Tag Archives: immigration

Over 400 people in NorCal captured in ICE raids

by  Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

SAN FRANCISCO – The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently reported that about one in every five undocumented immigrants now facing deportation captured in raids in Northern California have criminal records.

More than 1,150 people were taken into custody over the last three weeks, with the detainment and pending deportation of more than 430. Less than half of the detainees from Northern California are considered fugitives for failing to show up at earlier immigration hearings.

According to Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, ICE is committed to enforcing these deportation orders. ICE raids have been strongly criticized by immigrants’ advocates, stating that the approach hurts families.

In a report by the Associated Press, those arrested were from 34 countries. The raids ended last Saturday, September 27. Aside from the more than 430 arrests in NorCal, ICE also made 420 arrests in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the San Diego area.

Immigration officials have increased enforcement at factories, offices and homes in recent year, targeting illegal immigrants who have ignored and avoided deportations orders.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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US seeks to address domestic worker abuse

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
NEW YORK – The United States Embassy in Manila issued the most A-3 and G-5 visas, accounting for almost 10 percent of the total number of these visas issued overseas during this period, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
A total of 1,775 A-3 and G-5 visas were issued by the U.S. embassy in Manila from fiscal year 2000 through 2007, significantly more than any other overseas post. Lima, Peru was a far second with 956 visas followed by Jakarta, Indonesia with 910.

A-3 visas are issued to employees of officials from foreign embassies, consulates, or governments while G-5 visas are granted to employees of foreign officials for international organizations, such as the United Nations or the World Bank.

The report, released Tuesday, July 29, found out that from 2000 to 2007, at least 42 foreigners who arrived in the United States on these special visas said they were abused by their employers who are foreign diplomats with immunity. The report added that because of some other reasons, this number could be significantly higher.

“The total number of alleged incidents since 2000 is likely higher for four reasons: household workers’ fear of contacting law enforcement, nongovernmental organizations’ protection of victim confidentiality, limited information on some cases handled by the U.S. government, and federal agencies’ challenges identifying cases,” the report said.

Ivy Suriyopas, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), agrees that the number is quite low and that the report is “long overdue”.

“I think there is an underestimation on the figures that they released. They gave a conservative figure to make sure that they don’t over report. There are a lot of people who haven’t come forward yet because of numerous reasons,” Suriyopas told the Asian Journal.

Suriyopas, who handles trafficking cases including that of Marichu Baoanan’s, added that the report provided documentation and validated earlier talks about domestic worker abuse.

The report also found that officers at the various posts were “unclear about or unfamiliar with certain aspects of guidance relating to these visas” and that few of the officers were aware that they should inform A-3 and G-5 visa applicants of their rights under U.S. law during their interview.  Some officers at the four posts also were uncertain about the reasons for refusing A-3 or G-5 visas.

GAO analyzed documents, interviewed officials, and conducted fieldwork at four consular posts that issued large numbers of A-3 or G-5 visas. These consular posts were Manila, Philippines; Lima, Peru; Doha, Qatar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

While the report mentioned the number of visa holders who alleged abuse, it did not provide details of the cases as well as where they happened. These special visas are issued to foreign workers working in the diplomatic community, which is concentrated in New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The survey said that of the foreign diplomats named in the 42 reports of alleged abuse, 32.5 percent came from Africa, 30 percent were from the Near East, 20 percent were from the Western Hemisphere, 15 percent from Asia and 2.5 percent were from Europe.

A total of 17 out of the 42 incidents alleged by the visa holders were handled by federal agencies. These cases involved human trafficking, visa fraud and wage and hour violation.

This issue is still fresh in the Filipino American community specially since the case of Marichu Baoanan is still pending. Last month, Baoanan alleged that her former employer, ambassador to the U.N. Lauro Baja forced her to work as a domestic worker and not as a nurse as she was made to believe. Baja and his wife were charged with human trafficking.

Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, and maintenance of persons for labor and services through force, fraud, and coercion for slavery, servitude, and peonage.

The Department of Homeland Security investigates trafficking allegations and grants T visas to some trafficking victims. These visas allow victims to remain in the United States for up to 4 years, file for permanent residence, and receive certain government services through the Department of Health and Human Services. This was how Baoanan and her family received their T visas.

Baja and his family, through their lawyer Salvador Tuy, have denied all of Baoanan’s allegations.

In 2007, the Department of State reported that some foreign diplomats may be abusing the household workers they brought to the United States on A-3 or G-5 visas. Thus, GAO was asked to determine the number of A-3 or G-5 visa holders who have alleged abuse by foreign diplomats with immunity since 2000, review the U.S. government’s process for investigating these allegations, and assess how State ensures that its policies for issuing A-3 and G-5 visas are implemented correctly and consistently.

“Weaknesses exist in State’s process for ensuring correct and consistent implementation of policies and procedures for issuing A-3 and G-5 visas,” the report said.

The report detailed government efforts to address the abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats within the United States but this was not an easy proposition since diplomats in the United States are covered by immunity.

“Law enforcement’s ability to investigate foreign diplomats is limited, particularly if the subject has full immunity or inviolable premises are involved. Diplomats with full immunity have the highest degree of privileges and immunities. They are considered “personally inviolable” and cannot be detained,” the report said.

The diplomats’ residences are inviolable and cannot be entered or searched without their consent, making it harder for investigators specially since abuse of household workers typically takes place in the employer’s residence. According to the report, victims may not cooperate out of fear that the employers will use their political status and connections to harm them or their families or that they will be deported if they leave their employment situations.

The report recommended the collection of records on such allegations, the establishment of an alert system for such violations, and a spot-checking of visas issued to diplomats’ household staff.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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FilAms Call for Immigration Reform

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – FilAm Mike Pedro waved a Philippine flag as he marched down Broadway Street in Downtown, Los Angeles.

Wearing a white MIWON (Multi-ethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network) shirt that read “Filipinos for Genuine Immigration Reform,” the outreach specialist for Search to Involve Pilipino Americans wanted it to be known that Filipinos are just as involved with the immigration issue as their more highly publicized Latino counterparts.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that undocumented Filipinos are also under attack,” said Pedro standing behind a group of FilAm activists holding a “No Immigrants = No Economy” banner. “They need workers’ rights as well. Most people think that this is just a Chicano, Latino or Mexican American thing, but all different ethnicities [like] Filipinos, Asians, Chinese should be included.”

Pedro was part of a large contingent of FilAms that were part of the estimated 30,000 demonstrators that filled the streets of Downtown Los Angeles calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

The protest was part of a nationwide effort to condemn the increase of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) work-site raids, to demand a path to citizenship for more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the US and to stop the deportations of those swept in the raids. Across the country from San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington DC., protestors joined in solidarity.

Filipino groups Filipino-American For Immigration Reform (FAIR), Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) and Gabriela-Network-LA were among the many immigrant groups that joined together for this one common cause.

Strella Cervas of PWC said she’s marching for undocumented Filipinos. As a case manager for PWC, she said there is a rise in the number of Filipinos being swept up by these ICE raids and being deported.

“It’s a very serious issue in our community,” she said. “We’ve seen ICE go into their business and their homes. We had one case where a Filipino was taken as she took the Greyhound bus. She was later deported.”

In 2007, ICE arrested more than 4,077 undocumented workers through nationwide raids, according to its website. It is believed that the number of undocumented Filipinos continue to increase dramatically.

Jollene Levid of Gabriela Network said she was also marching to make people aware of the plight of Filipino immigrant women in the US.

“It makes me feel real good to be part of this,” said Levid. “As the daughter of immigrants, I understand that in order for us to make any change, we not only have to fight in a legal forum but [also] here on the streets.”

Despite the low turnout of protesters compared to last year’s, the groups spirits were high. Three large groups of protestors met in different areas of Downtown LA before converging on Broadway and 7th Street. From there, the groups marched together towards City Hall where a stage was set up.

The mood of the marchers was festive. Like Pedro, many immigrant activists waved flags from their home country. Some had US and Mexican flags, others held up banners that read, “Stop the Raids,” and a majority carried pickets with other immigrant slogans like “My Dream, The American Dream.” The FilAm groups chanted, “Makibaka! Huwag Matakot! (Join the Struggle! Don’t be afraid!).

The smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs and the sound of party poppers were in the air. Street vendors lined the curb of Broadway and 1st Street anticipating the arrival of the immigrant groups. Children sat on the curb similar to a parade route.

Police officers also made their presence felt. A number of officers marched along with the activists. Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said that more than 500 LAPD officers were deployed to oversee this event.

Last year, a melee erupted when officers and demonstrators clashed at MacArthur Park, the site of the rally. Because of the disastrous incident, the LAPD had been training for months to prepare for this year’s immigration rally.

“We had a really tough time [last year] and made quite a few mistakes,” said Paysinger. “Since that time there’s been an enormous amount of training…and based upon that we’re going to see a different result.”

As the first batch of immigrant groups marched their way past Spring Street on Broadway toward City Hall, Neil Diamond’s fitting song, “America” blared from the speakers.

Far, we’ve been traveling far… only want to be free. We huddle close. Hang on to a dream. On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America. Never looking back again. They’re coming to America.

“The march over here was long,” admits Pedro, who marched for two miles with a group of protestors starting from MacArthur Park. “It was long and hot but it’s well worth it. We have to fight for our brothers and sisters out there.”

Police Chief William J. Bratton told the Asian Journal as the last groups of marchers settled in, that to his knowledge no one had been arrested this year.

“As you could see, the crowd is very orderly, very enthusiastic,” said Bratton. “There have been no problems at all. And there [have been] no arrests made up to this point.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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More Illegals Nabbed in 5 States

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a sweeping raid in the world’s largest poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants last week in five states – Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Over 300 undocumented workers were arrested for suspicion of committing identity theft. A felony under Federal law, identity theft has been a growing problem as workers in the US illegally look for ways to avoid detection. Some US citizens and legal residents rent or share their Social Security numbers, making detection even more difficult.

The poultry plant raids and other recent raids by immigration officials were the main focus of discussion during Access Washington, a teleconference participated in by members of ethnic media to get the latest immigration updates. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of La Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.

As ICE raids are on the rise, hundreds of undocumented workers are put up into detention centers around the country, affecting families, communities and the economy. Last week, Federal immigration agents raided a Houston doughnut plant and arrested almost 30 workers as suspected illegal immigrants, according to the Associated Press.

Andrea Black, Network Coordinator of Detention Watch Network, reported that in recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in ICE raids and arrests. “Their target is to remove all illegal immigrants from the US by 2012. They have had a vast increase in budget and manpower and they have become much better organized. Last year, 276,000 were deported. These raids have been able to create an environment of fear across the country,” said Black.

The arrests have had devastating effects on families, according to Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “We have had reports that workers who have been arrested were not able to contact families or lawyers and were transferred to other facilities making it very difficult for their families to track them down. The usual problem is what happens to the children left at home by these people who are arrested and deported? “ Shah stated.

Black and Shah mentioned that with the failure of the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform program, the authorities are stepping up the enforcement of arresting and deporting illegal immigrants. If the attempt at such an immigration reform was passed last year in Congress, it would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, a guest worker program and toughened enforcement against employers.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Illegals Not to Blame for Budget Problem – Gov

by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

In a meeting with local officials and business leaders in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked by Diane Blakeslee, mother of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo,) how the state should handle fiscal burdens created by illegal immigrants.

In his response, Schwarzenegger said it would be a “big mistake” to blame illegal immigrants for the state’s looming $8 billion budget problem.

“There is, you know, always a time like this where you start pointing the finger at various different elements of what creates the budget mess, and, you know, some may point the finger at illegal immigrants,” Schwarzenegger said. “I can guarantee you, I have been now four years in office in Sacramento, I don’t think that illegal immigration has created the mess that we are in.”

The governor has spent the last two weeks traveling to different cities to discuss the budget and ask local residents to pressure their legislators into early negotiations.

He was in San Luis Obispo to pitch his budget proposal to local officials and business leaders. His comments came a day after Assembly Republicans announced a package of 20 bills they said would help California reduce the “negative impact” that illegal immigrants have on the state budget. Included are proposals to repeal a law enabling undocumented students from paying in-state college tuition and demand more money from the federal government for housing illegal immigrants in state prisons.

Schwarzenegger said he believes the United States should pursue immigration reform and have tougher border controls. But he added that blaming illegal immigrants “because we have a budget problem would be a big mistake. I think we have to look at ourselves in Sacramento. We in Sacramento have the responsibility to come up with a coherent budget system, and we haven’t done that.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Immigration Legislation Forum: Business community discuss impacts, effectiveness of E-Verify

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

SAN FRANCISCO (Via teleconference) — A conference call with Washington experts last March 19 (10:00 am PST/1:00 EST) opened with a discussion about recent employer-sanctioning immigration legislation and how businesses and employers have responded to its impact, as well as E-Verify, the federal government’s online employment eligibility verification system.

Guest speakers were Angelo I. Amador, Director of Immigration Policy for the US Chamber of Commerce, Craig Regelbrugge, Vice

President, Government Relations and Research for the American Nursery and Landscape Association and Chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the CATO Institute and author of Electronic Employment Eligibility Verfication: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration. Each shared valuable information and inputs about the current immigration legislation and the role of employers in making the law work for the business and their workers.

Saving the agricultural industry

“The agricultural sector is in a precarious situation,” said Regelbrugge. With more than half of the estimated 1.6 million agricultural workforce unauthorized for employment in the industry, farm employers are scared of recent measures made against illegal immigrant workers. “They (farms) have become sitting ducks and easy targets for raids,” explained Regelbrugge.

Also, the past several years have seen farmers and ranchers throughout the US seeking reform of the H-2A temporary and seasonal alien agricultural worker program and years of congressional testimonies before both the Senate and House Immigration Subcommittees. There is bipartisan recognition of the shortage of legal agricultural workers in the US. The current H-2A program needs substantial reform before most agricultural employers can effectively use it.

The effect is hurting the seasonal agricultural economy, as employers now plant and harvest less, downsizing, while workers move to new locations. “We must take a broader base on reform,” Regelbrugge said and added, “Mass dislocation and deportation is not the way to go.”

Regelbrugge believes that there should be clear and simple rules for employers to follow. “We should be creating a mechanism for people to come out of the shadows.” In California alone, it is estimated that 450,000-500,000 workers are employed each year for the very rich, very labor intensive agricultural industry.

E-Verify

E-Verify, then known as “Basic Pilot,” grew out of the requirement to verify the work-eligibility of workers. A joint project of the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Social Security Administration (SSA), it is an electronic employment eligibility verification system created in 1997 and implemented in all 50 states. It is voluntary for all employers except the more than 200,000 federal contractors required by Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

However, recent changes were announced after immigration reform bills failed to pass Congress. These included requirements for all US employers to use E-Verify. DHS estimates such an expansion could cost the agency about $400 million per year. E-Verify is currently free for employers, but that may change and DHS may shift the burden of paying for this system to employers.

Also, such expansion would create problems as far as data is concerned. According to Harper, the database of the SSA and DHS is not up to date and is in error by 4.1 percent. There is always the possibility that a legal worker may receive a “no match” or non-confirmation for his or her eligibility to work. “This will only increase identity frauds, will drive illegal immigrants into law-breaking,” said Harper and added, “and will cause more problems for US citizens.”

“The system is far from perfect, there are problems in the federal system,” said Regelbrugge.

Pushing for reform

History shows how hardworking immigrants became the driving force in turning the US into a prosperous nation. However, immigration laws for both punish the federal and state levels are confusing a lot of business owners and most are framing employers as the problem.

“A lot of these laws do not make economic sense,” said Amador. He believes that there should be a culture of activism to push for comprehensive immigration reform to increase security and open the pathway to legalization for undocumented workers already contributing to the economy. Another solution is to increase the continuity and expansion of H-1B, L-1, and EB visas for professionals and highly valued workers.

Harper believes that a mandatory national electronic employment eligibility verification system will not only be costly but will also be unable to prevent illegal immigration. It would deny a sizable percentage of law-abiding American citizens the ability to work legally.

Creating such system would require a national identification (ID) system, which will cost about $20 billion and hundreds of millions every year to operate. Harper also wrote in his policy analysis that “Even if it were free, the country should reject a national ID system. It would cause law-abiding American citizens to lose more of their privacy as government records about them grow and are converted to untold new purposes.”

Moderated by Odette Keeley of New America Media (NAM), the bi-monthly conference call, Access Washington, aims to help the ethnic media track immigration reform. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of la Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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US Senate Rejects DREAM Act

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The US Senate made an immigration clean sweep when they voted against advancing a bill that would have provided children of illegal immigrants a chance to gain legal status last October 24.

The Senate voted 52-44, well short of the 60 required to advance the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors). The bill would have granted children of illegal immigrants living in the US conditional status if they graduated from high school, have no criminal record, planned to attend college or join the military. After five years, they could apply for their citizenship papers.

Last June, the Senate also did not advance the broader comprehensive immigration reform bill, a larger bill where the DREAM Act was part of. That bill would have legalized more than 12 million undocumented immigrants and increased border security.

According to the US Bureau of Census in year 2000, there were about 2.5 million undocumented youth under age 18 who were living in the US.  A Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at USC reported that each year, over 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools nationwide.
Senate Immigration supporters were hoping that the smaller DREAM Act bill would pass.

“Children should not be penalized for the actions of their parents,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to the Associated Press.

“What crime did these children commit?” added Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.) “They committed the crime of obeying their parents and following their parents to this country. Do you think there was a vote in the household about their future? I don’t think so.”

Republican leaders saw the bill as a first step to amnesty.

“I do not believe we should reward illegal behavior,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

“This would be the wrong direction,” added Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala). “This would be signal that once again we’re focused on rewarding illegality rather than taking the steps necessary to create a lawful system.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he saw grave reservations about seeing a part of comprehensive immigration reform going forward, “because it weakens our position to get a comprehensive bill.”

After the bill did not advance in the Senate, the White House issued a statement.

“We continue to believe that the best way to address this issue is through a comprehensive bill, one that would put border security and interior security first, and that creates a temporary worker program and helps immigrants assimilate into our society,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

“You may recall in the immigration debate [that] we supported an alternative to the DREAM Act, in the context of overall comprehensive immigration reform. That’s obviously what is not being considered now, and we will review it. But I would note that the President has not supported it as a standalone measure in the past,” Perino added.

Local Reaction

In Los Angeles, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) expressed its extreme disappointment in the failure of the Senate to pass the DREAM Act.

APALC had been at the forefront of seeing the bill pass into law.

For the past two weeks, APALC had been urging Asian American community members to voice their support for the DREAM Act and on behalf of Tam Tran. The  24-year-old undocumented Vietnamese activist’s entire family was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last week, three days after she spoke in favor of the DREAM Act in USA Today.

“Tam Tran’s voice was compromised,” said Daniel Huang, APALC policy advocate.  “The Asian American community did not want her voice to be silenced.”

“The DREAM Act would benefit thousands of innocent students, including many Asian Americans,” added Karin Wang, APALC Vice President of Programs.

“We thank Senators Feinstein and Boxer for their support of the DREAM Act, but we need Asian Americans in other states to raise their voices for this bill to pass,” she added.

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Undocumented Student Activist Arrested

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) is asking for immigrant community support after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities arrested a 24-year-old Vietnamese immigration advocate and her family.

Tam Tran, a former honor student graduate and Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, and her family were arrested October 8 by ICE agents at their home in Orange County. ICE officials charged Tran and her family with being fugitives from justice despite being immigrants seeking political asylum in the US for the past 18 years. They were released the next day with monitoring devices.

“Many in our community are scared to come out and lend their voices to the immigration debate because of ICE actions like these,” said APALC’s Immigration Policy Advocate Daniel Huang. “Such heavy handed tactics do nothing to solve our immigration problems and only serve to hurt families, refugees, and those in greatest need of assistance.”

Tran’s journey has been well documented. She represents one of thousands of undocumented students and children of illegal immigrants.

Tran has been outspoken in her efforts before State and US House legislators for the passage of the Federal DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would allow children of undocumented to become US citizens if they meet certain criteria. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the State DREAM Act that would have allowed undocumented students access to school financial aid.  Schwarzenegger said it would strain the State’s General Financial Aid Fund.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 1.5 million Asians in the US are undocumented. Of that number, the National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) estimated more than 500,000 hail from the Philippines.

Tran’s Plight

“I am lucky…to share my story and give voice to thousands of other undocumented students who cannot,” testified Tran’s during a House hearing.

Since her graduation from UCLA in 2006, Tran has embarked on a series of speaking engagements to educate people and legislators about the plight of undocumented students.

Recently, Tran was one of many undocumented students that testified before the US House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law last May.

According to the House transcripts, Tran’s parents fled Vietnam during the Vietnam war. A German ship rescued Tran’s parents at sea and brought them to Germany where Tam and her 21-year-old brother was born. Her family then migrated to Southern California seeking political asylum. After a lengthy battle, they lost the asylum case. The Immigration court ordered her family to be deported to Germany.

However, Germany does not grant birthright citizenship. German officials did not grant the family a visa. The family stayed in the US and continued to seek political asylum.

In 2001, the Bureau of Immigration court ruled that the father had suffered persecution in Vietnam for his political beliefs. Tran and members of her family were able to obtain Government identification and work permits from immigration officials.

Meanwhile, Tran continued to succeed in school. She assimilated into the fabric of American culture.

“I am culturally an American… I grew up watching Speed Racer and Mighty Mouse (cartoons)  every Saturday morning,” said Tran.

She graduated with honors at UCLA and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Cultural Studies. UCLA also awarded Tran a department fellowship and minority fellowship.

“But the challenges I faced as an undocumented college student began to surface once again,” said Tran in her testimony.

Despite the fellowship and scholarships, the hefty price tag of $50,000 along with living expenses thwarted Tran’s educational dreams. Her undocumented status did not allow her State financial aid.

“When you’re in my situation you have to, or learn to, or are forced to make compromises.”

Tran began to work as a film editor but also encountered problems. Three days before she testified in front of Congress, her work informed her that it would be her last day at work until she renews her work permit.

“Every year, I must apply for a renewal but never have I received it on time,” said Tram. “This means every year around this month (May), I lose the job that I have.”

“But it’s okay, because I’ve been used to this – to losing things I have worked hard for. Not just this job but also the value of my college degree and the American identity I once possessed as a child.”

Outspoken

Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee US House Representative Zoe Lofgren accused ICE officials of “witness intimidation” and trying to silence Tran and her family.

Huang said the timing of Tran and her family’s arrest is suspicious.

Three days before her arrest, Tam was featured on a USA today article, “Children caught in the immigration crossfire” about the number of undocumented children that are raised in the US and eventually, threatened with deportation to their home country.

“Of course, we can’t say for certain [that Tam was arrested because she spoke out],” said Huang.  “She’s been here, her family checks in yearly to immigration officials. How can anyone interpret them as criminals? We’re very suspicious.”

Phone calls to ICE authorities were not returned as of press time.

Huang said looking at the bigger picture, this arrest might affect the number of undocumented immigrants to keep silent.

“That’s something that we’re very concerned about,” said Huang. “This immigration debate and policy issues rely on the voice that is most affected. We don’t want to see anyone’s speech silenced through this kind of intimidation tactic.”

“Those in our community who are judgmental about illegal immigrants often don’t realize that they include asylum denials, visa overstays, and immigrants who simply have no legal avenue for staying here,” added Sara Sadhwani, APALC’s immigrant rights project director. “We hope the Asian American community will unite in support of the Tran family and their painful ordeal.”

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