Asian American Groups Welcome Senate Leadership, Call on Congress to Strengthen Family Immigration Overhaul


April 17, 2013

Asian American Groups Welcome Senate Leadership, Call on Congress to Strengthen Family Immigration Overhaul

Senate bill restricts families from reuniting with critical loved ones, addresses the backlog

CHICAGO—Today, a group of senators, dubbed the “Gang of Eight,” released a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice)—Asian American Institute (AAI), Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC)—welcomes the group’s leadership in bringing immigration reform to the forefront. Unfortunately, the family immigration overhaul proposes changes that will dramatically restrict families from reuniting with certain loved ones and excludes LGBT couples from the family-immigration system.

“We applaud the bi-partisan Senate leadership for putting forth a proposal that is a substantial step in the right direction toward fixing our broken immigration system and a solid starting point for addressing the current backlogs,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of AAJC. “Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the elimination of visa categories pertaining to siblings and married adult children over the age of 30. AAJC looks forward to working with the Senate to ensure all families are protected as the bill goes through the legislative process.”

The family immigration system is crucial to the social and economic success of immigrant families, and the comprehensive immigration reform bill must take into consideration the millions of Asian, Latino and African and Caribbean immigrant families who aspire to reunite with their loved ones.

“We are pleased to see real political will around immigration reform, but continue to be concerned about the impact of proposed legislation on family reunification,” said Tuyet Le, executive director of AAI. “Families play a critical role in our day-to-day lives, and we will continue to advocate for reform legislation that keeps families together.”

“This marks a radical departure from our long-standing American tradition of holding family unity at the core of our immigration system. The proposal needlessly asks immigrants to choose between their jobs and their families,” said Chris Punongbayan, acting executive director of ALC.

“While we are encouraged by the introduction of an immigration reform bill, immigrants succeed in this country in large part because of their families—they start businesses together, raise their families, set down roots and prosper together,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of APALC. “Eliminating the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their loved ones—brothers, sisters and adult married children 31 years of age and older—runs counter to the family values that are a cornerstone of our nation. It is also counterproductive since it limits the ability of immigrant families to contribute to the entrepreneurship and innovation that have been vital drivers of economic growth throughout our nation’s history. We call on Congress to uphold family values along with entrepreneurship during the amendment process by strengthening both the family and employment-based immigration systems.”

Advancing Justice notes that the current bill does not yet include Filipino American WWII veterans who have waited far too long to reunite with their family members and LGBT couples and families who continue to be excluded from the family-immigration system.

Per an initial review of the bill, we are encouraged by the following proposed changes to the family-immigration system:

  •         Redefines the “immediate relatives” definition to include spouses and minor children of green card holders, allowing an expedited process not subject to numerical caps on green  cards.
  •         Allows parents of U.S. citizens who immigrate to the U.S. to bring their minor children with them, keeping families together.
  •         Eliminates the family backlog over a period of ten years.
  •         Permits family members awaiting green cards to work and live in the U.S.
  •         Allows other family members to visit the U.S. for up to 60 days per year.

However, we are mindful of the following proposed changes that are a dramatic departure from our long-standing value of family unity:

  •          Eliminates the “F4” visa category so that U.S. citizens will no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters.
  •          Places an age cap on the “F3” visa category so that U.S. citizens can only sponsor their adult married children who are thirty years old or younger.
  •         Continues to exclude LGBT couples and families from sponsoring their loved ones for family reunification.

With these initial observations, we will work with Congress on the existing framework to ensure that this system sufficiently addresses the needs of all American immigrant families, specifically one that is fully inclusive of adult siblings and children of all ages.

Advancing Justice understands that this bill is a work in progress, and has begun a comprehensive analysis of the bill’s impact on Asian American and immigrant families. Advancing Justice is closely reviewing and monitoring all other provisions surrounding legalization and due process issues to ensure that the solutions are just and humane. We look forward to working with all Members of Congress and our immigration allies on ensuring that the comprehensive immigration reform bill is strengthened and inclusive of all families.