Mary Silver/Epoch Times Staff
ATLANTA—For the first time, the White House sponsored a regional Community Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., March 16. People came from as far away as Miami, Fla., Mississippi and Louisiana; some in chartered buses.
They told stories about immigration problems, health care needs, caring for elders, language barriers, predatory lending, problems getting government contracts, bullying, and the value of education.
Retired NFL receiver and philanthropist Hines Ward, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, drew a standing-room-only crowd. He spoke of being proud of his Korean and African-American heritage, and his determination to fight prejudice against biracial people. Ward started a foundation for that purpose in Korea, where he was born.
A smaller group attended a panel on immigration and civil rights. Andrew Strait said he has one month on the job in his new position as public advocate for the U.S. Deparment of Homeland Security.
He sat in front of hand lettered cloth panels that said the Obama administration has carried out a record number of deportations of illegal immigrants, and its deportations caused American-born children of deported parents to be put into foster care. One panel bore the words “Undocumented Afraid” in letters two feet tall.
Song Park of Snellville, Ga., spoke through a translator. “I want to talk about a woman who came to America a long time ago. She suffered in her life, but was very happy when Obama was elected with the promise of comprehensive immigration reform. Now I am disappointed. When will his promise be fulfilled?”
“I know it will take time to build trust,” said Strait, in response to questions about the Secure Communities Program.
Members of the audience asked questions about cases they said indicated innocent, otherwise law-abiding people being targeted for deportation in a way that contradicts the administration’s policy on removing people who are dangerous.
According to a statement from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency ” focuses its limited resources on those who have been arrested for breaking criminal laws. ICE prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.”
Strait, an attorney who has been advising ICE since 2008, said the federal government and law enforcement in general has always applied the principle of prosecutorial discretion. The Secure Communities Program is not an unprecedented policy, he said.
Tricia Sung, chair of the Organization of Chinese Americans, (OCA) Georgia’s Voting Initiative, said that with prosecutorial discretion, “we want to move beyond people being picked up on a traffic stop,” and detained or deported.
“This president wants comprehensive immigration reform,” said Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary, Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Lu said the benefits of immigration reform will be economic. “We can’t afford the world’s best students coming here, then going back. They should come back here and start businesses.”
According to Lu, Asian Americans own 1.5 million small businesses, and two thirds of new jobs come from small businesses. Though often called “model immigrants,” AAPIs face economic, educational and cultural challenges, he said.
“For every doctor or lawyer there are hundreds of small business owners; for every engineer, hundreds of maids and taxi drivers,” concluded Lu.