LOS ANGELES (Aug. 21, 2013) — At this critical moment in our nation’s history, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), a national affiliation of civil rights organizations that serves Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, looks to President Barack Obama to lead the nation in fixing our broken immigration system.
The House of Representatives continues to consider draconian, anti-immigrant piecemeal legislation rather than genuine immigration reform and families continue to be separated from their loved ones. Meanwhile, President Obama has the constitutional authority to move the needle forward by immediately extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the 11 million undocumented immigrants who came to this country seeking a better life for their families.
Since the founding of the United States, immigration policies have reflected the nation’s values—establishing the parameters for inclusion and exclusion from the fabric of our society and who is deemed to be “worthy” of being American. As a community that was largely barred from U.S. citizenship until the early 1950s, Asian Americans today are the most predominantly immigrant of any racial group in the country.
With nearly 1.3 million people who are undocumented, Asian Americans are profoundly impacted by the current discourse—and Congressional logjam—on immigration reform. Action is urgently needed. Every day that passes, eleven hundred people are deported—separated from their homes and families.
The Viriviri family, an undocumented family from Fiji, is just one family that has been torn apart by our immigration policies. Nearly 25 years ago, Samisoni Viriviri came to the United States with his wife and two children fleeing a military coup. His son, a DREAMer, was deported after a traffic stop in 2000. In 2011, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents raided their home, and after detaining his wife for two months in a county jail, the agency deported her. In 2012, ICE agents raided their home again and detained Viriviri for a month, devastating his two grandchildren.
“I came home from school and asked where is Nana. They told me that they took her away. It hurts to have an empty space there. I don’t want that to happen to my grandpa.” said Aliti, Viriviri’s nine-year-old grandchild. Even though Viriviri qualifies for relief under the Senate immigration reform bill, he faces deportation later this year.
Advancing Justice knows first-hand how the success of the DACA program, implemented one year ago by the Obama Administration, has strengthened our communities and our nation. Advancing Justice supported the Right to Dream campaign led by undocumented youth who, with their courage and leadership, paved the way for DACA — a common-sense interim solution that allows DREAMers to live without fear of deportation and to obtain work permits. Collectively, Advancing Justice has assisted thousands of undocumented youth in applying for DACA. We have witnessed the positive transformational impact when undocumented immigrants are able to come out of the shadows and fully contribute their talents, skills, and passion to their communities and this country.
Now is the time to extend DACA to the parents and families of DREAMers. Legal scholars across the country noted last year that President Obama had the authority to implement DACA. It is indisputable that President Obama also has the constitutional authority to expand DACA to those who continue to live in the shadows. With the current impasse in the House of Representatives, families continue to be broken apart and the nation continues to be deprived of the full array of talents and skills of 11 million undocumented immigrants.
President Obama can lead the way forward and move Congress to act on fair and humane immigration reform by granting interim relief to immigrant families with the immediate expansion of DACA. By doing so, he will advance and uphold our nation’s cherished values of equality, fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all.