SEARAC plays a proactive role in promoting immigration reforms that are in the best interest of our communities. As an endorsing organization of the Reform Immigration for America campaign, SEARAC proudly stands in a united national effort to work toward comprehensive immigration reform that includes:
- Legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants working and living in the United States;
- Reuniting families, protecting workers’ rights, and ensuring a secure future flow of immigrants;
- Implementing smart, effective enforcement measures;
- Prioritizing immigrant integration; and
- Respecting the due process rights of all persons in the U.S.
Immigration reform will affect Southeast Asian American communities in many ways. From the ability to re-unify with family members, to legalization, workers rights and the security of our nation, Southeast Asian Americans have a huge stake in immigration reform. SEARAC believes that family unification and the strengthening of the family based migration system should remain a priority in immigration policies. Additionally, immigration reform must ensure that the millions who are undocumented in the U.S. are able to fully contribute to our society through a strong legalization program.
Integration provisions in immigration policies are of great significance to newer American communities, including Southeast Asian Americans. The integration of immigrants and refugees in the U.S. is essential to their success and full participation in society; however, numerous barriers prolong and complicate this process. The struggling economy creates additional barriers for new immigrant and refugees seeking adequate resources for job training and employment.
SEARAC's work on integration strives to ensure that all integration programs and services, including naturalization testing, fees and waivers, are accessible to those who are low income, English language learners, the elderly and other vulnerable individuals. Additionally, we work toward ensuring that integration programs such as job training, English and naturalization courses are adequately funded and expanded to meet the needs of newcomers. We believe that a significant portion of these resources must be available and accessible for local immigrant and refugee community based organizations serving communities in need.
Southeast Asian Americans are also greatly affected by deportation provisions of current immigration laws. In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). These laws dramatically increased the kinds of offenses for which noncitizens (including legal permanent residents) can be detained and deported. The laws were made to be retroactive, meaning a legal permanent resident who was convicted of an “aggravated felony” prior to the passage of the law can still face deportation. In addition, the laws severely restrict the ability of immigration judges to consider the individual circumstances of a person before ordering them to be deported. This is especially troubling to refugees, particularly those who fled their homelands in fear of persecution and came to the U.S. as children. As adults who now identify themselves as Americans, they will face significant barriers if deported back to those very countries they once fled. In addition, deportation greatly hurts the American families—including U.S. citizen children, spouses, parents and other dependents—of those who are deported.
SEARAC's work on deportation strives to restore discretion to immigration judges, allowing them to review and determine deportation cases on an individual basis as well as narrow the definition of “aggravated felony” to reflect proportionality and the American system of justice. SEARAC opposes the deportation of individuals who were admitted to the U.S. as refugees back to the countries they fled in fear of persecution and believes that deportation policies should take into consideration whether individuals will be exposed to human rights violations if deported.