New York, NY – On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, organizations serving the Asian American community held a press conference in response to the recent wave of immigration enforcement raids and executive orders by the new president. Gathered at the New York Immigration Coalition, community leaders spoke out on resulting atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in their communities.
In the past week, nearly 700 immigrants have been detained across 11 states, 40 in New York. Individuals are being detained even in sanctuary cities such as New York City, causing all immigrants, even those with legal status, to feel unsafe and at risk. With 78% of Asian Americans in New York City being immigrants, community leaders expressed their deep concern over the harsh policies and tactics coming from the new administration.
The federal government has a history of discrimination targeting Asian Americans. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed by Congress to exclude a select race and status of people. Asian Americans were also targeted under suspicion as enemies of the state during World War II when Japanese Americans were detained in internment camps.
These raids come on the heels of a series of executive orders through which Mr. Trump greatly expanded the categories of immigrants to be detained, in addition to ordering the building of a wall along the southern border, instituting a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, threatening the funding to sanctuary cities.
"New York's sanctuary city status positions us as a leader in the fight for immigrant rights,” said Stephanie Chrispin, President of Pilipino American Unity for Progress' (UniPro) New York Chapter, “UniPro is committed to resisting the Trump Administration's discriminatory orders, both for our Filipino American youth and in solidarity with other communities of color targeted by their racist and xenophobic rhetoric."
James Hong, interim executive director at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, stated, “Immigration issues are Asian American issues. With 78% of Asian Americans in New York City being immigrants, it is impossible for us to stay silent in the face these raids and executive orders. The MinKwon Center and its allies in the community are already seeing waves of confusion and fear, even among those with legal status. It is a travesty that instead of acknowledging the tremendous contributions of immigrants to this city, the federal government is targeting New York for its enforcement.”
Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York, stated, “The Asian-American community, and all the immigrant communities in our city, are vital to this history and culture of New York,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “If the Trump Administration thinks they can break the spirit of our city and tries to rip New York apart, then they are sorely mistaken. Any attempt to divide us will only bring us closer together in support of all our immigrant communities and in opposition of these policies.”
Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, stated, “We are gravely concerned with the recent uptick of ICE raids in the immigrant community. The Trump administration poses a great threat to immigrants who contribute to society and to New York. It is clear that all immigrant communities - Asian American, Black, Latino, Arab - are under threat from this administration. NYIC will continue to support all immigrants and fight against this new wave of criminalization. This is just the beginning.”
“While AALDEF applauds the Ninth Circuit decision last Thursday upholding the U.S. district judge’s temporary order blocking the implementation of the Jan. 27 executive order, this is not the end of the road for the president’s discriminatory executive order which effectively constitutes a Muslim ban. AALDEF will also continue to closely monitor the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In light of the ICE enforcement actions over the past week, it is more critical than ever that we provide legal advice about their immigration options to individuals affected by the travel ban, as well as to DACA recipients and their families,” said Annie Wang, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
"People from different cultures, with different religions – hard-working immigrants – make this country beautiful. Pushing them aside makes this country fragile," said Selvia Sikder from the Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Service.
"The Chinese-American Planning Council is delighted to work alongside the immigration coalition," said Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council. "The Chinese American community is no stranger to anti-immigration laws, so CPC believes that immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to thrive in this country. We look forward to providing services to immigrant New Yorkers through this initiative."
"The Chinese community is no stranger to anti-immigrant sentiment and policies. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first immigration law to ban an entire group of people from coming to this country - based on their country of origin. Although the current actions of the new administration do not directly affect the Chinese community, it has made our community residents -- even lawful permanent residents and citizens afraid and concerned. It's time to have policies that welcome and nurture all new immigrants to continue making positive contributions to our country", said Mae Lee, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association.
"OCA-New York Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA-NY) stands proudly behind all immigrants that have come and continue to come to this great nation. Immigrants are an integral part of the American society, from small shop owners, blue and white collar workers to corporate executives. Without the contributions of immigrants, there would not be an America as it stands today. OCA-NY will continue to #resist till this Administration revoke the ban on immigrants and refugees,” said Chi Loek, President of OCA-New York Asian Pacific American Advocates.
The supporting and co-sponsoring organizations stand together to strongly oppose Trump’s anti-immigrant and discriminatory Executive Orders. We stand in solidarity with our immigrant community members to resist Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and continue to fight, to protect and empower our immigrant communities.
APA VOICE is a non-partisan, pan-Asian collaboration of organizations and individuals seeking to increase civic engagement in the Asian American community.