Today, President Obama endorsed several provisions of comprehensive “common-sense” immigration reform offered yesterday by a bipartisan group of eight senators. We commend the President and members of the Senate for taking action to fix our broken immigration system.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) supports immigration reforms that strengthen family reunification, provide a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, and protect the rights of all workers. Approximately two-thirds of Asian Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform, according to AALDEF’s 2012 Asian American Exit Poll.
“Comprehensive immigration reform should seek to close the gap between the rights of U.S.-born Americans and immigrant Americans,” said Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director. “Our immigration laws should adhere to basic human rights standards, and fair treatment of undocumented immigrants, including a path to citizenship, should not be conditional on stricter enforcement measures.”
There are an estimated one million undocumented immigrants of Asian descent in the United States. Nearly 10% of the two million undocumented youth are Asian American. Last year, the administration implemented a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This program provides temporary relief from deportation for young people seeking legal status. President Obama’s blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform includes earned citizenship for undocumented youth eligible for the DREAM Act.
“Enacting the DREAM Act would open the door to legalizing the status of undocumented youth,” said Bethany Li, staff attorney at AALDEF. “Comprehensive immigration reform should also recognize the importance of keeping the parents and family members of DREAMers together, who otherwise risk arrest, detention, and deportation.”
To address the problem of employers hiring undocumented workers, it is AALDEF’s experience, based on representing immigrant workers for more than 30 years, that the current employer sanctions framework has hurt all workers in the U.S. Instead, more vigorous enforcement of labor laws will protect workers regardless of their status and also curtail the incentives for unscrupulous employers to hire workers who are vulnerable to exploitation.
It is also critical for Congress to fix the gaps in humanitarian relief such as allowing human trafficking survivors to reunite with their family members in the United States who remain targets of traffickers in origin countries. Furthermore, last week the Senate and House reintroduced bills to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) without a provision to protect immigrants. It was noted that this provision would be included in comprehensive immigration reform, and Congress should not neglect its responsibility toward immigrant survivors of domestic violence and other crimes.
AALDEF is an active voice on immigration policy and immigrant rights issues on a national level and is also among the few groups that provide both direct legal representation and community education to Asian immigrants and their families. We look forward to collaborating with government officials and policy makers on this framework in order to produce an immigration system that promotes human rights for all.