Asians Rally for Immigration Reform Ahead of DC March

Ivy (left), Tan and Ada hope to share their stories in order to show the flaws of the current immigration system. (Photo by Hubert Lu via World Journal)

Nearly 20 organizations, including the Chinese Progressive Association, OCA and the MinKwon Center for Community Action, came together at LaGuardia Community College on March 28 for the APA Community Town Hall Forum on Immigration Reform.

Immigrants from China, South Korea, the Philippines, Nepal, India, and other countries attended, and many shared their stories. Speakers told of waiting years to reunite with their families or being detained as a suspected terrorist. Attendees held up posters, beat drums and shouted slogans.

The rally comes ahead of a major march for immigration reform taking place in Washington, D.C., on April 10. Demonstrators will urge President Barack Obama and Congress to hold true to their promise and implement reform by the end of the year. Six buses will leave from neighborhoods with large concentration of Asians.

Various immigrants shared their emotional immigration stories at the rally:

• Ivy, an immigrant from Fuzhou, China, is currently a student at Baruch College studying actuarial science and corporate communications and hopes to become an actuary after graduating. She came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 7 and recalled that during her childhood her mother often worked in a garment factory. She excelled in high school and found out only when she applied for a college scholarship that she did not have legal status. It was then she finally understood why her parents did not call the police when they were robbed. She feels confused, as she is not sure where her home is – in China or the United States. Her older brother waited 12 years for a green card.  Last year, Ivy applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She will now apply for a work visa and a driver’s license. She hopes immigration reform will pass and she and her parents will become citizens.

• Tan and Ada, two sisters also from Fuzhou shared their story.  After Tan was born, her parents were smuggled into the U.S., leaving her behind in China.  Her younger brother and sister were born here and she did not reunite with her family until she was 14 years old.  Tan worked while attending high school and is now a sophomore at Queens College, studying education and linguistics while also working two jobs.  Tan applied for deferred action last year.  Over the next two years, she plans to go for a master’s degree and become a teacher. Ada, who is 13, said that her father works in a restaurant and her mother works part time while taking care of four kids.  She couldn’t imagine what would happen to her family if her parents were deported.  Her older sister does not have health insurance and almost died from a serious illness last year.  Ada does not want to see her sister work so hard. She hopes that the government will provide a viable path to citizenship.

Jason Tseng points out that LGBT Asian Americans have been forgotten by the immigration system. (Photo by Hubert Lu via World Journal)

• Jason Tseng, who is gay, said that many LGBT Asians in the U.S. do not have legal status or only have a temporary visa. Because current immigration laws do not recognize same-sex marriage, many LGBT immigrants cannot find a job and end up marginalized.

• Shahina Parveen recalled that after 9/11, her 19-year-old son was arrested on charges of terrorism and sentenced to 30 years in prison.  He will be deported upon his release. At one point, she and her husband were also detained in an immigration detention center where they witnessed inhumane treatment. She has not seen her son for many years and believes that society should not treat immigrants like criminals.

According to Elizabeth OuYang, president of OCA-NY, a juvenile record should not lead to deportation. The example of Qing Hong Wu, she said, is a great one. [Wu was 29 and a technology executive when he applied for citizenship. The application triggered his detention as a “criminal alien” subject to deportation to China because of a juvenile record for participating in muggings in Chinatown years earlier. At the time, the judge that sentenced him to a reformatory had urged him to turn his life around, and he did. Almost 15 years later and at the urging of the judge, Gov. David Paterson pardoned him.]  OuYang encourages more Asian Americans to come forward and share their stories with the government and the public.

For the April 10 immigration reform rally in Washington, D.C., there will be free buses leaving from Manhattan’s Chinatown, Flushing and Jackson Heights at 6 a.m. For more information, call 212-274-1891 (Chinese Progressive Association) or 718-460-5600 (MinKown Center).

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