WASHINGTON (April 18, 2013) – A panel of five immigration experts, all from member groups of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 30 national Asian Pacific American organizations, spoke to reporters today about the importance of immigration reform to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and what’s needed going forward in light of the U.S. Senate’s just-introduced immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, or S.744. Speakers agreed that the Senate bill is encouraging given its provisions around family and employment systems, path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and enforcement and border security. However, NCAPA leaders emphasized that this legislation was still a work in progress as certain provisions were not inclusive enough.
The five speakers were: Deepa Iyer, chair, NCAPA, and executive director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); Gregory Cendana, executive director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and AFL-CIO; Mee Moua, president and executive director, Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice; Doua Thor, executive director, Southeast Asia Resource Center (SEARAC), and Son Ah Yun, executive director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC).
Excerpts from the speakers’ remarks: Deepa Iyer: “Positive measures in the legislation include the creation of a pathway to legalization, the clearing of family and employment backlogs and increase in or elimination of caps for particular visas, the inclusion of spouses and children of legal permanent residents as “immediate family members,” the creation of opportunities for workers and work authorization for their spouses and children, and a prohibition on profiling, to name a few. We also note a range of provisions of concern in the legislation, including the cut-off date for eligibility and restrictions to benefits for undocumented immigrants; the exclusion of provisions that extend benefits to same-sex partners; the elimination of the diversity visa program and limitations of family categories (including the sibling category); harsh enforcement measures at the border, the interior and in the workplace; and profiling prohibitions that are incomplete.”
Doua Thor: “We are encouraged that the Senate bill removes barriers for elders to get their citizenship, allowing this vulnerable group who are often low-income and limited English-proficient, to be able to access the full rights and benefits of being United States citizens.” We are disappointed, however, that in a country where we value fairness and justice, legal permanent residents who have made a mistake in their past are not given a second chance after they have already paid their debt to society. Instead, the bill continues to allow these individuals to be unjustly punished and indefinitely separated from their families.”
Mee Moua: “We applaud the bi-partisan Senate leadership for putting forth a proposal that is a substantial step in the right direction toward fixing our broken immigration system and a solid starting point for addressing the current backlogs. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the elimination of visa categories pertaining to siblings and married adult children over the age of 30.”
Gregory Cendana: “Real reform needs to include LGBT people and bi-national couples. Congress must include specific provisions to ensure that LGBT individuals, including those aspiring to be citizens, are not left in the shadows. A clear and inclusive roadmap to citizenship, worker’s rights and family reunification remain among APALA’s top priorities. One out of 10 aspiring citizens are Asian Americans. Six out of top 10 countries with H1-B or “high skilled” visa holders are from Asia including India, China, Philippines, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We understand the importance of this moment of history. Through our campaign–community and labor united to R.I.S.E (Reform Immigration and Stand for Equity)–APALA will continue to mobilize our members and allies nationwide to take action and make our voices heard.”
Son Ah Yun: “We must first recognize that this bill comes after years of organizing and building power and voice in our communities. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to pass legislation that will modernize the immigration system. The new roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants is the centerpiece of this bill. While we are encouraged by this provision, the road to citizenship is long (13 years) and arduous with arbitrary triggers that may thwart the path to citizenship for this group of hardworking, aspiring Americans. What is more, the cut off date of December 31, 2011 to be eligible is troublesome as it leaves many immigrants out. What our communities need is a clear, direct and affordable path to citizenship that is inclusive of as many families and immigrants.”
AAPIs need immigration policy reform. Nearly 75 percent of AAPIs are foreign-born. Close to 30 percent of family-based visas issued go to those seeking to reunite with Asian American family members. About 1.8 million loved ones are trapped in massive backlogs and waiting abroad. Approximately 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented and need an accessible and affordable path to legalization. For a complete set of immigration-related facts on AAPIs, see our factsheet <http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001o1eK8z-K6lMITfskiPHqi_7-U2XSAXfDc_6IMjXPlgJH_VTPe2bmXAxIScmOUNsgErzjYFFFefV-wy2vehzKSKFQEID8UEdRGVItMd414kw9JoxV__x3AsW8HnJjCy8Kj8DsNyEgVMTVbXsr3RYdbg==> .
More critical dialogue is needed to ensure immigration reform is human, inclusive and in accordance with NCAPA’s Statement of Principles on Immigration <http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001o1eK8z-K6lOvSs0LzxRFFcvLRAL0J1QbUjJSgClMAmpCJCuCepD6Ifer4Q4MPRERXIH3-4J3olLB66NAnpYYzuOQYg0BpZieiletVvy71xkPXuymzv0um0PR3AE6INM4-p7R3NgXPc_KoZyb5bkf1A==> , which emphasizes the need to keep all families together, regardless of age or sexual orientation, create a roadmap to citizenship and equal rights for all undocumented immigrants, improve protections for immigrant workers and reform detention and deportation systems.
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), founded in 1996, is a coalition of thirty national Asian Pacific American organizations. Based in Washington D.C, NCAPA serves to represent the interests of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA & NHPI) community and to provide a national.
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
6930 Carroll Ave., Suite 506, Takoma Park, MD, 20912
Click here <http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001o1eK8z-K6lPrA76llHZbJ0Z30IbAn2_FSaVNhapiSYSr8kKPC9_meW9JZx5O_fGikK7F4DQwEI-oUFf-uK05cZGMMyO–MDswMAX1vruyyIPGXa-oe02b_uEgOtdsqDvLn0GPxIcxN0eSbhBcWjlTQ==> for NCAPA’s full statement in response to the Senate bill.