Thursday, April 4, 2013


Asian Americans are gearing up for a large immigration reform rally on Capitol Hill next week that will focus opposition on an alleged plan by lawmakers to eliminate family-based visa petitions by US citizens.

Various Fil-Am groups are already mobilizing for the rally scheduled on the West Lawn of US Capitol building from 3-6 PM on Wednesday, April 10.

Two groups – the umbrella National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) and Washington-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) are urging Filipinos to come out strong for the mass action organized by the Asian American Justice Center, among others.

Anxiety is sweeping the Asian American community because they place heavy premium on the ability to bring relatives to the US. A recent study by the Migrant Policy Institute (MPI) showed over 4 million people have approved petitions for legal permanent residence – mostly from family-based visa categories – but can’t come over because their priority dates have not become current.

Next to natives of Mexico, Filipinos have the longest waiting time that in some categories stretches to over 20 years.  The MPI estimates that based on current quota levels and assuming there are no new petitions filed, it will take the government 19 years to clear this backlog.

Some conservative senators now apparently believe the way to solve the backlog is stopping certain family petitions by American citizens altogether.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, part of the so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan group crafting a proposed immigration reform bill in the Senate said “green cards” should be reserved for the “nuclear family”.

“This is not a family court we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing about an economic need,” he was quoted by the Associated Press. Some say this could eliminate visa categories for adult and married sons and daughters as well as siblings of American citizens.

In California, Asian American groups gathered in Los Angeles’“Filipinotown” to press demands Congress strengthen family reunification as part of a comprehensive immigration reform deal. 

“The immigrant community has made it clear that they want Congress to act on immigration reform now,” said Stewart Kwoh, 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, sister and adult married children are our family members and must continue to have a path to family reunification,” he stressed.

“We need immigration reform that reunites immigrant families, including LGBT families for the long-term social and economic vitality of our nation,” declared Rep. Judy Chu (27th Dist, CA).

“Family is a cornerstone American value and our nation will be stronger if family unity is protected and strengthened in immigration reform legislation,” she argued.

“We have a historic opportunity to finally address the broken immigration system. For decades waiting has become synonymous with the word immigration to many Filipino families,” said Cynthia Buiza of the Filipino Migrant Center.

“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,” she exhorted.

Advocates say Graham’s proposal would run counter to the fundamental premise of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which prioritized families as well as skilled labor in extending residency.

They also see this as further proof that some lawmakers still don’t get why immigration reform is so important for many Americans.

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