Thursday, April 11, 2013


Thousands of immigration rights protesters converged on Capitol Hill yesterday (April 10) including Filipino Americans urging lawmakers to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would help re-unite families and provide a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Judge David Valderrama, the first Fil-Am to be elected to a US state legislature (Maryland House of Delegates 1991-2003), led a delegation that met with staff members of Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski. “We should not eliminate family visas in exchange for more high-skilled foreign workers,” he told them.

“That would undermine our cherished values of family unit,” Valderrama stressed, “America benefits when immigrant families come together. They work hard, pay taxes, buy homes and start job-creating businesses.”

(Photos courtesy of my good friend Bing Branigin who probably enjoyed the first streak of good Spring weather as much as the opportunity to push a worthy advocacy)

Various reports speculated that the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators crafting the outlines of an immigration reform bill, was ready to present its proposals this week (the timetable appears to have been moved back to next week as Congress works on gun reforms). They allegedly included a ploy to swap certain family-based visa categories for an expansion of employment-based visa categories.

The Asian-American community has been spearheading the opposition to such a move.

“This issue directly affects our families and our communities,” declared Ed Navarra, chairman of the umbrella National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

Jon Melegrito wrote in an email they were guarding against political maneuvering during the debates that could compromise the intent of immigration reforms. “That’s why we are lobbying fervently now to put pressure on Congress to preserve family visas and prevent their elimination entirely,” he averred.

“Let’s take this opportunity to engage our political leaders and let them know how much we care about reuniting families,” Navarra added.

Members of the Fil-Am Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) donned T-shirts that bore their message – “all human beings are legal” or “America is powered by immigrants”.

Yesterday’s rally was easily one of the largest immigration reform mobilizations in Washington, with participants coming from virtually every corner of the US. Organizers said tens of thousands of protesters from 30 states converged on the West Lawn of the US Congress to peacefully air their calls for action on immigration reform.

They were joined by sympathizers outside the capital, including Mexican immigrant Salvador Zamora who with about 20 others launched a hunger strike in Nevada to press for immigration reforms. He staged another hunger strike in 2011 that lasted 70 days. In New York, another group serenaded Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic member of the “Gang of Eight”.

Immigration reform has gained impetus following last year’s elections, where both Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged the growing influence of Hispanic voters.

But the significant Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) presence in yesterday’s mobilization was intended to remind legislators that immigration reform was not solely a Latino issue.

“This reform is very critical to Asian Americans,” said Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center. “One out of every 11 undocumented immigrants is Asian, one out of every 10 DREAMer is Asian,” she revealed.

No comments:

Post a Comment