Not Just a “Latino” Issue: Saluting the Voices of Asian American Brothers and Sisters in Fight for Immigration Reform

Posted on 05/15/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: immigration, policy

Photo Credit: Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

By: Luis Torres, Director of Policy and Legislation, LULAC National

With the U.S. Senate passage of the “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S.744) in the 113th Congress, it seemed like Congress was taking a long-awaited step forward in the arduous legislative trek toward passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

While not a perfect bill, and certainly not the version that would have been written by civil rights advocates, the bill managed to garner the support of a rainbow coalition of labor, business, civil rights, advocacy, and faith groups looking to advance immigration reform through Congress.

Almost a year after the passage of S.744, the U.S. House of Representatives adjourned the 113th Congress and failed to adopt the immigration legislation – killing any chance of enacting immigration reform.

As a result of repeated instances of congressional inaction, President Obama announced a series of immigration-related administrative actions in November of 2014 to respond to the human consequences of delayed immigration reform. Similar to the support for S. 744, the president’s actions attracted a rainbow coalition of 16 organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Define American, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mi Familia Vota, MomsRising, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Action Network, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Rock the Vote and Voto Latino.

Even though they represented a variety of constituencies, all expressed their support for President Obama’s move to provide temporary relief to millions of immigrants, demonstrating the salience and insectionality of immigration issues.

Immigration Reform as an Issue for Multiple Communities

Even though months have passed since the President announced his administrative actions, our work continues. Strengthening cooperation among organizations working toward the advancement of the immigrant community is crucial to enacting comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

While the media seemingly portrays the fight for immigration reform as a “Latino” issue centering on the voices of Latino advocates, immigrants, and civil rights leaders, the truth is that multiple communities are very much engaged in fighting for change. LGBT , African-American , Asian and Pacific Islander , union, business, and faith groups, among many others, have helped raise the issue of immigration reform as a key topic for their constituencies.

In particular, the Asian American community, like the Latino community, ranks immigration as one of its top issues, along with jobs, the economy, and health care. According to the Center for American Progress:

“Asian Americans are the fastest-growing immigrant population in the United States today. According to 2011 Census data, almost half of all immigrants in the United States—18.2 Million—came from Asia… Asia now represents the largest sending region for immigrants. In 2010, 36 percent of new immigrants to the United States came from Asia, compared to 31 percent from Latin America.”

These statistics underscore the importance of building cross-cultural and cross-community collaboration among groups representing Latinos and Asian Americans on the issue of immigration reform. We enter into dangerous territory when we refuse to acknowledge the diversity of the immigrant justice community and fail to recognize their stake in the battle. Extended family separations, lack of legal protections, and the constant fear of police apprehension affects Asian immigrants just as it does our own population.

LULAC is proud to have partnered with groups like the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) that are working tirelessly to ensure that Asian voices are heard in the national dialogue on immigration. Through their efforts, more and more people are realizing the different faces of the immigration movement, and we enthusiastically applaud their work.

As the Library of Congress notes, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month “a month to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders have made to American history, society and culture.” As the country highlights the many contributions of Asian Americans in our country, LULAC salutes the critical voices of our Asian American brothers and sisters in our shared struggle to fight for immigration reform.

Luis Torres is the Director of Policy and Legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Prior to LULAC, he served as Legislative Director for Congressman Silvestre Reyes, former-Chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was one of a handful of Latino Legislative Directors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, Torres also served as a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. as part of Teach for America. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology from Georgetown University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.

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