THE BLOG
01/18/2013 04:40 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2013

Where Do Asian Americans Stand on Immigration Reform?

Last Tuesday, U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) along with five other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with White House officials who assured the contingent that the Obama Administration is moving forward with immigration reform.

"We talked about what the president wants and what his vision is," Gutierrez told Buzzfeed. "And I gotta tell you, we're in a good place."

I find it interesting that no one from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus was invited to this meeting. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised. Most people see immigration as a "Latino issue" and there are more Latino votes to be had than Asian votes. Nonetheless, 2012 witnessed the rise of a small but no less important electorate which helped re-elect President Obama and many other politicians.

Yesterday, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released detailed findings from its multilingual exit poll of Asian American voters in the November 2012 election. Unlike most exit polls, the AALDEF survey was conducted in various Asian languages thereby capturing responses which otherwise would have been missed by English-only polls.

Contrary to pre-2012 thinking, Asian Americans are not that conservative. Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they were Democrats and only 14 percent identified as Republicans. Seventy-seven percent voted for President Obama and only 21 percent supported Governor Romney.

Yet are they as progressive when it comes to immigration? When the 9,000-plus Asian-American voters were asked if they supported comprehensive reform which included a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, 65 percent said they did. Only 14 percent said they opposed such a measure. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans said they support a path to citizenship.

Just like Latinos, Asian Americans have family members, friends and neighbors who are without papers. It is estimated that 11 percent of all unauthorized people in the United States are Asians. Moreover, a majority of Asians are first-generation immigrants who are greatly affected by the inadequacies of our immigration system. Asian immigrants are among those who wait the longest -- up to two decades -- to be reunited with their loved ones because of immigration backlogs. Highly educated and skilled Asian immigrants can wait up to six years before earning green cards. Immigration is an Asian issue.

While the president has vowed to push for comprehensive immigration reform this year and Republicans are starting to line up behind Rubio's copycat immigration reform plan, there are those who continue to vehemently oppose any reform beyond unnecessary and inordinate enforcement. Pro-immigration forces need to be rallied to ensure that legislation which includes a path to citizenship is once and for all passed. And this includes Asian Americans who have proven themselves indispensable to any political victory.

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