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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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