News / USA

Deferred Action gives Hope to Asian Immigrants

Immigrants in Maryland.Immigrants in Maryland.
x
Immigrants in Maryland.
Immigrants in Maryland.
A new program that will allow certain undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States has shed light on the plight of the many Asians who consider themselves Americans but don't have legal documentation.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, Bill Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco in California, says undocumented Asian immigrants may account for as many as 200,000 out of the 1.4 million to 2 million young immigrants who might qualify for the deferred action program, which provides a hiatus on deportation.

When most Americans think about illegal immigration, they usually think about people from Latin America, but Asian communities say they, too, are grappling with similar problems, even if they’re not as public about it.

“It’s just not something talked about in the Asian-American community,” said Andrew Kang, a senior staff attorney at the Asian-American Institute, a Chicago-based advocacy group. “There has been a rapid growth in the community, and some have been undocumented.”

Kang says within the undocumented Asian community, overstaying one’s visa is “a big thing,” particularly with people holding student visas. He also says the wait times for family-sponsored visas are, in some cases, so long that many people feel it’s better to take the risk and keep their relatives together, even if it’s illegally.

“A lot of them are brought over by their parents and don’t know they are undocumented until they get older,” Kang said. “There’s no recourse for them.”

Hing says the Asian immigrants he knows just want to feel like contributing members of society.

“I work with a number of these students in the Chinatown area of San Francisco, and they’re very excited because they have gone to school, they are hard working,” said Hing. “They want to contribute. Unfortunately, they have not been eligible to work. And that’s the key. They want to be able to work and support themselves, and to contribute to the United States economy. So they’re very excited and hopeful.”

The U.S. and Immigration Services began accepting applications this month from individuals who came illegally to the country as children and want to apply for deferred action, or a two-year hiatus on deportation. To qualify, applicants must be 31 years-old or younger, have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16, meet education requirements or have served in the military, and pass a criminal background check .

Two undocumented Asian immigrants, Emily Park and Carla Navoa, are excited but skeptical about the program.

“I can’t say I was expecting this exactly,” said Navoa, a 23 year-old Philippine national.

Navoa came to the U.S. with her family at the age of five in the hopes her grandfather, who had a permanent resident visa or “Green Card,” would eventually get citizenship and sponsor the family. When he died, Navoa found herself stuck in an unenviable position. 

While she was happy when U.S. President Barack Obama announced the deferred action for childhood arrivals, she says she hoped for more.

“A lot of people were pushing for an executive order, which is harder to be overturned,” she said.

Park, a Korean national who came to the U.S. at 15 with her grandmother, expressed some hesitation.

“I’m hopeful and excited, but I’m still very skeptical how effective it will be,” she said. “We’ll just have to see.”

Many Asians enter the the U.S. on a tourist visa, like Park and Navoa did. Others come in on student visas. Hing says many Asian immigrants also go to Mexico or Canada and cross the border illegally.

Park, who is self-employed but didn’t want to provide more specifics, says she has reached her limit on living as an undocumented immigrant.

“We live in a constant fear of deportation,” she said. “We don’t know when or where we can be deported. We don’t have government-issued identification and nothing to prove who we are. We can’t work, and  we can’t use our college career.”

Park, who graduated from college last year with a degree in neuroscience, could only watch as her friends applied to graduate school or got jobs.

“The best I could do was apply for internships,” she said.

Navoa says she looks forward to finishing college, applying to graduate schools and finally becoming a teacher. She’s currently working for an immigration advocacy group and says the deferred action will make life at least temporarily better for some of her clients.

“So many youth that I know are working under the table [informally] and don’t get fair treatment,” she said. “One was working at a restaurant and was often underpaid, overworked and treated poorly. With a work permit, I think that would protect them, and they don’t have to fear losing their jobs.”

Navoa, Park and Hing all agree that deferred action leaves many questions unanswered, especially with a presidential election coming up.

Park and Navoa said a two-year hiatus from deportation falls far short of the provisions outlined in the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a decade-old bill that would give permanent resident status to young high school graduates “of good moral character.” The so-called DREAM Act came within five votes of passage in the Senate in 2010.

Immigrants “want to know what will happen at the end of the two years,” said Hing. “Will they be asked to leave the country?”

He added many potential applicants are concerned the information they provide will be used against them at the end of the two-year hiatus, although the government has said the data will be confidential because the agency that collects the data cannot share it, even if the program is reversed after two years.

Hing is advising undocumented immigrants who want to work to apply. He does caution, however, that the program may not be extended beyond two years. Still, he said the greatest loss likely would be losing employment authorization, not being forced out of the U.S.

“We may look back on this moment and regret it. But honestly, as a practical matter, I think it would be very difficult to deport these youngsters two years from now based on the representations that have been made,” he said.

Navoa agrees but advises would-be applicants to get expert advice.

“If you’re going to fill out the application, go to an accredited organization or lawyer and pay a fee,” she said. “There are a lot of areas that are vague on the application. I’ve looked and seen some vagueness. It really does require going to a lawyer.”

For Park, there’s a sense of relief.

“I’m just happy that I could apply,” she said.

Additional reporting by Ira Mellman.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More