Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) are a community that is nearly two-thirds immigrant and the fastest growing racial group in the United States. In the November 2012 election, the AANHPI community demonstrated that immigration reform is an issue of vital importance to us. Approximately 73% of Asian American voters cast their ballots for President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election. The AANHPI community knows too well the suffering that accompanies restrictive and discriminatory immigration laws – such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Asian Exclusion Act – that separate families and result in unequal, second class treatment. The time is now to enact broad, humane immigration reform that advances inclusion, fairness, and equality for immigrants and all communities. Such reform must include the following guiding principles:
Family Unity: Reuniting and Keeping Families Together
Establish an Inclusive and Humane Path to Citizenship: Provide a clear path to legalization and citizenship for all undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S., including the 1.3 million undocumented Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, within a reasonable timeframe and without roadblocks. The process to become citizens should be inclusive, workable, affordable, and humane, without imposing unnecessary and punitive measures to undocumented immigrants who are an integral part of our society and indeed Americans in every sense of the word. The path should not be contingent on enforcement benchmarks.
Reunite Families by Reducing Visa Backlogs: Reunite families by immediately and expeditiously clearing out bureaucratic backlogs for family-based immigration visas that have caused families to be separated for as long as two decades. Nearly half of the 4.3 million family members waiting abroad in family backlogs are from Asian countries. Special attention should be devoted to the five countries facing the longest waits, four of which are in Asia: China, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam. Measures to erase the family backlogs must be implemented at the same time that undocumented immigrants are moving down a direct and inclusive path to citizenship. Congress also should provide adequate numbers of family-based visas each year, update family preference categories, remove the per country limits, and remove bars to reentry and adjustment of status so immigrants can reunite with their family members and loved ones in the U.S.
Guarantee Equality for LGBTIQ Families: Promote the unity of LGBTIQ families by amending immigration laws to ensure that LGBTIQ individuals have the same immigration rights and benefits as other immigrants, including allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex, foreign-born partners for immigration purposes.
End Unjust Detention and Deportation of Immigrants and Refugees: End the unjust detention and deportation of immigrants and refugees, including legal permanent residents, who are being separated from their families and removed for minor infractions. Many of these immigrants are young people of Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander descent who are being repatriated to countries that many of them never knew.
Fairness, Equality, and Due Process in Adjudication and Enforcement
Eliminate 287(g), Secure Communities, and Other Programs that Entangle Local Law Enforcement in Federal Immigration Enforcement: Eliminate programs that authorize local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws, such as 287(g) and Secure Communities, and that render immigrants more vulnerable to increased racial profiling and to live in fear of law enforcement. Stop issuing ICE detainer requests to local law enforcement because it drains local resources, undercuts due process, and undermines community policing strategies. These misplaced programs subject immigrants to unfair and unequal treatment, undermine public safety, and divert precious public resources.
Ensure Judicial Discretion, Fairness, and Due Process in Immigration Hearings and the Detention System: Ensure that immigrants and refugees are guaranteed fair court proceedings and meaningful review of their individual cases by amending the 1996 laws to repeal mandatory detention laws and reinstate judicial discretion and due process. Congress also should expand alternatives to detention and institute enforceable standards in the detention system, such as interpretation and translation assistance and access to medical care, mental health services, legal counsel and family members.
Prohibit Racial & Religious Profiling and Overreaching National Security Justifications in Immigration Enforcement: Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, federal immigration enforcement has magnified against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Americans with little regard for individual rights. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) Program should be eliminated outright because it targets immigrants based solely on their national origin. Strict and broad prohibitions on the use of race and religion in enforcement of federal law must become the universal norm.
Promoting Our Economy by Valuing and Protecting Workers
Establish Full Labor and Workplace Rights and Protections for All Workers Regardless of Immigration Status: Promote the U.S. economy by establishing and enforcing full labor and workplace rights and protections for all workers regardless of immigration status, including in the areas of wage/hour, health and safety, antidiscrimination, and the right to organize. Retaliation against workers based on immigration status should be prohibited and protective tools like U-Visas should be expanded.
Restrict and Limit the Use of Flawed Electronic Employment Verification Systems: Electronic employment verification systems (such as E-Verify) do not work. They have unacceptably high error rates, especially for naturalized citizens and legal immigrants. E-Verify policies and programs also belie the reality that the U.S. economy is dependent upon immigrant labor, including undocumented labor. Expanding E-Verify incentivizes employers to take undocumented workers off the books and push them into the underground economy where workplace abuses are prevalent. This would result in billions of lost tax revenue and create an unlevel playing field for law-abiding employers. Expanding the system will also be costly to the government and to employers, particularly small businesses.
Overhaul Temporary Worker and Guestworker Programs: Making an immigrant worker’s legal status contingent upon employment has created significant problems for both temporary workers and guestworkers. Both types of workers lack the basic ability to change jobs if they are abused and instead often risk deportation, blacklisting, and retaliation if they challenge or report abuses. Guestworkers are also subject to exploitation and forced labor. Workers should be able to seek employment with different employers through portable visas and have full labor and workplace rights and protections.
Immigrant Integration in a Global Society: Continuing Our Tradition as a Nation of Immigrants
Fully Integrate Immigrants and Refugees into the Fabric of U.S. Society: Continue the proud American tradition of being a nation that welcomes immigrants by promoting adequate funding for naturalization and civic participation programs; ensuring immigrant access to education, social services, and job training programs; providing language assistance to protect legal rights; and offering quality and accessible ESL and English Language Learner classes.
Provide Equal Access to Healthcare and Other Public Benefits Programs: In order to ensure a robust and healthy workforce, all immigrants must have access to health care programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and new Exchanges established pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as other public benefits programs.
Strengthen U.S. Competitiveness by Expanding Legal Channels for Workers to Come to the U.S. with Full Labor and Immigration Protections: Strengthen U.S. competitiveness by increasing the legal immigration opportunities for workers to come to the U.S. and meet the needs of the U.S. economy in areas such as, but not limited to, science, technology, engineering, and math. Programs that make an immigrant worker’s legal status contingent on employment render the worker vulnerable to exploitation. In order to ensure fair work conditions for all workers, these workers should receive the full panoply of labor protections and rights.
Address the Root Causes of Migration by Stimulating Fair Development and Economic Growth in Developing Countries: Migrants come to the U.S. seeking jobs and better lives that often are not available to them in their home countries. In order to address the root causes of migration, the U.S. should make strategic economic investments in developing countries to improve the economy, infrastructure, and job prospects in migrant-sending countries. Current development and trade policies should be examined and revised in order to mitigate impact on so-called sending countries, including the displacement of its citizens.
Members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice:
Asian American Institute (Chicago)
Asian American Justice Center (Washington, D.C.)
Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco)
Asian Pacific American Legal Center (Los Angeles)
Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center
Multicultural Council of America
National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA)
National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Alliance (NHPI Alliance)
Network of Myanmar American Association
OCA – National
One Global Family Foundation
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Thai American Bar Association
The Center for APA Women
United We Dream (UWD)
Asian American Federation of Florida
Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, Inc. of Georgia
Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
Asian Pacific Community in Action
Asian Services In Action
California State University-Fullerton, Asian American Studies Program
Center for Pan Asian Community Services
Hawaii Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association
Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights – CLUE-CA
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Arizona Chapter
Pacific Islander Student Alliance
The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit
United Cambodian Community
Washington Community Action Network!
Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations, Inc.
APAIT Health Center
Asian Law Alliance
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County
Asian Pacific American Community Support and Service Association (APACSA)
Asian Pacific Coalition
Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council
Asian Pacific Student Association at UC Irvine
ASPIRE Bay Area
Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc.
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese Rainbow Association
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles (CLUE-LA)
Dream Team Los Angeles (DTLA)
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
Filipino American Service Group Inc.
Hmong Community Center, Inc.
International Children Assistance Network (ICAN)
Japanese American Citizens League – Greater Los Angeles Singles Chapter
Kababayan at UC Irvine
Khmer Girls in Action
Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)
Little Tokyo Service Center
Merced Lao Family Community, Inc.
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress
OCA – Greater Los Angeles Chapter
OCA – Greater Phoenix Chapter
OCA – South Florida Chapter
OCA – Tucson Chapter
Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, Inc.
Search To Involve Pilipino Americans
South Asian Network
Thai Health and Information Services, Inc.
United Cambodian Community (UCC)
University of Southern California College Democrats
Signatories as of February 27, 2013