One of the fastest growing immigrant communities in the US are Asians.
While Asian Americans voted for President Obama this past election in record numbers, when it comes to the immigration reform it seems that the Latino vote dominates the conversation.
Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese-American writer and editor at New America Media talks with anchor, Marco Werman about how people in the Asian community are talking about immigration reform.
This is a highly debated subject among many groups says Lam, especially those Asian immigrants who came to this country as refugees.
“Some people feel that people who are undocumented are stepping in front of them in line for citizenship whereas they were law abiding and waiting patiently for years.”
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Marco Werman: One of the factors pushing immigration reform to the fore this year is the decisive Latino support President Obama got at the ballot box last November. But immigration is not just a Latino issue. Many other immigrant groups are affected. Asian Americans, for example, they also supported President Obama in large numbers. Andrew Lam is a Vietnamese American writer and editor at New America Media in San Francisco.
Andrew Lam: I think for the most part being that most Asian Americans are immigrants, two out of three are in fact naturalized citizens, there is a natural sympathy toward the plight of immigrants, but there is also conflictive narratives within communities like my Vietnamese American community. People feel as if people who are undocumented are stepping in front of them in the line for citizenship, whereas they were law abiding and they were waiting patiently for years for that sort of thing. And so I think in some way there’s no clear understanding yet of what the whole reform really means.
Werman: So has that setup a tension within the Asian American community?
Lam: Well, you know, I’m not sure if it’s tension, but it’s certainly a debate on whether or not giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship is the best thing or should they have you know, more of an obstacle course given the fact that legal immigrants have a harder time.
Werman: Andrew, how does the debate play out for you personally? I mean where do you fall in the whole discussion?
Lam: Well, you know, I was a Vietnamese refugee when I came here in 1975. I kinda side with sympathy toward undocumented because in some way, you know, refugees also fled Vietnam without exit visa. We enter other countries like the Philippines and Thailand without a permit, and so we crossed illegal lines in order to improve or survive, and then it was only because by luck of the draw that we were given entry to United States and we make our lives there.
Werman: Why was there such strong support for Obama among Asian American voters and how much did it have to deal with hopes that substantive immigration reform would happen under Obama?
Lam: I think it’s just not immigration issues alone. I think, you know, if I look at Obama in relation to being stronger now in you know, the Pacific Rim area and you know, going to Burma, there’s a lot of immigrants who having strong hope for great change in the homeland as well because many of us fled from a kind of dictatorship. And so I think we look at Obama now in a strange way as like a strong foreign policy person, along with immigration reform.
Werman: So you’ve been here for a couple of decades.
Lam: More than three.
Werman: Yeah, so what is your own perspective on the ebb and flow of support for immigration reform because it’s changed a lot from administration to administration since you arrived in the US. I mean where do things stand today?
Lam: I think America’s relationship with immigrants is a kind of love/hate relationship. You know, in the good time that we need you, we want you, so give us your huddled masses. And when the economy goes sour the immigrant becomes the beating post, you know, the boogeyman. I think that kind of pendulum had always been the tradition of American love/hate relationship with immigrants. So in some way I’m not surprised that after Obama’s reelection and the stock market seems to go up, and suddenly there is a renewed interest that suddenly the Republican coming out with another set of plans and that they acknowledge that immigration reform is a must, whereas before the election it was some moot point no one wanted to talk about. You know, it’s so quickly how that pendulum swings.
Werman: Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese American writer and editor at New America Media in San Francisco, thanks very much for your thoughts.
Lam: No problems.
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