Friday, April 19, 2013
ASIAN AMERICANS SEE PROPOSED SENATE IMMIGRATION BILL AS ‘WORK IN PROGRESS’
Key leaders in the Asian American community emphasized the need for more dialogue as various groups tried to digest proposed immigration reforms presented on Capitol Hill.
The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” (S.744) is encouraging, they said, but is also a “work in progress” that needed to be more inclusive.
“Our particular concerns are related to the changes in the family-based immigration system that will prevent families from reuniting with important loved ones; promoting business interests should not come at the expense of families,” said DC-based National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), an advocacy group for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community.
“The Senate proposal could prove a watershed moment in the history of US immigration by bringing millions of people out of the shadows,” said Alison Parker, US program director for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Still the group is worried the bill would expand criminal prosecutions for crossing the country’s southern border. “These prosecutions fail to target genuine threats to public safety or national security and impose tremendous human and financial costs,” he explained, adding “Prosecutions should not be expanded without careful consideration of whether they meet their purported goals.
“We are encouraged that the Senate bill removes barriers for elders to get their citizenship,” said Doua Thor, executive director of the Southeast Asia Resource Center, but expressed disappointment “that in a country where we value fairness and justice, legal permanent residence who have made a mistake in the past are not given a 2nd chance after they have already paid their debt to society”.
Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center, described the proposed bill “a substantial step in the right direction toward fixing our broken immigration system and solid starting point for addressing the current backlog” but also added, “We are deeply concerned about the elimination of visa categories pertaining to siblings and married adult children over the age of 30.”
Son Ah Yun, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, said that while they were buoyed by the “roadmap to citizenship” for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, “the road to citizenship is long and arduous with arbitrary triggers that may thwart the path to citizenship for hardworking, aspiring Americans.”
Fil-Am Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, stressed the need for the bill to address the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and trans-nationals to ensure “they are not left in the shadows” after pointing out that 1 out of 10 aspiring citizens is Asian American, and 6 out of 10 H1-B (highly skilled workers) visa holders are from Asia.
Meanwhile, another Fil-Am community leader, lawyer Arnedo Valera of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), lauded provisions to place undocumented aliens on a registered provisional status, granting them authorization to work and travel while waiting for their green card.
“The new provision will stop deportations and removal of non-serious criminal offenders,” Valera, an immigration lawyer, explained. He also supported the proposed creation of the “W” visa category for unskilled or semi-skilled workers that could directly boost an “invisible” segment of Filipinos in America who work as caregivers, babysitters and general housekeepers.
But he vowed to lobby for the retention of the family preference for siblings and all family-based petitions. “We are now seeing a clear and united attempt to a practical solution to the broken immigration system where border security and the legalization of immigrants are both addressed,” Valera averred.
About a third of all family-based visas go to those seeking to reunite with Asian American families but about 1.8 million more are trapped in a massive backlog that could last up to 20 years in the case of Filipinos waiting for their green cards.