Blocking Family-Friendly Amendments Hurts Asian Americans

The Senate failed to complete its work on immigration legislation last week when immigration restrictionists led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) voted down Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) effort to move the legislation forward for a final vote.

The efforts by restrictionists to vote down provisions that would have helped to protect the ability of immigrants to keep their families together are especially alarming. Restrictionists voted against family amendments sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), two of which were cosponsored by Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). A fourth amendment sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) to provide adequate visas to the parents of U.S. citizens was not voted on due to the failed cloture vote.

These family amendments would have fixed provisions in the Senate immigration bill that are particularly unfair to Asian Americans. Instead of respecting family reunification as the cornerstone of American immigration policy, Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) sought to block votes on family-friendly amendments. He also pushed his own amendment to the family provisions which made the law even more biased against Asian families by further eliminating consideration of petitions already filed for married adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens - over 60 percent of the visas in these categories went to Asian family members in 2005.

Asian Americans who played by the rules and petitioned for their adult children and for siblings are being unfairly penalized by the proposed legislation. Moreover, by successfully lobbying Republican senators against the family amendments, the Bush administration further undercut support for the bill.

Senate Republican leadership needs to get serious about passing legislation that includes a workable solution to the problem of undocumented immigration. There must be a sensible path to citizenship for any new immigrants and realistic measures to keep families from having to choose between obeying the law or enduring years of separation.

The Asian American Justice Center, a nationally recognized voice on behalf of Asian Americans, will continue to pursue fair, humane and nondiscriminatory immigration policies. This issue is too important for failure to be an option. The Senate and the Bush Administration need to get it right and get it done now.