By MEE MOUA
While Congress continues to be at a standstill, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders refuse to accept congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. This past week, AAPIs came out strong and participated in marches, vigils, town halls, and rallies urging Congress to get back to work and pass commonsense solutions to fix our badly broken immigration system.
When the U.S. Senate passed their comprehensive immigration bill by a decisive vote of 68-32, many of us in the AAPI community were deeply disappointed that it severely restricted the eligibility of married adult children for sponsorship and completely eliminated siblings from being able to sponsor each other. However, we were encouraged by the Senate’s bipartisan action. In the spirit of seeking bi-partisan solutions, we were ready to roll up our sleeves and improve the bill in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, House leadership has refused to listen to the American people. House leadership has dug in their heels and has stalled action on a comprehensive immigration solution. Last week, the House Democrats responded to the numerous calls for action and introduced a bill, which bears the same name and, unfortunately, many of the same provisions in the Senate bill.
The leadership failure in the House deprives its members the opportunity to govern and denies the American people the benefit of a modern immigration system that has the potential to provide economic growth and stability. A real solution only emerges when our elected officials put the interests of the American people over the interests of partisan politics. For the Asian American community, this inability to work together and listen to the needs of our community forced a House Democratic strategy that fails to fix the Senate’s elimination of siblings and radical restriction of married adult children from sponsorship eligibility. As I have said many times, our children are always our children, regardless of age, and family is family.
Because the AAPI community is disproportionately affected by these proposed changes to the family immigration system, our collective action to push congressional solutions that strengthen family unity is critical. At a recent Town Hall event in Virginia, I joined local community leaders and Delegate Mark Keam, representing Vienna, VA, to speak on immigration reform and how it will affect our community. We heard from a diverse group, voicing concerns ranging from the need to fix the inhumane visa backlogs to alarms about the elimination of the sibling categories. We heard powerful immigrant stories about those aspiring to become U.S. citizens and the struggles they face every day. Many attendees expressed frustration with the proposed restrictions on family-based immigration, as many immigrants aspire to become U.S. citizens, so that they may reunite with their loved ones. Delegate Keam, rightfully noted that now is the time; if we don’t take action, we’re the ones who have the most to lose.
I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m so encouraged to see AAPIs across the country taking action. In New York, AAPI organizations gathered at Cadman Plaza, in Brooklyn to demand that the House quit stalling. They called on Congress to get back to work and pass a comprehensive solution for a clear and attainable path to citizenship, a strong family reunification process, and a work environment that protects immigrant workers.
In Arizona, the battleground state for SB 1070 and other discriminatory immigration laws, AAPIs from Phoenix and Tucson, joined withtheir Latino brothers and sisters, to push for commonsense reform. With one in ten DREAMers being Asian American and over 750,000 aspiring citizens being AAPI women, family unity is a crucial to ensuring stronger communities. These families, who have had to endure long separations due to the visa backlog or deportation, deserve more from our failed immigration system.
And lastly, a burgeoning AAPI community in Colorado rallied with its allies in the labor and faith community. Together, they called on Congress to put politics aside and pass a comprehensive bill that stops themilitarization of the border, preserves family unity and protects the rights of all workers.
All of these activities demanding immigration reform reaffirms that our vote in the 2012 presidential election was a deposit on progress, and the American people intend to collect on that leadership investment. We made our voices heard then, and we will continue to do so because the time is now for comprehensive immigration reform.
Mee Moua is president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.