Reform of Welfare, Immigration Potentially Harmful to Asian Americans

Article excerpt

Two House bills - immigration reform and welfare reform - could negatively impact Asian Pacific American families.

The immigration reform bill (HR 2202) currently being considered in the House of Representatives, would substantially reduce the categories in which U.S. citizens may petition for the immigration of relatives other than spouses and minor children.

The proposal would abolish categories for adult children and siblings, allowing only parents, minor children, and spouses of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Immigration for parents of citizens would be allowed only if 50 percent or more of their children are in the U.S. permanently and if full health insurance is pre-purchased. Parent visas would be eliminated if family visas exceed a cap of 330,000 persons.

Karen Narasaki, of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC), raised questions in testimony before the House subcommittee considering immigration reform. She pointed out that "annual taxes paid by immigrants to all levels of government more than offset the costs of services received, generating a net annual surplus of $25 billion to $30 billion."

NAPALC opposes the elimination of the adult children category and the elimination of the sibling category for family immigrants, charging that the provisions do not recognize the dose relationship of Asian Pacific families and the importance of siblings in that relationship.

There is some concern that immigration restrictions may lead to discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans. Such discrimination was documented by a 1992 report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Civil Rights Issues Facing Asian Americans in the 1990s.

The report describes discrimination that followed enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. The law imposed sanctions on employers who hired undocumented workers. The sanctions led to discrimination against foreign-looking and foreign-sounding individuals seeking employment.

The report drew on a U.S. General Accounting Office report on the effects of the 1986 law, stating that GAO found "a widespread pattern of discrimination has resulted against eligible workers. …