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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 27, 2012

Written by Calvin N. Ho

Undocumented Asian Immigrants in the United States

“Undocumented Immigrants” is on Time’s shortlist for Person of the Year 2012. Many of the editors’ picks in the past few years have been abstract, collective entities–last year was the year of the Protester, and 2006 was the year of You. Why should undocumented immigrants be the Person of the Year 2012? Time writes:

An invisible population stepped forward on June 15, 2012, to stake its claim to the American Dream. On that day, President Obama declared that certain undocumented immigrants — a group simply labeled “illegal” by many — would not be subjected to deportation, under broad-ranging conditions. Suddenly the logjam of immigration reform shifted, as more than 1 million undocumented young people who had been in the country for the past five years found themselves with new opportunities. What is more, the sympathies of other groups of people who have undocumented relatives — and thus are mindful of their plight — may have clearly shifted to a President on a campaign for re-election, as evidenced by the preponderance of Hispanic and Asian-American voters casting their ballots for Obama.

I’m glad that Time made a shout-out to Asian Americans in this blurb, and featured undocumented Filipino American journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas so prominently in their June 25 issue. While the mainstream media often portray unauthorized immigration as a Latino or Mexican issue, not all undocumented migrants are from Mexico or Latin America. According to Department of Homeland Security estimates for January 2011, 10% of undocumented immigrants in the US were born in five major Asian sending countries: China, the Philippines, India, Korea, and Vietnam. That adds up to just shy of 1.2 million people.

That shocking figure does not include people coming from other Asian countries, and some people of Asian descent born in Latin America. Many Latin American countries have long-settled populations of Asian people. There are also many contemporary migrants who use Latin America as a stepping-stone to the US. The high-profile case of San Francisco student Steve Li brought this issue into the limelight. Li’s family was scheduled to be deported, but to different places; US immigration authorities were prepared to send him to his birthplace of Peru while the rest of his family were deported to China.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Undocumented Asian Immigrants in the United States" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2012/11/undocumented-asian-immigrants-in-the-united-states/> ().

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