Survey: Asian Americans Concerned with Legalization, Family Backlogs

shutterstock_112556324In the current debate, immigration is often depicted as a Latino issue.  This is partially because just over half of America’s foreign-born population is from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the current political climate around immigration is largely seen as being driven by Latino turnout for Democrats in the 2012 election.  But this depiction glosses over the millions of immigrants – documented and undocumented – who hail from other parts of the globe.

The second largest group of American immigrants is from Asia.  Asian Americans make up over a quarter of America’s foreign-born population, and since 2008, have made up 40 percent of incoming immigrants.  Two-thirds of Asian adults in the U.S. are foreign born, and three-fifths are eligible to vote.  In 2012, Asian Americans voted for President Obama in similar numbers to Latinos, and of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, 1.3 million are of Asian origin.  It makes sense, then, to consider what Asian Americans think about immigration reform.

A recent report from the National Asian American Survey (NAAS) found that 58 percent of Asian Americans support a roadmap to citizenship for the undocumented, which is a dramatic change from just four years ago, when support for the roadmap was only at 32 percent.  The survey also focused on the family visa backlog – an issue that is often less covered than issues more associated in the media with Latino migration, like border security and the plight of undocumented immigrants.  NAAS reported that a majority of Asians – 54 percent – say the backlog is a problem, which is logical considering the number of Asians waiting on visas.  According to the survey, “There are an estimated 4.3 million individuals waiting abroad due to backlogs in the issuing of family visas.  Of these, about 1.8 million are from Asian countries.”

While lawmakers have occasionally mentioned the backlogs in the current immigration debate, family visas are often relegated to the backseat behind the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) visas, which are praised for bringing high-skilled foreign workers to the United States.  But as California Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) pointed out at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearings on immigration, “it’s worth noting that none of the founders of these [high-tech Silicon Valley] companies came to the U.S. because of their skills:  Sergey Brin [Google], Jerry Yang [Yahoo], Andy Grove [Intel] and Pierre Omidyar [eBay] all came here through our family-based system or because they were refugees or the children of refugees.”

Family backlogs and the roadmap to citizenship are something Asians will pay close attention to.  As a large portion of the immigrant community, and a growing portion of America, it’s important to take the opinions and interests of the Asian American community into consideration during the ongoing immigration debate and make sure that family visas remain a key part of the conversation.

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  • Working with the Asian community on a daily basis, I have seen a number of talents including highly skilled people being denied legal entry in the United States, H4 visa sufferings and other families who contribute to this country been thorn apart. It is only fair that an Immigration reform includes something for them.
    While we are focusing on “undocumented” immigrants, we are ignoring our future in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
    While we encourage the government to give a path to citizenship for so many who have been suffering in this country, we also would like to have a fair immigration reform for those who have been legally and patiently been waiting.

  • Dean

    Let the legal immigrants enter the US as being petitioned by their U.S. Citizen parent with out waiting for many many many many years, I don’t know why they have to wait for many years since the petitioner is a US Citizen, The current Immigration law is selective and unfair, US Immigration should be overhaul and prioritize legal Immigrants rather than fixing first the illegal immigrants, the problem is that US Consuls abroad grants visitors visa to people unqualified and moSt of them have overstay intention in the US they never come back and this will be an issue for life, the one suffering are the legal immigrants petitioned by their US Citizens parents WHO CANNOT ENTER THE us BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO WAIT MANY MANY MANY YEARS IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!! !! FIX THIS PROBLEM .. PRESIDENT OBAMA WE SUPPORT YOUR BILL.. IF CONGRESS DOESN’T PASS THIS BILL.. JUST MAKE AN EXECUTIVE ORDER AND FIX THE IMMIGRATION!

  • Jason Flores

    Dean…it’s 12 million undocumented immigrants…it’s a sleeping gigant. These are people who work hard, have families and CHILDREN BORN here who are Americans, all these people have been in the shadows for decades. If you’re a citizen and you’re trying to petition someone in your family, well since your a citizen shy don’t you go to your native country and pay them a visit, you can do that, unlike these immigrants who have not seen their families in decades. Your comment just show how cold and insensitive you are when it comes to immigration issues. Don’t think you’re more important than these people because you’re a citizen. You have the same exact needs as they do; work, go to school, pay bills, look for a better life etc. it’s time for the president to step up and address this important issue; if a comprehensive reform is achieved the impact on our economy will be ENORMOUS. Study after study has proven that a legalization for all undocumented immigrants will bring positive economic changes, unless you’re a racist and think otherwise.

  • Natacha

    No one should have to live in the shadow of deportation—but that is the daily struggle of both undocumented and legal temporary workers (who are in the process of applying for green cards and/or on the path to citizenship) in the U.S.

    According to the National Foundation for American Policy, a highly skilled Indian national sponsored today for the most common skilled employment-based immigrant visa could wait 70 years to receive a green card. Majority of employer-sponsored immigrants tend to be from India and China, but they have to wait longer than nationals of other countries because of the per country limit restricting the number of green cards awarded to any one country to 7 percent of a preference category.

    Comprehensive immigration reform should be comprehensive–addressing the many facets of the complex immigration issues we face–and fair for all. My thanks to all (President Obama, our legislators, the advocacy groups, the media, and the millions directly impacted) who have been championing for this…it is long overdue!