15), the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, and companion piece to the Senate bill passed in the summer of 2013. The legislation would:
• Provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants;
• Increase family sponsorship priority for family members of legal permanent residents (LPR) to that of U.S. citizens;
• Create a new worker visa for lesser-skilled temporary workers;
• Broaden national security
Although H.R. 15 is a step forward for immigration reform, there are provisions that concern OCA, particularly its elimination of siblings and children over 31 from the family immigration categories. OCA continues to advocate for full family reunification, inclusive of siblings and adult children, which also equalizes the priority of LPRs and U.S. citizen sponsored family members.
While the Republican leadership has released a set of principles inclusive of immigration reform, at this time, the leadership has not introduced immigration legislation reflective of these principles. The petition is an attempt by Democratic leadership to bring an immigration bill to the House floor.
If the petition gathers 218 House signatures, it would discharge H.R. 15 for a floor vote without the need for committee approval. In the past 30 years, seven discharge petitions have successfully met the signature threshold to require a vote on the floor. Twelve have compelled previous Speakers to request a vote before the necessary signatures were collected.
“Immigration reform is long overdue. There are over 1.3 million undocumented Asian Pacific Islander immigrants in the United States that are living in fear, cannot provide for their families, and do not have the opportunity to fully realize their potentials because of their immigration status,” says Tom Hayashi, OCA Executive Director. “Asian Pacific Islander immigrants deserve a permanent immigration fix, a solution that can only come from bipartisan negotiations and legislation. H.R. 15 is not perfect. And while we do not support every provision in the petition, this is a step forward in our requests for the passage of an immigration bill in the House. We must show all of our congressional officials that they cannot only talk about immigration reform. They must act and give us legislation, whether it is H.R. 15 or another bill.”
Successful execution of the petition is not the only legislative option available. Like previous actions on immigration reform, such as OCA’s iAMerica campaign and the Fast for Families campaign, advocates are seeking the passage of a bipartisan bill in the House. So long as immigration legislation passes, final provisions can be negotiated during conference with its Senate companion piece.
Immigration reform cannot happen without bipartisan will and support. House Democratic leadership have invited and met with the APA community in early March. In addition, OCA and other national APA organizations have proactively sought a similar meeting with Republican leadership and are awaiting a response to engage in conversation toward bipartisan reform.
“OCA will continue to push for fair and commonsense immigration reform until our immigration system is reflective of American values,” says Sharon M. Wong, OCA President. “Immigration reform, at its core, is not a partisan issue. It is about the livelihood of all Americans and must address our diverse interests. Regardless of the bill that comes out of the House, it must include provisions that allow immigrants the opportunity to fully live their lives and still remain inclusive of national security and economic concerns. As such, a bipartisan approach is necessary to reflect the nature of the issue.”