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Unprecedented National Mobilization of Asian Pacific Americans for Just and Humane Immigration Reform and In Response to White House Plan for Guestworker Program and Attacks on Family Immigration

By May 1, 2007No Comments

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Eun Sook Lee, (213) 453-4378, English
Dae Joong Yoon, (213) 434-4267, Korean
Kathy Chae, (646) 761-6027, Spanish

May 1, 2007

Unprecedented National Mobilization of Asian Pacific Americans for Just and Humane Immigration Reform and In Response to White House Plan for Guestworker Program and Attacks on Family Immigration

On April 30-May 1, 2007, national Asian Pacific American organizations and participants from more than 25 states converged in Washington D.C. to call on lawmakers and the White House to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Throughout the two days, the participants engaged in community dialogues, legislative visits, and a rally on Capitol Hill.

Eun Sook Lee, Executive Director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), stated, “This historic event came at a strategic moment with the introduction of the first serious legislative proposal in the new Congress by Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and the exposure of the secret White House plan and negotiations. APAs are coming together as an unprecedented force to oppose attacks on family immigration and a guestworker proposal that will harm all Americans and result in violations of civil, human and worker rights. In effect, it would produce a permanent underclass of exploited workers. The White House plan, if adopted, also derails years of bi-partisan collaboration for a workable, just and humane immigration reform legislation. Ms. Lee also noted that, “there are 12 million undocumented immigrants working and living in the shadows, including 1 in 5 Korean Americans. We have to ensure that all immigrants are treated with dignity and respect.”

Doua Thor, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) said, “The APA Mobilization included refugee populations, a group that has been traditionally underrepresented in and left out of the immigration reform discussion. A national day of mobilization provided us an opportunity to stand united with all APA communities to ensure that our voices are included on this very important issue.”

Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT), said, “Immigration reform is a critical next step for South Asians who are waiting in the shadows to become strong participants in society. Between 2000 and 2005, undocumented immigration from India rose by 133%. Policy solutions that will provide pathways to citizenship and eliminate the visa backlog are priorities for South Asian immigrants.”

“APALA supports immigration reforms that protect workers, unite families, and provide paths to citizenship,” said Gloria T. Caoile, Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). “For immigrants, America still holds the promise of a prosperous future. When you support people who dream, communities are built and economic growth is achieved. It’s time to stop building barriers. We should have immigration policies that value workers and support families.”

Jon Melegrito, Communications Director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA), stated, “We joined our sisters and brothers in the Asian Pacific American community in urging our public officials to act promptly in reforming our country’s current immigration system in a way that affirms our nation’s values of justice and compassion. We are united in calling for humane and just measures that bring families together – not keep them apart – and for policies that will create strong communities, which are vital to America ‘s political, social and economic well-being.”

Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), stated, “Asian Americans from across the United States came together in our nation’s Capitol to mark the beginning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a strong voice in support of comprehensive, workable, and fair immigration reform. We gathered here to inform our policy makers and all Americans that the broken immigration system can only be fixed with immigration laws that fully incorporate our shared American values of family, human rights, civil liberties, and due process. We will oppose any bill that does not provide relief for everyone in the current family backlog and that would cut any of the current family-based immigration categories.”

“Comprehensive immigration reform has a profound impact on immigrant API women and their ability to establish families and communities in the U.S. Immigration policies that undermine family values or target pregnant immigrant women are unworkable, unjust, and inhumane. Immigration reform policies have a particular impact on foreign-born women. Immigrant women are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed, and lack health insurance than U.S. born women,” said Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

“Immigration reform has been at the heart of JACL advocacy from its founding in 1929 when anti-Asian immigration laws were passed to keep Asians from coming to this country. Yet the spirit associated with immigration is at the heart of the American economic system and is an institution essential to the future of this country. Comprehensive Immigration Reform must be passed in this Congressional session in order that basic American economic grown and economic justice continue into the future,” said Floyd Mori, National Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).

“Family-based immigration is one of the main entry points for Asians into the US immigration system. Family cohesion creates strong communities and support systems for children and other young relatives. However, family members applying to enter the US legally face large backlogs and long waits to be reunited with brothers, sisters, parents and children,” said Michael Lin, Executive Director of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA). “For some, especially those in the Philippines, the wait can be as long as 20 years. Imagine waiting two decades to be reunited with your siblings, your parents, or your children. Every day, every month, every year, every ten years that families remain divided is too long. The time for comprehensive, family-based immigration reform is now.”

“Asian American immigrants are an integral part of America – we are workers, neighbors, and small business owners who revitalize communities and contribute significantly to our economy. Immigration policies impact Asian American immigrants and the hundreds of community-based organizations that serve them. We called for comprehensive immigration reform that reunites our families, creates a path to citizenship, and extends legal protections to all workers who seek the American Dream,” said Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD).

“Immigrants and non-immigrants alike must learn about the different proposals on the table and through participation we will achieve the best law possible. Now is the time to make a change. We cannot stay silent. From Chicago, we have close to 50 participants from the Korean, Chinese, Cambodian and other APA communities coming to DC to take a stand during this decisive moment,” said Becky Belcore, Executive Director of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) of Chicago.

“On a daily basis, we work with victims of immigration fraud, community members living in fear of being apprehended by immigration officials, and families waiting to be reunited,” said Yu Soung Mun, Executive Director of YKASEC-Empowering the Korean American Community. “With each passing year, as immigrants wait for Congress to fix the current, broken immigration system, the suffering in our communities increases. We gathered at Capitol Hill to demand that Congress take immediate action to put an end to the needless suffering in our communities.”
“Often times the Asian Pacific American presence is not included in the immigration reform debate. This Asian Pacific American Mobilization sent a clear message to the public and policy makers that we have a stake in immigration reform. Current government priorities, or lack thereof, in public education, job training, and health and social programs for low-income people of all communities of color highlight to all Americans that this is not just about immigration–it is about lifting all people and treating everyone with respect and dignity,” said Dae Joong Yoon, Executive Director of the Korean Resource Center (KRC) of Los Angeles.

For more information, please contact Morna Ha at NAKASEC, (323) 937-3703, ext. 201.

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