It’s May and the fight for immigration reform is on


In case it slipped your mind, it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Come on, get AAPI!

If you’re non-Asian, let’s hope someone of Asian descent goes amok and greets you in an atypically loud, outlandish, and celebratory way. Sort of like Norm Mineta planting a wet one on Joe Biden at the APAICS dinner. (I don’t know if Norm did, but he should have.)

It really is OK to show a little PDA (public display of Asian-ness), at least during this month.

For goodness sakes, it’s the law (Section 102, Title 36 of the U.S. Code). Right up there next to Flag Day, the day that compels many to wear Old Glory on their lapel. (Maybe you can find a lapel button with Bruce Lee’s picture on it?)

My hope is the month will also inspire our legislators not to screw with us too badly on that confounded compromise of an immigration bill.

It’s mark-up time on that piece of Senate legislation offered up by the “Gang of Eight.”

From now until Memorial Day, the entire month of May, some in the U.S. Senate will do as much as they can to make sure there are fewer of us in this country.

The limitations on Asian American immigration are due to that compromise that eliminated visas for our male and female siblings, as well as visas for older married childen. And if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you can’t petition for your partner either.

An amendment that strengthens family unification was submitted by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono. Another amendment from Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy addresses the same-sex issue.

They’re just two of about 300 amendments to the current bill, a sure sign the compromise worked. It didn’t really make anyone happy.

While some want to improve the bill by making it more inclusive and broader, others want to weaken or eliminate the entire immigration package.

Say the huge reform bill were the size of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s stomach; there are some Republicans who would gladly perform lap band surgery on the measure to make the whole thing shrink.

For example, the current bill makes those who came before 2012 eligible for citizenship. Utah Republican Mike Lee wants to make fewer eligible by limiting the date to “before 2010.”

And then there are the amendments intended to make the bill more punitive and restrictive.

Sen. Jeff Sessions wants to include criminal penalties for overstays. That’s a non-starter in our community, considering how Asian Americans here illegally are mostly overstays.

And Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to see your DNA before you get a green card. What for, to prove we had no role in the Jodi Arias murder trial?

Some amendments are strictly for show (I hope), like the ones submitted by the blunt and labored senator from Texas via Canada, Ted Cruz. Cruz actually makes Piyush Bobby Jindal seem like a reasonable fellow.

Cruz has alienated even conservatives. In the gun debate, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “Mr. Cruz will have more success in the Senate, and in his mooted Presidential candidacy, if he stops pretending that he’s Nathan Hale and everyone else is Benedict Arnold.” Ouch.

Cruz’s amendments call for even tighter border security, an issue many conservatives concede is no longer as relevant given the declining numbers of Mexicans coming into the U.S.

And then there’s another Cruz amendment that actually tries to do away with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people. It states that “no person who has previously been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status shall be eligible for United States citizenship.”

That one wins the Shameful Lawyer Forked Tongue Award. If Cruz’s amendment comes to a vote, it could force some moderate conservatives to put on a show for the public as anti-immigrant. (That is, unless you’re a Wall Street Journal-type conservative turned off by Cruz’s complex form of “immigrant fear of immigrant.” Would that be reverse xenophobia?)

Fortunately, the Alliance for Citizenship, a diverse group of immigration advocates, will be at the markups all month to confront the legislators face-to-face so they see who gets affected by their votes.

During a recent phone conference, Angelica Salas, director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, threw down the gauntlet and said they are ready to play aggressive immigration politics for the good of us all.

“We will hold our leaders accountable,” said Salas, indicating the group will mobilize not just on the streets and on the Capitol, but at the voting booth. “We will reward immigrant rights champions and punish anti-immigrant bullies.”

One thing you realize about being an Asian American. We still aren’t big enough to make a difference without allies.

The coalition’s effort is really a continuation of the energy we saw at the May Day rallies. And it can’t really happen without you.

C’mon. It’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, and there’s a fight going on.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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