Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks

Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks
© Getty Images

False choices. Unreasonable demands. Our elected officials failed the more than 1 million undocumented youths whose lives are in limbo. Despite overwhelming support by the American public for a solution for DACA recipients, politics ruled the Senate last week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal MORE gave President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE a vote on his white nativist bill that would have devastated immigrant communities and families, documented and undocumented alike. Democrats and pro-Dreamer Republicans gave into Trump’s demands for a border wall, in an attempt to protect Dreamers. Nothing reached 60 votes except for opposition to the president’s bill, which may be the only silver lining.

In consultation with our undocumented youth partners and our partners who represent border communities, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC felt compelled to oppose the bipartisan compromise offered by Sens. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsOn The Money: Treasury rules target blue-state workarounds to tax law | Senate approves sweeping defense, domestic spending bill | US imposes B in tariffs on Chinese goods | Panel narrowly approves consumer bureau pick Senate panel narrowly approves Trump consumer bureau pick GOP sen: Sessions is ‘the right man for the job’ MORE (R-S.D.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingRestoring our national parks would be a bipartisan win for Congress Restore our parks Renaming Senate office building after McCain sparks GOP backlash MORE (I-Maine). The choices presented were extremely hard for us, and even more difficult for our undocumented youth partners. They are navigating the uncertainty of losing jobs, financial aid and drivers’ licenses, worrying about how to support elderly parents, or simply not being able to plan ahead in their lives.

ADVERTISEMENT
They have been clear with us about not trading on the lives of immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for decades. We won’t accept the pitting of parents, family members and other immigrant communities against the people we seek to protect.

 

People do not think of border security as an Asian-American issue. The $25 billion wall for border security would result in more deportations and harm to border communities and the environment. It is wasteful and bad policy. I refuse to believe that the senators who voted for the Rounds-King proposal truly believe that it is sound policy to give the president $25 billion for a wall and militarization of the border. Only three Democratic senators voted against the Round-King proposal — Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Senate Dems want DOJ review of Giuliani's work for foreign entities MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichElection Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC Rand Paul endorses Gary Johnson's Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s legal jeopardy mounts after Manafort, Cohen felony counts MORE of New Mexico and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle MORE of California. They did the right thing as representatives of border communities.

The Rounds-King proposal would have cut family immigration by ending one category of sponsorship. The amendment also imposed restrictions on sponsoring the parents of undocumented youths for permanent residency. In addition, the proposal would not offer a path to citizenship for all the undocumented immigrants who would be covered by a clean DREAM Act, which also has had bipartisan support — again, not because the senators who wrote it believe this is good policy, but because they needed to give the president a talking point to try to get protections for Dreamers.

We know that these choices were hard for the senators who wrote the compromise bill and those who voted for it. We know that they truly care about the futures of undocumented youths. Unfortunately, they put their names on bad policy that has no hope of becoming law.

Let me be clear: one person is primarily responsible for the situation that DACA recipients face and that’s the president. President Trump ended DACA and refuses to engage seriously in a solution. We view his plan as one that seeks to hold undocumented youths hostage to a white nativist agenda.

The White House proposal authored by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate panel reaches tentative deal for Kavanaugh accuser to testify Thursday Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Aide for GOP involved in Kavanaugh nomination resigns after past sexual harassment allegation surfaces MORE (R-Iowa) would cut the number of immigrants to the United States in half and to end our family reunification system and the diversity visa program. It would ramp up mass deportations.

For Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, these attacks are personal — 92 percent of adult Asian-Americans are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Two-thirds of them came here through the family reunification system. In addition, Asian immigrants make up 11 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Thirty percent of diversity visas are given to Asians from less-represented countries, and it is the primary way that African immigrants enter the United States. Cuts to the family-based immigration system are unnecessary, but more importantly, would rob our country of new ideas, cultural experiences and innovation.

We all rely on our families. Immigrant families use the family-based system to reunite with loved ones and lean on their support for everyday needs such as caring for children or grandparents, buying homes, or starting small or family-owned businesses — businesses that create jobs.  

We view the White House plan to terminate family-based immigration and build a border wall in exchange for legalizing undocumented youths as racist and xenophobic. The clear rejection of the administration’s proposal should demonstrate that the president’s attempt to give ultimatums is a failing proposition.

The White House rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims is all too reminiscent of what brought about shameful moments in history such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 or Japanese incarceration during World War II. The country should not revert to a time when immigration laws favored only Western European immigrants at the exclusion of all others. With a small number of loud activists on the far right, Congress has moved away from a conversation around facts and good policy.

We continue to inch closer to the March 5 deadline that President Trump imposed for a solution to this crisis. Congress can — and should — get back to work immediately to protect our Dreamers.

John C. Yang is president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, an organization created to advance civil and human rights for Asian-Americans and a fair and equitable society for all.