LOS ANGELES (April 3, 2013) — Today in Historic Filipinotown, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations and community members called on Congress to enact fair and just immigration reform that protects and strengthens the family immigration system.
The represented organizations are part of a local coalition called API FIRE (Asian Pacific Islanders for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment) that supports inclusive and humane immigration reform. Coalition members were also joined by Congresswoman Judy Chu of the 27th Congressional District of California. “We need immigration reform that reunites immigrant families, including LGBT families, for the long-term social and economic vitality of our nation,” said Rep. Chu. “Family is a cornerstone American value and our nation will be stronger if family unity is protected and strengthened in immigration reform legislation.”
Throughout the Easter Recess, AAPI community leaders and members in California, Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida are holding related press events, shedding light on how the immigration system affects AAPI immigrants and their families. These actions lift up AAPI voices in the national debate on immigration reform, calling for the preservation and protection of the family-based immigration system.
The following are statements from members of the API FIRE coalition:
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders care deeply about immigration reform. In the November 2012 election, 82 percent of Asian American voters in California said that immigration played an important role in their choice of presidential candidates. The immigrant community has made it clear that they want Congress to act on immigration reform now,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “Our community calls on Congress to protect and affirm family unity in immigration reform legislation. Brothers, sisters, and adult married children are our family members and must continue to have a path to family reunification.”
Family reunification is the primary reason AAPIs come to the U.S., but AAPI families suffer some of the worst immigration backlogs. “We are particularly concerned about attacks to the family immigration system. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must wait up to 23 years for an immigrant visa to join their family members in the U.S.,” said Jenny Seon, Immigration Legal Project Director at the Korean Resource Center. “This long separation of families is unacceptable – we want efficient and timely processing of visas that facilitates the reunification of families.”
Cynthia Buiza, a board member of the Filipino Migrant Center, said, “We have a historic opportunity to finally address the brokenness of our immigration system. For decades, waiting has become synonymous with the word immigration to many Filipino families. Immigrants from the Philippines have an average wait period of 15 to 18 years. The mother of a close friend waited 24 years before she could be reunited with her only brother in the United States. She was in her 60s by the time she finally got her petition approved. Any immigration reform will not be complete without maintaining the integrity of the family immigration system. Let us put an end to the injustice of waiting.”
Eileen Ma, Executive Director of API Equality – LA, also said, “We need to provide a pathway to citizenship for the over 32,000 bi-national same-sex couples currently living here. U.S. immigration policy is largely based on the principle of family reunification, allowing for the sponsorship of spouses and other family members for immigration purposes. But because of a limited definition of family and the federal government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and green card holders are not considered “family” under immigration law. Many Asian American LGBTs are foreign-born, like the rest of the Asian American population, and are significantly impacted by the inequality of the current family immigration system.”
Since the passage of anti-immigrant legislation by Congress in 1996, the rollback of civil liberties and civil rights has had a disparate impact upon AAPIs. “Our community has suffered from repressive immigration enforcement tactics and policies. In these jail-style facilities, people languish and are essentially treated like criminals,” said Chancee Martorell, Executive Director of Thai Community Development Center. “We must put an end to draconian, enforcement-heavy immigration policies which have resulted in mass deportations of Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders.”
Jewell Alingasa, a member of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights Through Education) Los Angeles, added, “The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities support a path to citizenship for the 1.3 million undocumented members of our communities, so that all of us can fully participate in the greater American society. Deferred action was not enough. We need to provide long-term solutions for Asian American and Pacific Islander families who contribute so much to our society and yet live in constant fear of deportation. Congress should enact an inclusive and direct path to citizenship that will keep families together.”
“We are frequently contacted by South Asian Americans whose lives are on hold as a result of our current immigration system. Recently, we worked with an elderly couple from India who have been waiting over seven years to be reunited with their adult son and his family; a community member waiting to reunite with his sister and her family for over fifteen years; and, a young graduate student and his siblings who remain undocumented,” said Manju Kulkarni, executive director of South Asian Network. “We sincerely hope that immigration reform will address these backlogs that divide our families and provide a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented community members, so that we may all begin to move forward with our lives.”
Mark Masaoka, Coordinator of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council said, “The Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Southern California stands strongly for fair and just immigration reform that reflects our cherished American values of equality, due process, inclusion, and fairness.”
The following API FIRE organizations call on Congress to enact a bill that protects family unity in the immigration system, including ensuring family reunification for brothers, sisters, and adult married children:
• Asian Pacific American Legal Center
• Asian Pacific American Bar Association
• Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
• Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network
• Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council
• API Equality – Los Angeles
• Chinese Rainbow Association
• Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles
• Filipino American Service Center, Inc.
• Filipino Migrant Center
• KAYA – Los Angeles
• Korean Resource Center
• K.W. Lee Center for Leadership
• OCA of Greater Los Angeles
• Search to Involve Pilipino Americans
• South Asian Network
• Thai Community Development Center
• THAIS, Inc.
The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, is the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983, APALC advocates for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, APALC seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities while also building a strong Asian American and NHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.