On May Day and the 1st Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Asian American Michiganders United for Humane Immigration Reform
Urged legislators to enact reform that strengthens family reunification, protects immigrant workers, and paves a timelier path to legalization
DETROIT, May 1, 2013: On the first day of Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage month, APIA organizations in Michigan welcomed two immigration reform packages recently introduced, the U.S. Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, and the Michigan state package New American Opportunity & Fairness Act . Speaking on behalf of these groups and Asian American Michiganders, Tran spoke at yesterday's May Day rally in Clark Park, Detroit.
Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote - Michigan (APIAVote-MI), American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), the Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee (BAPAC), National Federation of Filipino American Associations-Michigan (NaFFAA-MI), Mai Family Services (MaiFS), South Asians American Voices for Impact (SAAVI), and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Michigan (APALA MI) said the Senate CIR bill is promising but still has hurdles.
The groups called on Congress to strengthen family reunification measures by including siblings, married adult children over age 30 and LGBTQ immigrants within family reunification categories. They urged for the diversity lottery to be included, along with Bangladesh back in the eligible country categories. The groups said the bill needs more labor protections for immigrant workers, and said they opposed federal E-Verify mandates. The focus should be on family-based legal immigration and a shorter path to citizenship than thirteen years.
The groups noted that there are many elements of the bill that negatively impact Asian American families. “Family unity is core to American identity since the founding of this country, and core to our immigration system,” said Willie Dechavez, state chairperson of NaFFAA-MI. “We’re greatly concerned that the current bill eliminates the F4 visa category for siblings and caps the age of F3 married adult children that can be sponsored to 30 years old.”
Tran noted, “Both my parents are here in the U.S. today because their siblings sponsored them. My mother was able to be reunited with her family after being apart for over a decade. For my father, sibling sponsorship was the difference between a life of poverty and the American Dream. I understand firsthand the importance of sibling sponsorship to many of our community members.”
“Many Bangladeshi Americans and others came to the U.S. through the diversity lottery visa program, which would be eliminated in the Senate bill as introduced,” said Simon Baroi from BAPAC. “We are a small community that has contributed greatly to the Michigan economy, and that is due in large part to our access to the diversity lottery. We urge legislators to support the diversity lottery and add Bangladesh back to the diversity lottery countries.”
The groups, convened by APIAVote-MI, commend the Senators for including provisions for a pathway for legalization for DREAMers and undocumented immigrants. 1.3 million undocumented immigrants, and 1 in 10 DREAM-Act eligible youth originate from Asia. Most undocumented Asian immigrants come from China, Philippines, India, Korea and Vietnam, with Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders deported at rates 3 times higher than all other immigrant populations.
“While we praise the Senate bill for addressing a cumbersome visa backlog which has long disproportionately affected Asian Americans,” said MaiFS, “we hope that the path is not needlessly lengthy, nor burdensome.” The groups advocate for a timely path to citizenship that is not contingent on anti-immigrant Southern legislators and enforcement triggers.
Emma Chen, president of ACJ/AACJ said: “ACJ/AACJ believes that the immigration bill overemphasizes border enforcement, and the billions of dollars to secure the border, at the expense of family reunification. Family reunification is an important element for a humane immigration policy."
The groups also note continued discrimination of same-sex couples and families from family reunification, and urge adding Rep. Nadler’s Uniting American Families Act into the Senate bill. Chen noted that CIR “should address the reality of same-sex bi national couples who are unfairly singled out as an exempted group not entitled to recognition for family reunification.”
Raman Buttar, SAAVI Immigration Chair noted, "We welcome the proposed increase in H1B visas, but urge for a clearer path to green card and citizenship without backlogs. We do not want this community to be a migrant group of temporary workers who are filling gaps in skills our economy lacks. We also hope the proposed office of immigrant integration can assist H1B visa holders."
The groups are alarmed about the mandatory E-Verify, or electronic employment verification, in the Senate and House bill. The current E-Verify system has high error rates that kick out citizens and legal residents, with an error rate 20 times higher for foreign-born than U.S.-born workers. As two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign-born, the highest of any demographic, with a sizeable portion limited English proficient, this will likely disproportionately affect Asian Americans. Other concerns include the potential of E-Verify becoming a de facto National ID card and used to check statuses in the street, at the airport, or getting housing. Privacy and identity theft risks, unfair and costly burdens on small businesses, and forcing employers to act as immigration agents are additional concerns, they note.
“Today, on International Workers’ Day, we are gravely concerned about a federally mandated E-Verify,” said Tran. “This will push our most vulnerable workers into the underground economy, prey to more unscrupulous employers and labor abuses and wage theft issues.”
Ying Gee, president of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Michigan added, “We also have serious concerns about continuous employer requirements for legalization - which poses more barriers for immigrant workers. As we fight for inclusion in the Senate bill, we are encouraged by provisions that include labor recruiter regulations and the creation of an independent commission to oversee future flow and shift the basis of determination towards the consideration of economic conditions and labor market needs."
"We urge the Asian American community to contact Senators Levin and Stabenow and ask them to advocate for our needs with their colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Theresa Q. Tran, president of APIAVote-MI. “We also must start communicating with our House of Representatives to advocate for the strongest possible bill. As an increasing part of the electorate, and the fastest growing group of any racial group in MI and the U.S. between 2000 and 2010, we have a lot at stake. We look forward to working with our legislators to support the most just and inclusive bill possible in the coming weeks,” says Tran. “And we will remember which legislator supports our communities' needs as we lay the groundwork for future election cycles."
APIAVote-MI adopted principles for comprehensive immigration reform. The principles can be viewed at: