At a Mayday Immigration Rally in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: New America Media.

On March 21, over 200,000 people converged on Washington D.C. to demand comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. Asian Pacific Americans participated, including national Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations and Seattle’s Thao Tran, Many Uch and Cathy Pham.

On April 10, Saturday at noon, in Occidental Park in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, the Washington Immigration Reform Coalition of over 50 organizations, including the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington, will host a comprehensive immigration reform rally in Seattle. This rally will be one of the largest and most multicultural of rallies being held on the National Day of Action. Rally organizers expect at least 5,000 to come from throughout the state, and 1,000 Asian Pacific Americans to attend.

Multilingual greetings including Asian and Pacific Islander languages, begin around 11:30; a lion dance opens the program around noon; Lua Pritchard will co-emcee, and Rep. Mike Honda (CA), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair, will be among the featured speakers. Event endorsers include Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington, Asian Counseling & Referral Service, Asian Pacific Cultural Center, Cambodian Women Network Association, Chinese Information & Service Center, Filipino Community of Seattle, India Association of Western Washington, International Community Health Services, Khmer in Action, Korean American Coalition of Washington, Northwest Association of Pacific Americans, Pacific Islander Student Association, Pacific National Television, SafeFutures Youth Center, Tongan Community of Seattle Washington State India Trade Relations Committee, and Wing Luke Asian Museum, among others.

The breadth of Asian Pacific American support reflects how critical immigration reform is to our community. Immigration policy has defined Asian Pacific American history, and goes to the very core of our community and families to this day.

The first immigration law Congress passed was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Later, exclusionary policies were designed to keep out Japanese, Filipinos, South Asians, Southeast Asians and others. Laws barring various Asian groups from citizenship, owning property, bringing wives, and interracial marriage were intended to keep families and communities from forming, at a time when millions of Europeans immigrated to America. The situation did not change markedly until the 1965 Immigration Act.

Mexico and several Asian nations are now the greatest source of immigrants. One in six people in our state is Asian or Latino. There are about 450,000 Asian Pacific Americans here; over two-thirds are foreign born. Asian Pacific Americans contribute significantly to the local economy. In 2002, there were nearly 27,000 Asian American owned businesses, employing nearly 45,000 people and generating $7.1 billion in sales and receipts. Asian American purchasing power was $16.6 billion in 2009.

Although immigration policies are no longer explicitly racist and exclusionary, the immigration system is still broken and influenced by xenophobia and fear of America’s changing complexion. Mexicans and Asians are often scapegoated in hard times. Yet, both groups have the highest rates of entrepreneurship and create jobs that Americans need and want, including business and high tech jobs. They are also found in the hardest work around, including the military, agriculture, construction, fishing, logging, housekeeping, food service, hospitals and nursing homes. They are the backbone of the economy, contributing more through their work, taxes and purchases than they take from the economy. In our state, immigrants contributed $1.48 billion in tax revenue and comprised 14% of the workforce in 2007.

The American Immigration Council cites a study by UCLA’s Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, saying “comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over a ten-year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousand of jobs”. In addition, immigrants of color have more children than people of European ancestry, and as Americans of European ancestry age, immigrants, refugees and their children will be providing the businesses, services and tax revenues to support the aged.

The current immigration system is inhumane and separates our families. Filipinos wait over 20 years to be reunited, due to the visa backlogs. Asians comprise half of the estimated 4 million in the backlogs. Chinese, Koreans, Indians and Filipinos are among the 1 million undocumented Asians in the U.S. Nine thousand Cambodians, Vietnamese and Laotians, about a third of detainees, face summary deportation without due process.

We must support comprehensive immigration reform that will clear the visa backlogs and reunite families, legalize and provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented, restore due process and protect human rights. Our country’s foreign and economic policies have always driven immigration. It is in our nation’s best interests to benefit from the vitality immigrants and refugees contribute to our culture, economy, and national defense. Please come to the April 10 rally and join us in urging the Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year!

An Immigration Reform Rally is scheduled on April 10 at noon in Seattle’s Occidental Park.

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