Immigration: Family reunification is at the core of immigration reform
This November General Election, an overwhelming 71 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters cast their ballot for President Barack Obama – even though post-election analysis shows nearly half of AAPI registered voters remain independent or undecided with respect to their party identification. And it was immigration that emerged as one of the central issues that drew these AAPI voters to President Obama over Mitt Romney.
AAPI voters made a clear choice for a candidate and administration with intentions to fix our broken immigration system despite inaction by Congress, versus one who pressed for a policy of “self-deportation.” AAPI voters, and Latino voters who followed similar patterns, wholeheartedly rejected the vision of an America based on discrimination and exclusion.
A pre-election poll conducted by AAJC, APIA Vote, and the National Asian American Survey found that a majority of AAPIs support comprehensive immigration reform with an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The reasons why are clear. There are 1.2 million undocumented AAPIs living in the shadows. Nearly two million AAPIs are still abroad, waiting between 10 and 22 years to be reunited with their U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident loved ones here in the U.S. Imagine waiting two decades to finally be reunited with your family!
AAPIs depend on a strong family-based immigration system – the core of AAPI experience and community. We sponsor more than one-third of all family-based immigrants. Yet, we are disproportionately harmed by this broken system as four of the top five countries with the highest number of individuals waiting abroad for American visas are Asian countries.
For the AAPI community, reforming our immigration system must include a workable solution for keeping families together. With a 46 percent growth rate since 2000, AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. Moreover, AAPI families are settling down outside predictable gateway cities, and growing in places like Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis.
But for too long, family-based immigration has been largely overlooked by policymakers. Republicans and Democrats alike, however, can no longer ignore the growing AAPI voice and must finally focus on reforming our broken immigration system. As Congress begins to work on immigration, the AAPI community will continue to push for reforms that include family-based immigration and reunification.
Protecting and strengthening the current family-based immigration system must be included in any comprehensive immigration reform plan. Since our nation’s founding, people have immigrated for a safer and more secure future. Any common sense immigration reform must provide a path to citizenship for the 11.2 million who remain undocumented, and improve the current system so that there are fair and humane channels for new immigrants in the future.
Legislation such as the Reuniting Families Act reflects our nation’s values and recognizes that strong families are the bedrock of our communities and our economy. AAPI voters spoke out in November in favor of American solutions based on core American values. For AAPIs, family reunification is synonymous with true immigration reform. It is time for policymakers to understand that as well and act on it.