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APIs Organize First-Ever National Action Week

Immigration Matters

New America Media, Commentary, Karen Narasaki Posted: Aug 21, 2009

This week, the Asian-American community is putting its newly cemented political power to use as we mobilize for the first ever national week of action in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Many in our community are banding together to attend town hall meetings with members of Congress, hold press conferences and petition lawmakers to fix our broken immigration system. The system restricts due process rights, breaks up families, and ultimately hurts the economy.

New data from the Census Bureau reveals a significant increase in the number of Asian voters over the last four years. And this week further proves that our community is willing to use its clout to spur action on immigration reform.

There are more than 15 million Asian Americans residing in the United Statesthe majority of whom are foreign born and, thus, have first-hand experience dealing with our woefully outdated immigration system. Countless Asians are caught in the family visa backlogs and remain separated from close family members. There are more than 1.2 million undocumented Asians in the United States today.

If members of Congress like being members of Congress, theyll listen. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Asian voters in the United States increased 21.3 percent from 2.8 million voters in 2004 to 3.4 million in 2008. And our votes matter. Political candidates should pay particular attention to the rapid rise of Asian voters in many states, including electorally keyand often pivotalstates such as California, Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio. California is home to more than one-third of all Asians in the United States.

In North Carolina, which went from red to blue in 2008, the number of Asian voters was three times greater than President Obamas margin of victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Asian-American community is also critical to our national economy. The purchasing power of Asians totaled $509.1 billion nationally in 2008, an increase of 337 percent since 1990, and is projected to reach $752.3 billion by 2013. Asians also own 1.1 million businesses in the U.S., which generated $326.7 billion in sales and receipts and employed roughly 2.2 million people in 2002.

There is no denying that Asian Americans contribute significantly to the political and economic landscape, but the question remains whether Congress will listen. Will Congress listen as the community mobilizes and demands comprehensive immigration reform? Or will they maintain the status quo and risk losing our support at the ballot box next year?

Karen Narasaki is the executive director and president of the Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), a national organization dedicated to defending and advancing the civil and human rights of Asian Americans.

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