LOS ANGELES (April 17, 2013) – Asian Pacific Islanders for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (API FIRE), a local coalition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations, held a press conference Wednesday to draw attention to the impact of the Senate bill on AAPI communities.
Although API FIRE and its allies are in the process of conducting a thorough analysis of the Senate bill, the coalition notes that it proposes measures of great concern for AAPI communities, specifically provisions eliminating the sibling visa category and preventing U.S. citizens from sponsoring their married adult children ages 31 and over. This will dramatically restrict families from reuniting with certain loved ones. Also disappointing is the proposal’s failure to include LGBT couples in the family-immigration system.
As this legislative process moves forward, API FIRE and its allies look forward to working with Congress to ensure that the final bill supports AAPI communities and their ability to stay united as families and thrive together in the United States.
The following are statements from members of the API FIRE coalition:
“While we are encouraged by the introduction of an immigration reform bill, immigrants succeed in this country in large part because of their families – they start businesses together, raise their families, set down roots, and prosper together,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “Eliminating the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their loved ones – brothers, sisters, and adult married children 31 years of age and older – runs counter to the family values that are a cornerstone of our nation. It is also counterproductive since it limits the ability of immigrant families to contribute to the entrepreneurship and innovation that have been vital drivers of economic growth throughout our nation’s history. We call on Congress to uphold family values and entrepreneurship during the amendment process by strengthening both the family and employment-based immigration systems.”
“While we work to improve the bill throughout the legislative process, we’ll also work to pass a bill in a more participatory and meaningful way to include the community voices that truly reflect the democratic process in which laws are made,” concluded Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center (KRC).
“The LGBTQ community is reminded once again today that U.S. citizenship means less for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people than for everyone else. Just as citizenship for LGBTQ people comes without federal marriage rights, it also comes without the equal family immigration rights, said Eileen Ma, executive director of API Equality-LA. “As an Asian American community that values family, we believe all families should be encouraged to stay together. And immigration policies should treat couples fairly. API Equality-LA calls on Senator Feinstein and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to correct the oversight in the current proposed legislation by including language to support family unity for LGBTQ families.”
“Washington’s legislators made an important step toward bringing our immigration laws in line with our societal reality,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, immigration attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “But it’s up to us to push for immigration policies that will truly help our communities. We will continue to fight back against attempts to keep some immigrants from getting on the road to citizenship, as well as push back against heavy-handed detention and deportation policies.”
“Over 1 million Filipinos in the United States are undocumented and many fall victim to discrimination and labor exploitation,” said Cynthia Buiza, a board member of the Filipino Migrant Center (FMC). “While much remains to be seen and to be done in the coming days as the details of the bill is revealed, scrutinized, and analyzed, the Filipino Migrant Center commends the efforts of the Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ for this historic bill. FMC also recognizes the instrumental role that organized labor and immigrant rights groups across the country have played in shaping the immigration reform debate. FMC is calling on all Filipino Americans to come together with other immigrant communities and demand that legislators pass an immigration reform bill that is humane, fair, and protects the integrity of the family.”
“Since nearly half of the Thai immigrant population in Los Angeles is undocumented, the potential impact of this bill on our community is immense. While we welcome a path to legalization and eventual citizenship, some of the provisions of this bill give us reason for concern. The ten-year waiting period to obtain permanent residency is excessively protracted and burdensome. There is no clear reason for this prerequisite other than the likely reason of providing ICE with sufficient opportunity to repeal provisional legal status and deport waiting applicants. We also suspect that the 13-year path to citizenship is intended to prevent immigrants from voting in upcoming national elections and having a political voice in this country,” states Chanchanit Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center.
“We know all too well from California’s own transformation on the immigration issue that inclusion must triumph over exclusion and needlessly harsh and wasteful measures,” said Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC). “When we measure today’s bill against this nation’s founding principle that all people are created equal, the proposal falls short in some key areas. Comprehensive reform should include all 11 million aspiring citizens, put a halt to painful deportations, and protect the fundamental principle of family unity, both by upholding family-based visas and recognizing LGBTQ families. Reform should also protect all workers, yet a provision to require all employers to check workers’ immigration status against the flawed ‘E-Verify’ system could lead to 90,000 pink slips for authorized workers just in California.”