LOS ANGELES, California – The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, joined hundreds of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) families and community leaders in Washington, D.C. for the Stand With Families: National AAPI Day of Action for Immigration Reform. APALC co-sponsored this national mobilization, in partnership with other organizations, to call on Congress to enact immigration reform legislation that protects and strengthens family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system.
Immigration reform is a critical issue for the AANHPI community, which is nearly two-thirds immigrant and the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. It touches the lives of millions of AANHPIs and their loved ones – including approximately 1.3 million undocumented Asian Americans. Not surprisingly, in exit polling conducted by APALC after the November 2012 election, 82 percent of Asian American voters in California indicated that immigration played an important role in how they viewed the presidential candidates.
Speaking today to a cheering crowd of hundreds at a rally near Capitol Hill, Anthony Ng, an undocumented immigrant youth leader and APALC policy advocate, proclaimed, “Immigrants come to the United States to provide their families a better life. My parents came to this country from the Philippines so that their children – my sister and I – could have opportunities. If not for immigrants’ will to ensure a better life for their families, this country would not be as great as it is. We have to mobilize so that this immigration bill ensures that all families are kept together.”
Before and after the rally, APALC representatives and other participants in the National AAPI Day of Action visited the offices of members of Congress to share their immigration stories and urge these elected representatives to support fair and just immigration reform. As part of its campaign for immigration reform, APALC has been meeting with members of Congress for several months to share the experiences of immigrant community members who would be directly impacted by immigration reform and to recommend policies that would truly fix the broken immigration system.
According to Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of APALC, “Asian Americans understand the discrimination, pain, and hardships that result from a broken immigration system. Asians were not allowed to become citizens until the early 1950s and were largely precluded from immigrating to the U.S. until 1965 due to restriction national origins quotas. Since then, family immigration has been the primary way that Asian American families have settled down roots and integrated into U.S. society. We will continue to mobilize to ensure that the path to family reunification remains open and does not exclude our brothers, sisters, and adult married children; that LGBTQ families are able to be with their loved ones; and that the path to citizenship is direct and inclusive.”
The legislative process for immigration reform will continue for a few more months. Supporters of immigration reform are working towards a bill passing the Senate and House of Representatives and going to President Obama for his signature by August. Although APALC and other partners are engaged in efforts to support immigration reform that meets the needs of AANHPI communities, there is no guarantee that immigration reform legislation will be signed into law.
During this critical time, it is important that community members are informed and know their rights. APALC urges community members to keep the following recommendations in mind:
1. Current law allows U.S. citizens to petition to sponsor their brothers, sisters, and adult married children. This may change if the Senate’s immigration proposal is signed into law. The Senate bill in its current form eliminates the sibling visa category, so that U.S. citizens would no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters for green cards. U.S. citizens also would no longer be able to sponsor their adult married children who are 31 years of age or older. This proposal is not yet law, so community members who are U.S. citizens and would like to sponsor their brother, sister, or adult married child for green cards should consider whether to do so now.
2. Be careful of advertised services for immigration relief. There currently is no new immigration law and no application process for getting legal status in the U.S.
The process is just in the beginning stages. There is only a legislative proposal that will be amended in the coming months and it still needs to be voted on by Congress. Community members should not listen to those who may try to mislead them and charge them to get in line to apply. There is no law and no application process right now.
If and when there is an immigration reform law, community members should first seek a trusted non-profit organization to receive advice and help.
3. Start gathering documents to show presence in the U.S. since at least December 2011.
The Senate bill currently proposes a cut-off date for legalization of December 31, 2011. This date may change. It is important that, in the meantime, community members start to compile documentation to show that they were in the U.S. in December 2011 and that they have been continuously present in the U.S. since then. Community members will need to show that they continue to reside in the U.S. until the time that they apply for and receive legalization. COMMUNITY
MEMBERS SHOULD NOT LEAVE THE UNITED STATES or they may lose the opportunity to legalize. APALC does not have details about the type of documentation the government might require, but here are some possible examples: utility bills, bank statements, school records, signed letters from clergy, medical records, phone bill statements, employment records, credit card receipts, and other documents that list community members’ name and the date.
Community members with additional questions should call the Asian Pacific American Legal Center at:
English/Tagalog/Spanish: (888) 349-9695
Chinese: (800) 520-2356
Khmer: (800) 867-3126
Korean: (800) 867-3640
Thai: (800) 914-9583
Vietnamese: (800) 267-7395