APA Families May Be Price of Immigration Reform

APA Families May Be Price of Immigration Reform

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U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said last Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the immigration reform bill, passing 13-5 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “does much to improve family immigration, but I fear that the bill contains some fundamental changes to our immigration system that move us away from the principle of family reunification.” She conceded the bill is “a step in the right direction” to fixing a “badly broken” system, while pledging she would continue to strengthen its family provisions. Among 10 of Hirono’s 24 proposed amendments passed – reunifying Filipino World War Two veterans with their children and qualifying DREAM Act students for federal education aid.

Speaking in the Bay Area last weekend, Hirono, the Senate’s only immigrant, considered herself the body’s “strongest voice” for family reunification. However, the bill shifts away from family and focuses on a merit system highlighting education and experience, attracting overseas STEM talent to places like Silicon Valley.

“STEM people, they have families too,” Hirono argued. “They need their support of their families to succeed in their new country.”

In 18 months after Senate and House passage and the president’s signature, the law would “wipe out” categories for siblings and children over 31 who are married. Siblings, said the Senate Judiciary Committee member, don’t stand a chance.

The merit system is also “going to have a tremendous effect on women,” she said. Asian women do not have the same educational opportunities and don’t score well when it comes to STEM points, said Hirono.

At the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition luncheon on Sunday, she said non-STEM entrepreneurs like Socola’s Wendy Lieu would be hurt. The San Francisco chocolatier had emigrated from Vietnam and started her business as a teen.

“It is a mistake to focus on the economic elements of immigrants,” said Senator Hirono.

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