This Mother's Day I will be spending time with more than just my three children. I will also be spending time with my husband, grandparents, aunts and uncles -- all parts of an extended and closely knit family that is deeply tied through blood and immigration patterns to this country we now call home. But there are many Asian American mothers just like me who won't be able to hold their children close today. I will also be thinking of them and their struggles.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee deliberates immigration reform, and as I celebrate one of the days of the year most closely associated with the importance of family bonds, I want to share just how important the issue of immigration reform and specifically family immigration is for the millions of Asian American families out there.
Some Members of Congress, however, want to gut the family immigration system by making it much harder for siblings and adult married children to reunite with their loved ones here in the U.S. They falsely claim that the current system allows a brother, sister, or child of a U.S. citizen into the country without any additional criteria. That simply isn't the case. The process is complicated and at times grueling. Sibling and child applicants must also provide evidence of income support far above the poverty level.
Asian American family members wait decades as family-visa backlogs stretch on and on. This is unacceptable. The elimination of the family-visa backlogs is critical to fixing our family immigration system. And Sen. Mazie Hirono's amendment to restore the visa categories for siblings and married adult children is one that all senators should support.
Furthermore, the Senate proposal pits families against employers. This is a false choice that grossly overlooks and discounts the many economic benefits that family immigrants have contributed to our nation. Research has shown that brothers and sisters coming to the U.S. on a family-visa experience higher rates of self-employment and overall higher income earnings. This is due in large part to the support that family unity yields for new immigrants. Overall, average immigrants experience higher upward mobility than non-immigrants. These are facts that only make our nation stronger.
Yet, here we stand, fighting to preserve our most basic values -- family unity. Family is family, and communities are stronger when families thrive. When Congress presupposes what our families should look like, i.e., the "nuclear family," they are doing a great disservice to our nation. Families come in all forms. Many successful Americans and aspiring Americans were raised by grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles. Do we discount the value of their loved ones, simply because they don't fall into the typical family picture? As our nation of evolves, so should our immigration system.
Leading up to the immigration debate, numerous polls revealed that Americans wanted commonsense solutions to our immigration system. Allowing families, including siblings and children (of all ages), to reunite with their loved ones is common sense. Creating a family immigration system that has a track record of economic success is common sense. And ensuring new immigrants have the resources to integrate faster into our communities is common sense.
This Mother's Day, I urge Congress to think of their own families -- the multiple generations that will come together to honor their mothers, aunts, married daughters, and sisters -- and remember the responsibility we as a nation have to the rest of the mothers and families in our communities.
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