One Year After Executive Action: AAPIs Must Continue to Tell Their Stories of Immigration Relief

by Erin Oshiro

One year ago today, immigrant rights activists and leaders celebrated a victory when President Obama finally heard our pleas and took bold action to make key changes to immigration policies and practices.

Under the policies, we were promised that:

· More undocumented family members, including eligible parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and more Dreamers, would be able to apply for deferred action that would grant them temporary relief from deportation and work authorization.

· The Administration would examine ways to improve our legal immigration system so that families waiting in the visa backlog could reunite more quickly. As it stands now, when U.S. citizens sponsor family members from Asian countries, it can take decades to join with loved ones in the U.S.

Unfortunately, on this anniversary, we have little to celebrate as families are still waiting for relief.

Delay in deportation relief

The signature component of executive action — expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the new Deferred Action for Parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAPA) — has been delayed because of a lawsuit filed by 26 states in district court in Texas. Nearly 400,000 Asian Americans stand to benefit from expanded DACA and DAPA but their dreams have been put on hold because of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings temporarily blocking the programs from going into effect.

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice formally filed its request, known as a petition for writ of certiorari, for the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling. We are confident the programs will ultimately prevail and we are hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will favorably resolve the case in 2016 so those eligible don’t live with fear and uncertainty, and are be able to receive work authorizations, obtain a drivers’ license, and in some cases, access health care, open a bank account and receive in-state college tuition.

Read the stories of R.P. and T.B, who are waiting to receive the benefits of President Obama’s immigration relief programs.

Millions still wait in the visa backlog

Because of our broken immigration system, it takes nearly 20 years for many families to be together. U.S. citizens can sponsor certain loved ones in other countries to receive visas, but then because of a long backlog, it can take decades before they can make it to the United States and be together again as a family.

The visa backlog is particularly long from Asian countries because the demand for visas is so high. Nearly 1/3, or 1.6 million of the 4.2 million people waiting for family-sponsored visas are from Asian countries, namely the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.

President Obama promised last year to create a task force that would alleviate the backlog. So far, we’ve seen the Task Force take steps in the right direction by announcing the White House would create a new program to allow certain family members of Filipino WWII veterans to come to the U.S to care for their loved ones. Watch this video to learn more:

What can we do today?

We need to keep lifting up the stories of community members who need relief now. We know that 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented, so we want to encourage and support brave individuals willing to share their stories, like those below, about why our community cares about executive action.

In addition, we can keep pressing President Obama to do more. Today, Advancing Justice | AAJC and Advancing Justice — Los Angeles, along with more than 50 other Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy groups, sent a letter to the DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, on the impact of executive action on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and what more can be done.

We also have to keep fighting for legislative reform because ultimately its Congress that needs to create an immigration system that keeps families together, allows people to move toward citizenship, and reverse harsh enforcement policies. Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in America. Over 1 million of us are eligible to naturalize but haven’t done so yet. We need to keep strengthening and flexing our political muscle locally and nationally so that we can act on our growing power as a community and finally see the changes that we desperately need.

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb