LOS ANGELES — It's a hot day in the Los Angeles neighborhoods that comprise some of the highest concentrations of Asian Americans in California, and Nathanel Lowe’s job is just beginning. His group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), has organized about 60 people to go door-to-door to talk about immigration reform.
Concerned about the U.S. Senate's recent passage of the 2013 Immigration Bill — a section of which, if made into law, would ban citizens from sponsoring naturalization of siblings and children age 31 and over — his group is asking people to actively oppose it.
"We’re asking folks to call their member of Congress to support immigration reform that is fair, just and humane," says Lowe, who calls the family reunification section of the bill unjust.
Over the years, many people have been able to immigrate to the United States because they were sponsored by a brother or sister who was already a U.S. citizen.
"My uncles and aunts were sponsored by my dad," says Lowe. "So they came over here because of the brother sibling category. If this gets done away with, my family wouldn’t be able to be over here."
Under current law, spouses, children under 21 years of age, and parents of U.S. citizens, get priority and do not have to wait for a visa. There is, however, a limit on the number of visas given to relatives considered lower priority, including adult children and siblings.
Although the bill that would eliminate the ability of citizens to sponsor siblings and adult children is far from becoming law — the House of Representatives still has to pass its own bill before lawmakers finalize a reform package — University of Southern California political scientist Dan Schnur says civil rights groups have reason to worry.
"If comprehensive immigration reform does pass Congress in the foreseeable future, the nature of the discussion to date suggests that family reunification is not going to survive in its current form," he says, explaining that many U.S. politicians think of a family as being parents and young children, not siblings or grown children.
While national economic and employment needs are addressed in recent drafts of legislation — the current Senate bill expands the number of visas for people with advanced degrees in science and technology from U.S. schools, and creates a new visa for low skilled workers for industries such as agriculture — AAAJ's Michelle Saucedo says repeal of current family reunification policies is of particular concern to Asian-Americans.