The day I met with President Obama

by Erin Oshiro

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Erin Oshiro is the senior staff attorney for immigration and immigrant rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Yesterday, I got an official seat at the table.

More specifically, I got a seat at President Obama’s table as I joined a dozen other allies in a meeting at the White House. I even had a name card.

I was very encouraged to hear the President and his administration remain steadfast in their commitment to moving executive action on immigration forward. Despite the temporary setback caused when Texas federal Judge Hanen temporarily blocked two of the president’s immigration relief programs, the administration, our allies and the community are moving ahead.

As the litigation plays out, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and other immigrants can use this time to learn more about expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA). Community members can start gathering documents to demonstrate their eligibility for relief and save money for application fees so they are ready to apply when expanded DACA and DAPA are available. And AAPIs eligible for the existing DACA program (as announced in June 2012) should continue apply and/or renew their DACA status.

Our community can also look forward to other improvements flowing from executive action. Just today, the administration published a final rule extending work authorization for many spouses of H-1B workers (i.e., H-4 visa holders). The vast majority of H-4 visa holders are from Asia, and this rule change helps not only thousands of families thrive and prosper, but it is good for our economy as well. We also await the expansion of provisional waivers to help keep families together. We can also continue to be vigilant about the new enforcement priorities to ensure that individuals are not targeted and detained indiscriminately.

As I sat at the table with President Obama, I noticed there were not many representatives for the diverse AAPI community. While I was honored to speak about our community’s excitement for executive action, I also knew that we need a bigger table to accommodate the many leaders who fight for dignity and respect everyday. The President’s announcement in November 2014 was bold and courageous — and I applaud his leadership. But he was not alone in acting.

Our movement’s greatest leaders have been immigrants themselves: the moms, dads, youth, and workers who used their stories to move hearts and minds. I am sure President Obama thought of all the community members he has met with over the years as he made his final decision on executive action. He should continue to meet with immigrants and immigrant families who are anxiously awaiting administrative relief, and whose lives hang in the balance. These immigrants have pushed the needle and will continue to do so as we march toward a more fair and equitable immigration system.

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