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Bringing the Asian American Community Into the Immigration Debate

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When most people think of who will be affected by the United States v. Texas decision on DAPA and DACA+, they think of the Latino community.  However, one in ten DAPA and DACA+ eligible immigrants is Asian American, a community that is often viewed as not being invested in the immigration debate.

At a recent Center for American Progress Action Fund event, “United States v Texas: Will the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Echo in November?”, leading immigration advocates got together and shed light on the Asian American community’s stake in this issue.

Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, described that for many Asian Americans, it remains extremely difficult to come out as undocumented because they lack the same space and political will that Latinos benefit from in their coming out experiences.

Because of this, Moua said Asian Americans feel more vulnerable coming out than their Latino counterparts. This has created a gap for Asian Americans between being eligible for the programs and believing they could actually reap the benefits of DAPA and DACA+ if they were implemented.

Another issue facing the Asian American community in mobilizing around the immigration debate, is that local groups, including many partners of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, lack the resources to persuade Asian Americans that they have a stake in the immigration debate.

To bring more Asian Americans into the DAPA and DACA programs and the immigration debate as a whole, Moua said it’s imperative to make Asian Americans feel safe to come out as undocumented.

A successful example she cites of this has been in California when Congressmen Honda and Takano, and Congresswoman Chu, have hosted community town hall meetings to discuss these programs, paired with a workshop to educate community members on the programs. After these events, there was an increase in sign ups for the current DACA program, showing how they can be effective.

In a similar format, after the Supreme Court decision, the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) hosted a “DAPA Dinner” on June 24th with Virginia Representative Connolly and two Asian American DACA recipients to discuss how they were personally affected by the decision, and how their families will continue to live in fear.

According to Think Progress, who covered the event, the status of the two immigrants who attended the event “has also put a very specific strain on their families because it’s not clear they’ll be able to stay together.”

This DAPA Dinner is part of a national campaign that has brought politicians and immigrant families together for meals to discuss the programs. However, this DAPA dinner was unique because it was the first with Asian American immigrants, representing a step in the right direction towards lifting up this community of immigrants.

After the United States v. Texas decision, immigrant activists came together for a rally in lower Manhattan. The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino, but a small group from the MinKwon Center for Community Action, a largely Korean advocacy group that also works with Chinese immigrants, was represented at the rally as well.

A community organizing fellow at MinKwon, Jung Rae Jang, put it perfectly at the rally, saying, “It’s not just Latino struggles, it’s everybody’s struggles.”