Asian Americans join immigration debate
Forum brings together diverse regional groups
By Sang Lee, Whittier (CA) Daily News Staff Writer
June 17, 2006
LOS ANGELES – Asian-American and Pacific Islander leaders met this week to examine their communities’ views on immigration, a debate sometimes overshadowed by Latino issues.
More than 175 people attended the panel discussion and question-and-answer session on “Asian Americans and Immigration Reform: Where Do We Stand?” at the Pico House at El Pueblo Historical Monument on Thursday night.
Karin Wang of Monterey Park, vice president of programs at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, said the meeting was the first of its kind.
“We hope to do a lot more,” Wang said. “Asian-American groups have never been able to naturally work together politically due to our diversity. But this issue has united a lot of us. It’s not just about Asian Americans. We’ve gotten involved and care about people’s civil rights.”
The panel included leaders from the Chinese, Indian, Korean and Filipino communities and former Stanford Law School Professor John Trasvi a.
Preeti Kulkarni, a board member of the national group Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, said all immigrant groups have common interests.
“We hope to show that the AAPI community is aligned with all communities of color,” Kulkarni said. “We believe in building coalitions with immigrant communities, including Latinos, in demanding fair and humane immigration reform. This isn’t just a Latino issue – it’s an issue for all people.”
Trasvi a and other panelists focused on H.R. 4437, legislation introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., that would criminalize illegal immigrants. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 16. The Senate passed its own immigration reform legislation last month and now the two bodies are trying to reconcile the differences between the two bills.
According to panelist Kent Wong, a professor of labor and Asian American studies at UCLA, the immigration issue should be based more on civil rights than homeland security or terrorism.
“There are 12 million undocumented immigrants in our country who are vital to our society and demanding workplace rights,” Wong said. “That’s 12 million workers without labor laws.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders live in the country, with 63 percent being foreign born. Pew Hispanic Center estimates that
10 percent of all Asians living in the country are undocumented.
The large number of separated families has created waiting lists, or family reunification backlogs.
Su Yon Yi spoke on behalf of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium where she serves as director of special projects. Her organization estimates that one out of every five Koreans living in this country is not a legal resident.
“It’s really just about the people,” Yi said.