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Press Release | Asian American and Pacific Islander Families Descend on Washington D.C. Demanding Passage of Strong Immigration Reform Legislation

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For Immediate Release

June 5, 2013

Contact:

Jane Yoo, NAKASEC, 202.630.4013jyoo@nakasec.org

Asian American and Pacific Islander Families

Descend on Washington D.C. Demanding Passage of Strong

Immigration Reform Legislation

Impacted moms, dads, children and youth say efforts on reform must preserve sibling and adult children visa categories, ensure path to citizenship, and stop harsh enforcement measures that tear families apart

Washington D.C. – As the full U.S. Senate is poised to begin the process to debate the immigration bill, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, hundreds Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families from 20 states rallied on the East Lawn of the Capitol calling on Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that is as inclusive of many families as possible. Their demands included the preservation of the sibling and adult children visa categories, a clear and affordable path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and putting an end to harsh enforcement policies that tear families apart.

Joining AAPI immigrant families were Reps. Judy Chu (CA) Jan Schakowsky (IL), natives from Hawaii and Alaska who announced their “First Americans for New Americans” campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer of Service Employees International Union and Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. Impacted community members shared their experiences highlighting why immigration reform must pass this year.

Randy Kim traveled to Washington DC on a bus from Chicago, IL. His family came to the U.S. as refugees from the Vietnam War and the Cambodian genocide in the early 1980s. He spoke to the crowd about the story of his father and the strength his siblings gave each other during wartime and when they resettled in the U.S.

“When the Cambodian Killing Field era began, my dad and uncle escaped to Thailand and migrated to the U.S.,” said Randy. “They eventually sponsored my Uncle Sean and with their help he was able to settle and become a hardworking citizen. However, when Uncle Sean tried to sponsor their remaining siblings, they never made it. This was after 20 years of wasted money, endless run around and no answer.” On earlier legislative visits, Randy told legislators that siblings are an integral part of the American family and when families stay together, everyone prospers.

Anthony Ng, an undocumented immigrant youth leader from Southern California, has been an active leader and advocate. He came to the U.S. with his parents from the Philippines. In 2011, he graduated from the University of California-Irvine, and now hopes to earn a joint degree in Law and a master’s in Urban Planning.

“It was in the 10th grade when I found out about my undocumented status. I didn’t know what it meant and what to feel at the moment,” Anthony said. “My parents worked long tireless hours to prove that they made the right choice for our family to move to the U.S. I never doubted their decision. I am proud of them.”

Yosub Jung, also an undocumented youth from Southern California, shared his family’s struggles as undocumented immigrants. They fell out of status despite numerous efforts to obtain a green card. Yosub recently graduated top of his class at UC Berkeley and will begin his PhD studies at Harvard Business School in the fall.

“There were times when having no papers stopped my studies. There were times when I could not take necessary classes,” he told the crowd. “However, my parents taught and motivated me that all dreams can be reached if I study hard and stay true to myself. I want to use my degree to steer our nation towards smart economic growth. A roadmap to citizenship will give me and millions of other young people the chance to contribute our talents to the vitality of America.”

Lundy Khoy, born in a Thai refugee camp to Cambodian parents, resettled in the U.S. with her family when she was a year old. She was raised in California and northern Virginia, and is currently fighting her deportation as a result of unjust laws that mandate the deportation of noncitizens, even for minor crimes.  She was detained for nine months while ICE sought her removal to Cambodia, a country she has never stepped foot in.

“Because of one mistake I made as a teenager, I may be separated from my family for the rest of my life. I am not a threat to society – I am a daughter, a sister, a student, a college admissions counselor and an American,” said Lundy. She came to the rally because she wanted others to know that the deportation policies need to change.

Prior to the rally, families and advocates held meetings with offices of 37 members of Congress and delivered packets to all 100 members in the Senate, including Dear Congress letters from families from 27 states. [Dear Congress letters can be viewed and downloaded here - bit.ly/17iCh3q]

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AA & NHPI) are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. The community has expanded beyond the major cities with burgeoning communities throughout the U.S. In polls taken during the 2012 Presidential elections, 72% of Asian American voters said they support passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Please see attached for quotes, bios and contact information from organizational leaders who also spoke at the press conference. More information is available atwww.standwithfamilies.org.

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Stand With Families: National AAPI Day of Action is co-sponsored by the Asian American Justice Center; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO; Asian Pacific American Legal Center; Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement; Korean American Resource & Cultural Center; Korean Resource Center; National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center


QUOTES FROM ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS

“Family immigration is a top priority for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and a cornerstone of our current immigration system. While we were disappointed to see the family categories of married adult children and brothers and sisters put on the chopping block, we want to thank our champions in Congress for their efforts to strengthen the family system. Today’s events are a great demonstration of AAPIs standing up for our families and ensuring that our priorities are reflected in the legislative processes currently underway in the House and the Senate.”

Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Asian American Justice Center

“Our message is clear, America needs united immigrant families for a stronger economy. Real comprehensive immigration reform is about family unity. Legislation should not narrowly define, discriminate or exclude family members from reunification whether they are a sibling or same-sex partner. We will not stand idly by as fathers, mothers and children are detained or deported as immigration reform draws closer. We will not be silenced while family reunification is being used as a bargaining chip in exchange for big business where working Americans are displaced and immigrant workers are exploited by employers seeking to cut costs.”

Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

“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 restrictionist 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.”

Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center

“We are honored to support comprehensive immigration reform that creates a pathway to citizenship and one that values family unity. As one of the first peoples of this great land that has had to work to be recognized, we know what is possible when an entire community is no longer in the shadows. The goals of immigration reform match our way, our Native values, to foster and care for others.”

Robin Puanani Danner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

“No one should be forced to choose between the country they call home and the families left in another country. Family unity should be a key foundation of our immigration laws, in the same way that it is a key foundation of our society itself. We urge Congress to ensure that the final immigration legislation reunites families, eliminates unconscionable family-based backlogs, preserves diversity, ends discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, and ensures adequate numbers of visas in all categories.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“This marks another historical moment as the Asian American and Pacific Islander community speaks out on our needs for immigration reform. It is critical that immigration policy reform keeps all families together, including the options to sponsor our siblings and adult children, and keeping our LGBT families together.  As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, NAPAWF will remain engaged with policy makers and continue to mobilize to ensure that the final bill keeps all families together, protects the health and well-being of AAPI women, and provides a just process for attaining citizenship. Stand with our families, our stories have the power to make change.”

Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

“The Senate CIR bill is an important step forward to fix the broken immigration system and we applaud the Senators for their hard work. We also welcome the establishment of a new road map to citizenship for the 11 millions aspiring citizens. However, the road is difficult, costly and restrictive. The DREAM provision is a very positive step. We also applaud that spouses and children of legal permanent residents would be considered as immediate family members. However, the current Senate bill is a radical departure from the historic 1965 immigration law that allowed for immigration based on family ties. The current Senate bill will eliminate and limit the rights of U.S. citizens to sponsor siblings and married older children. Separated family members will be competing for points based on job skills, education attainment and family ties. Strong families help build a strong economy.”

Dae Joong (DJ) Yoon, Executive Director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)

“The unprecedented votes in November may have propelled immigration reform to the national stage, but it is the momentum of the growing consensus of Americans that will deliver a commonsense immigration law. The call for a real solution to our dysfunctional immigration system can be heard across the country from Latinos and Asian Americans to small businesses to preachers and pastors.  We won’t be silent. We will take action today, tomorrow… until we mark 2013 the year Congress passed true immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship.”

Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU

With the Senate debate quickly approaching on immigration legislation, we will continue to raise our voices on issues affecting AAPI families: creating a pathway to legalization, uniting with loved ones, preserving the rights of all workers, and ending harsh enforcement policies.”

Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and Chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).

“The voices of Southeast Asian American families that are being broken apart by deportation need to be heard in the current immigration reform debate. Deportation laws lead to racial profiling, unjust detentions, and cruel deportations. The laws do not treat people as individuals, and they operate without concern for American families — tearing mothers and fathers away from their U.S. citizen children and sons and daughters from their elderly parents and from the only country they have ever called home: America. That is why we are gathering in the nation’s capital to call on Congress to work with us to keep families together and end unjust deportation.”

Dour Thor, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center


ORGANIZATION LEADERS BIOS

Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. The International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Medina also leads the union’s efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that rebuilds the nation’s economy, secures equal labor- and civil-rights protections for workers to improve their wages and work conditions and provides legal channels and a path to citizenship. Medina’s work to help grow Latino voting strength in the 2012 elections is widely recognized as a key factor in propelling the 2013 debate in Congress over commonsense immigration reform. Medina’s career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape-picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, Calif. Over the next 13 years, Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and honed his skills as a union organizer and political strategist; eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the United Farm Workers’ national vice president.

Contact: Beatriz Lopez, beatriz.lopez@seiu.org

Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition, and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. Under his stewardship, The Leadership Conference has become one of the nation’s most effective advocates for civil and human rights. Mr. Henderson is also the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Professor of Public Interest Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia. Prior to his role with The Leadership Conference, Mr. Henderson was the Washington Bureau director of the NAACP. Mr. Henderson is a graduate of Howard University and the Rutgers University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar in the District of Columbia and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Henderson has received countless awards and honors, including the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit from the Washington Bar Association.

Contact: Scott Simpson, simpson@civilrights.org

Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice: Before coming to AAJC, Moua served as vice president of strategic impact initiatives for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), a national health justice organization. Moua also was a three-term Minnesota State Senator, where she chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. Born in Laos, Moua immigrated to the U.S. in 1978.

Contact: meemoua@advancingequality.org(202) 296-2300

Gregory is currently the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO and Institute for Asian Pacific American Leadership & Advancement. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and as Secretary for the Labor Coalition for Community Action. Named one of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 & the “Future of DC Politics”, Gregory is a recognized organizer, speaker and trainer. Previously, he served as President of the United States Student Association (USSA), where he played an integral role in the passage of the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act and Healthcare & Education Reconciliation Act.

Contact Info: gcendana@apalanet.org(202) 508-3733

Stewart Kwoh is the founding President and Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC). Kwoh is a nationally recognized leader and expert in race relations, Asian American studies, nonprofit organizations and philanthropies, civil rights, and legal services. He was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 1998, becoming the first Asian American attorney and human rights activist to receive this highly prestigious recognition, often referred to as the “genius grant.”  In 1983, Kwoh co-founded APALC, the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization that serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. APALC’s mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. In its early years, APALC provided assistance to thousands of immigrants who adjusted their status after the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986. APALC provides direct services to individual clients; engages in policy advocacy, research and analysis; litigates impact lawsuits; and provides social change-based leadership training. The organization has successfully challenged garment sweatshops, English-only workplace policies, racially discriminatory employment practices and unfair immigration laws as well as advocated for stronger protections for low-wage workers, limited English speaking immigrants, and hate crime victims. Under Kwoh’s leadership, APALC has become a leading advocate for Asian American and NHPI communities while working to build bridges with African American, Latino, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Contact: skwoh@apalc.org213-977-7500

Ms. Robin Puanani Danner is native Hawaiian, and the founding President of the non-governmental organization, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). Formed in 2001, CNHA works to enhance the cultural, economic, political and community development of Native Hawaiians. She is a former financial institution executive, a municipal housing director, and a national advocate and expert on Native communities, having dedicated 26 years to Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native and American Indian peoples. CNHA operates the Native Hawaiian Policy Center, administers the Hawaiian Way Fund, a fund dedicated to capacity building among cultural and community practitioners, and engages in Lending & Investment Services to provide financial education, capital and tax credits in Hawaiian areas.

Contact: robin@hawaiiancouncil.org(808)596-8155

Miriam Yeung is the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). She guides the country’s only national, multi-issue, progressive organization dedicated to social justice and human rights for Asian and Pacific Islander women and girls in the US. Born in Hong Kong and raised in the projects of Brooklyn, Miriam is a proud queer Asian-American immigrant woman activist who is committed to social-justice movement building and raising her two young daughters to be fearless.

Contact: myeung@napawf.org202-470-3170

Since 2000, Lisa has led the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development’s (CAPACD) efforts to be a powerful voice for the unique community development needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. She is the former Chair for the National Council for Asian Pacific Americans and currently serves on the Board of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In 2003, Lisa was a Fellow in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership Program. Prior to joining National CAPACD, Lisa was the Community Liaison for the White House Initiative on AAPIs where she worked to involve and inform AAPI community groups across the country about Initiative activities. She also worked for the U.S. DHHS Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of Minority Health. Lisa previously worked at two community health centers serving low-income AAPIs in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.

Contact: lisa@nationalcapacd.org202-223-2442

Dae Joong Yoon is the Executive Director with the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). He has more than 19 years of community education and organizing experiences in the areas of immigration policy, health access, civic participation, voting rights, environmental justice and economic development. Prior to this post, he was the executive director of the Korean Resource Center since July 2003. He has supervised many community-led research projects such as the Asian American Voter Exit Poll, Building Health Community Focus Group and the Los Angeles City Services Survey. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Strategic Concept in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE); a Community Advisory Board member for the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services; and as an Advisory Board Member for the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. He is a 1.5 generation Korean American. Yoon is also the founding board member of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago and served as the national president of Young Koreans United of USA.

Contact: djyoon@nakasec.org213-434-4267

Deepa Iyer is Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the Chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). She has guided SAALT’s direction since 2004, and is regarded as an expert on post 9/11 issues. Deepa has been quoted and featured in print and media outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, and community press.

Doua Thor is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). She and her family were among the many thousands of Hmong refugees who were resettled in the United States after supporting and fighting alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War. The Thor family was resettled in Detroit, Michigan in 1979 where Doua spent much of her youth volunteering and working with Southeast Asian American communities. Over the years, Doua has gained a wealth of experience working with national and grassroots Southeast Asian American and refugee serving organizations. Doua was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2010. She currently serves on the board or in a leadership position in a number of organizations and coalitions, including the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and the executive committee of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). Additionally, through her leadership, SEARAC is a core work group member of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), an initiative supported through Atlantic Philanthropies to improve the lives of vulnerable elders. Doua was selected as a New Voices Fellow in 2002, an American Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2008, and an Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) Fellow in 2009. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Bachelor of Arts from Wayne State University.

Contact: doua@searac.org(202) 494-7008 (Cell number), (202) 601-2964 (Direct office line)

 



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