January 20, 2010 / / immigration

by Guest Contributor Kristin Fukushima

When asked what I do as Policy Coordinator for the Japanese American Citizens League, my answer of, “mostly immigration,” surprises folks. I can’t totally blame them, given that mainstream media seems to think the “immigration problem” is rooted squarely at our border down south.

Explaining why I, an Asian American, am involved in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) is simple enough. To break it down quickly: 63% of the AAPI community is foreign-born; immigrants from the Asian Pacific region face the longest backlogs (6 of 10 countries with the longest backlogs); 10% of the undocumented population is AAPI, etc, etc. Explaining why I, a yonsei (4th generation Japanese American), do immigrant rights advocacy – that’s a bit harder. My yonsei peers and I are pretty far removed from the immigrant experience, so the relevancy isn’t immediately clear. And why should JAs care about CIR – where do we fit in the debate? Read the Post Japanese Americans and Immigration: Where We Fit

December 22, 2009 / / activism

by Latoya Peterson

Alongside the Health Care bill, another major piece of legislation working its way through the United States Congress is The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009. Designed to rectify a litany of concerns facing those currently immigrating or tangled somewhere along the way in our legal system.

Nezua explains the thinking and motivation behind CIR ASAP:

On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP). Rep. Gutierrez said that the bill represents “the final push for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media. Seth Hoy at AlterNet breaks down some of the bill’s key points, which include a border security provisions, family unification, a legalization component, and improved detention conditions.

The legislation is an encouraging first step forward on the path to immigration reform. But many hurdles must be overcome before an immigration bill from the House or Senate becomes law, especially in today’s tense political environment. Outright antagonism from the nativist lobby or the far Right will be no small part of the challenge, no matter how concessionary the legislation is to Republicans.

CIR ASAP is amazingly thorough, touching on border security, detention and enforcement, employment verification, visa reforms, earned legalization programs for the undocumented, details on how the reform will strengthen the US economy and workforce, and tackles the problems with integrating new Americans (with a special focus on rising fees and the naturalization process).

However, the bill has not been without controversy. Outside of the general right-wing protests against immigration, the bill has also drawn fire from GLBT activists and allies, who point out that the legislation excludes people who are not in heterosexual families, despite the focus of the bill on “reuniting families.”  As Maegan La Mamita Mala writes for Vivir Latino:

On more than one occasion I asked if GLBT families would be included in the bill and here in the official presentation we all see the answer. No. From a strategic point of view, one reason why GLBT families are excluded is because of the large support from faith organizations. When I say faith organizations, I am specifically speaking of Evangelical Christian groups and Catholic organizations, the same organizations who made sure that marriage equity did not happen in states like mine (NY) and the same organizations who supported amendments like Stupak in the health reform bill. But I have a suggestion based on recent statements from a so-called superstar in the Evangelical movement, Rick Warren (trust me I didn’t think I would ever quote him either).

Last week, Pastor Warren, who gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration and not without controversy, made a public statement opposing the Ugandan legislation that increases penalties for being gay (including prison time). Warren said that he opposed the law because it was “unjust, extreme, and in-Christian”.
Now, let us imagine an undocumented family who wants to take advantage of the proposed CIR legislation. Let’s even say they have children because plenty of LGBT families do. They cannot. Under the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), rights would be provided to the children or step-children of a foreign-born same sex partner. But UAFA language is not included in the Gutierrez bill.

The bill’s authors are fighting to mobilize our communities for support, so I listened in on last Thursday’s API Conference call hosted by Representative Mike Honda.  Nezua listened in on the SEIU call, which happened last Monday.  After the jump, I’ll add some notes from both calls, discuss some of the issues that came up concerning cross community organizing, and present the answer given with the API organizers were asked about the LGBT issue within the bill. Read the Post CIR ASAP: Working Toward a Comprehensive POC Coalition