WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 20, 2014) — Last night, President Obama kept his promise to use his authority as President to protect as many as five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
At SEARAC, we celebrate today with the millions of families, including the estimated 200,000 undocumented Vietnamese immigrants in this country, who will spend this holiday season together with a new sense of security and peace. Hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian Americans benefited 40 years ago from executive actions under Presidents Ford and Carter that welcomed refugees from war-torn Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and we support President Obama’s contribution to this legacy. We still need a permanent Congressional fix for our grossly out-of-date immigration laws. But we thank the President for his courage to take this bold first step.
We remain concerned that many immigrants will continue to be subject to detention and deportation, and that divisive language to pit “felons” against “families” and “criminals” against “children” will further marginalize some of our community’s most vulnerable members. The relief the President is extending to undocumented families will not be available to Green card holders and former refugees in Southeast Asian American communities who have served their time for old criminal convictions, regardless of how many decades they have made this country their home, how many U.S. citizen children depend on their love and care, or who they have become since leaving the criminal justice system behind.
We cheer for millions of families who will be shielded from deportation under the President’s plan, but our hearts ache for those who will be left out. We agree with the President that “we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.” We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to create a long-term legislative solution grounded not in our fears, but in our hope for an immigration system that honors the dignity and humanity of all immigrant and refugee families.
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society. Find out more at www.searac.org.