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CAPAC Immigration Priorities for the Asian American & Pacific Islander Community
Creating a common sense immigration process is a top priority for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and the diverse constituencies that we represent. America has always been a nation of immigrants. Over the last few years, Asians have become the single largest demographic of new immigrants moving to the U.S. and make up the fastest growing racial group in the country.
The Members of CAPAC are committed to working towards fair, bipartisan solutions for our broken immigration system. We support comprehensive immigration reform and believe it must:
1. Provide a Roadmap to Citizenship for Aspiring Citizens
Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S., 1.4 million identify as being of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also account for one in ten youth who would qualify for the DREAM Act.
Immigration reform must include a roadmap to permanent residency and citizenship for immigrants who work hard, pay their taxes, and undergo criminal and national security background checks. This is especially true for those who were brought to this country at a young age through no fault of their own, and who are already Americans in every sense except for on paper.
2. Support America’s Long-standing Tradition of Family-Based Immigration
In November 2012, there were 4.3 million people in the family immigration backlog, nearly half of whom were from Asian countries. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders sponsored over 40 percent of all family-based visas in 2010. Some Asian immigrants have been forced to wait as long as 23 years to be reunited with their families in the United States, largely due to the limitations and inefficiencies of our legal immigration system.
Any effort to address immigration reform must prioritize the unity and sanctity of families. We need to reduce visa backlogs, reunite divided families, and recognize same-sex, bi-national partnerships as family ties and permanent relatives.
3. Strengthen the U.S. Economy and Workforce
Immigration is not a threat to the U.S. economy – if anything, it makes us stronger. Immigrants fill critical gaps in our workforce, invest in new businesses, and bring much needed skill sets in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In 2010, nearly one in five Fortune 500 companies had at least one immigrant founder. In 2007, Asian-owned small businesses alone had sales and receipts of over half a trillion dollars and employed 2.8 million people.
Any plan for immigration reform should include provisions to attract and retain the best talent from around the world, especially those with backgrounds in much needed STEM fields. It must also provide legal routes through which aspiring citizens can fill gaps in the U.S. workforce, as well as labor protections to prevent employers from exploiting and abusing immigrant workers.
4. Promote the Integration of New Americans
Nearly three-fourths of Asian American adults are foreign born and more than 4.6 million Asian Americans report speaking English "less than very well."
Our immigration process must promote the full integration of new Americans by supporting programs that provide for English language acquisition, civic education, and affordable healthcare and social services.
5. Establish Smarter, More Effective Enforcement
Immigration enforcement should be focused on keeping our borders secure, targeting serious criminals, and stopping those who pose threats to our public safety and national security.
Smart enforcement should avoid imposing burdensome mandates on local police forces, prohibit the use of racial profiling, and end practices that place undue strain on legitimate travel and commerce. Enforcement policies should also reflect our values by respecting the civil liberties of those who are detained, reducing undue hardships on children and families, and operating with full transparency and accountability. Similarly, the use of mandatory employment verification systems should only be implemented widely after important privacy, civil liberty, budgetary, and technological flaws have been resolved.
Comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do for our national security, our economy, and our values as a nation. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is committed to working towards a fair and viable solution that honors our nation’s founding principles and furthers the interests of all Americans.