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Orange County Immigration Activists Rally at Office of Rep. Ed Royce, Canvass In His District For Reform

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There’s been an enormous amount of activism in California this month — with much more to come.

Yesterday, in Orange Country, the birthplace of California’s notorious Prop 187,  immigration advocates shouted “Yes We Can!” in Korean and Spanish at a rally in front of the office of Congressman Ed Royce. Among the participants were Dayne Lee, Korean Resource Center, Julio Perez, Orange County Labor Federation, Eduardo Garcia, SEIU-USWW E-board member, Arnulfo de la Cruz, Mi Familia Vota, Jin Xiao Zhou, ULTCW member, Bupendra Ram, DREAMer and CSUF graduate student, Daniel Bravo, DREAMer, Anthony Ng, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Sonia Mejia, UDW member/homecare provider and member of OC LULAC and representatives from Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) – Orange County.

They had a message for the Congressman: Pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. And, they had a question: Are you listening?

To reinforce their message, the rally organizers pointed out the district’s demographics: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and Latinos accounting for 28.5 percent and 32.6 percent of the population respectively, the 39th Congressional District is a prime example of our country’s changing demographics.”  Sure seems like it will be hard for Royce not to hear their message. More after the video.

This is the sixth article in the series, “Immigration Reform Summer,” by Gebe Martinez, Advisor to America’s Voice Education Fund:

When Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) was first elected to Congress more than two decades ago, his home county of Orange was a different place. The county was the bastion of the John Birch Society and of the Republican Party in the Golden State and the nation.

Back then, Orange County’s Latinos and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) totaled one-third of the population. Determined to keep the immigrant population from growing, nativists there were a driving force in the anti-immigrant movement with California’s Prop. 187, a statewide measure approved by voters in 1994 that would have denied undocumented immigrants access to health care, education and other critical services. A federal court threw it out for lacking constitutional muster, but many credit Proposition 187 for mobilizing Latino and Asian communities to engage and fight back, resulting in the power those communities wield today across the state.

Now, it is the new Americans and descendants of immigrants who are knocking on doors in Royce’s district and demanding a voice on immigration.

AAPI and Latino community members — backed by DREAMers and labor — went door-to-door on Tuesday asking people to call Royce and demand a House vote on immigration reform that would let 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country earn a path to citizenship over time and help keep families together.

“We just have one question. Congressman Ed Royce, are you listening?” said Dayne Lee of the Korean Resource Center, during a rally at Fullerton City Hall that preceded the canvassing.

Lee led the dozens gathered in chanting “Yes we can!” in Korean after chants of “Si se puede!” as trilingual signs called for immigration reform.

The AAPI and Latino populations are a majority in Orange County and in Royce’s congressional district, which extends from northern Orange County to parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Royce now represents in Congress a population that is 28.5 percent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — including a large Korean-American community — and 32.6 percent Latino.

Royce’s attention to the AAPI communities has been through the prism of human rights, nonproliferation and trade, while working his way up to chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Recognizing the need to improve the GOP’s messaging to Korean Americans, Royce and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), recently hosted a “meet-up” in Washington, D.C., with more than 500 Korean American leaders, pastors and interns.

On the current debate over immigration reform, however, Royce has been relatively silent, stating after a California Chamber of Commerce visit to Capitol Hill last month that Congress opposes “amnesty,” even though that is not on the table.

“We are here in Fullerton to engage Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos and all communities to let them know what is happening on immigration reform and to let them know that their voices do matter,” said Anthony Ng, an undocumented immigrant who spoke at the rally.

On Wednesday, caravans will travel from different points of the Golden State to Bakersfield, the hometown of the third-highest ranking House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. He is one of the immigration advocates’ top targets because GOP House leaders have refused to bring the citizenship proposal to the House floor.

At the same time, 11 pilgrims — one for each of the one million undocumented in the country — are walking 285 miles from Sacramento to Bakersfield for 21 days. Two of them are the parents of Daniel Bravo, who rallied in Fullerton on Tuesday.

Twenty-one days is a long time to be separated, Bravo told the crowd in Orange County. “But we would rather be separated for 21 days than be separated for the rest of our lives.”