Why are these facts so terrifying? Because they illustrate an extreme injustice against basic human rights of people living in the United States. It is an injustice when people must live under constant fear or threat of being deported and separated from their families. It is an injustice when people do not have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and be an asset to this country. It is an injustice when people do not have the freedom to leave a country, travel and see their loved ones. America prides itself as being the "Land of Opportunity." It's about time we ensure that opportunity is a real possibility for all people living in this country.
1) According to the Department of Homeland Security, 1.3 million undocumented immigrants are from Asia.
While generally perceived as a Latino issue, 12 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are Asian Americans. While there is a fear of detainment and deportation if their status becomes known, the undocumented Asian American population is growing in its political presence and visibility in order to advocate for changes to enhance their standard of living. Organizations such as RAISE (Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast) strive to create safe spaces for undocumented youth to share their stories and fight for humane immigration policies.
2) Of the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 2 million are minors or young adults under 30; of this number, 10 percent or 40,000 are Asian.
Undocumented people cannot leave the country, cannot get a driver's license, cannot get minimum wage -- in addition to living with the threat of being deported at any time for their undocumented status. Thousands of children immigrated to the U.S. with their parents in search of a better future, only to grow up and discover that their undocumented status prohibits them from fulfilling their dreams and reaching their full potential. As an undocumented student, they are not eligible for federal grants and most scholarships, making college extremely unaffordable. Even as some students find a way to fund their college education, they cannot accept full time jobs after graduation. These legal limitations restrict young people from being an asset to our future economy. For example, the average DREAM Act student will make $1 million more over his or her lifetime by obtaining legal status, which results in tens of thousands of dollars for federal, state and local treasuries.
3) Undocumented status and deportation tears families apart. Almost 4.3 million close family members are waiting around the world to be reunited with a loved one in the United States.
According to Asian Americans Advancing Justice:
Asian Americans are the most likely to have family members caught up in visa backlogs. Approximately 60 percent of Asian Americans are foreign-born -- the highest percentage of any racial group. In 2012, 85 percent of visas issued for Asian countries were family based. Although Asian Americans comprise only 6 percent of the US pop, Asian immigrants received more than one third of the world wide family immigration visas.
Founder of RAISE Neriel David Ponce shares, "I've been away from the Philippines for 14 years now and missed weddings, births and passings of my relatives. Separation from my relatives has definitely been a challenge being undocumented."
4) Over 250,000 Asian American immigrants have been deported under the Obama Administration.
In total, there has been a record breaking 2 million deportations since Obama's presidency -- averaging about 1,000 people a day. Under current immigration laws, deported immigrants are not allowed to re-enter the country. Not only does this split up families and disrupt their economic stability, it becomes nearly impossible for families to visit each other if their children have undocumented status.
5) Undocumented people -- adults and children -- are more likely to be exploited in the workforce.
Due to their status, undocumented people get paid lower wages than other workers. They also face the threat of employers reporting them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they do not comply with the terms of exploitation. Undocumented people are subjected to extremely vulnerable and inhumane conditions; they can't even fight for basic human rights without the threat of being deported and separated from their families.
In addition to these facts and numbers, the award winning documentary, "Why We Rise," produced by the youth led organization RAISE tells the story of 3 brave New Yorkers living with undocumented status. With the courage to share their stories, they aim to humanize the immigration issue by demonstrating that the only difference between them and everyone else is a piece of paper.
In an effort to raise awareness and mobilize the community, there will be a theater performance by undocumented Asian youth in New York City this Wednesday, August 13th titled, "Letters from UndocuAsians." Exercising their voice and making their undocumented status known is already a huge feat in itself. "RAISE produced 'Letters from UndocuAsians' after seeing how powerful an impact our last show '#UndocuAsians' made," says organizer Neriel David Ponce. "We wanted a night where we can invite an audience we can be real to, where our stories can be told by us and our experiences shown by us. It's not just a performance but a night where we also want the audience to take action."
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