Image Source: jacquelinezaccor.com
Image Source: jacquelinezaccor.com

It was civic engagement and empowerment in action.

On the first day of the celebration of the Asian American Heritage Month (May), several Asian organizations put up a united front and were one in pushing for humane and swift immigration reforms.

It started with a teleconference led by the Asian Pacific American Vote-Michigan (APIA Vote-Michigan) and participated in by its community partners such as the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), the Bangladeshi American Public affairs Committee (BAPAC), Mai Family Service (MaiFS), South Asians American Voices for Impact (SAAVI), the Asian Pacific

American Labor Alliance-Michigan (APALA-MI) and the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA-Michigan).

The six Asian American organizations in Michigan expressed support for two immigration reforms packages recently introduced. These are the Comprehensive Immigration Reforms Act of 2013 filed with the US Senate and the New American Opportunity and Fairness Act introduce in the Michigan state legislature.

The groups urged Asian Americans to call their congressmen or congresswomen and ask them to support the measures, specially the provisions aimed at facilitating family reunification. Siblings and married adult children over 30 years old should be allowed to migrate to the US, they said.

One immigration issue that particularly concerns Filipino Americans is the 10-year waiting period for family members. The groups are urging legislators to correctly reclassify spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents as immediate relatives.

Parents petitioned by their US-citizen children to immigrate should also be allowed to bring their minor children with them. The long separation caused by the long waiting time is causing families to endure an inhuman situation.

Meanwhile, Filipino leaders in Washington, D.C. are working on the inclusion in the measures of a provision granting benefits to Filipino World War II veterans.

Although the 2009 Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act benefited qualified veterans, only 18,764 of the 42,600 applicants were granted benefits. Some 4,000 Filipino Veterans were denied benefits because their names do not appear in the official certified list.

The groups are issuing a call to action. Asian Americans are urged to call Michigan Governor Rick Snyder at 517-335-7858 and telling him to support the Michigan immigration measure dubbed the “New American Opportunity and Fairness Act.” The proposed bill was introduced on April 23, 2013 in the state legislature by Representatives Tlaib, Singh, Irwin, Zemke and Dillon. Among others, it allows Michigan DREAMers to get ID cards and driver’s license and to be granted in-state tuition.

Our state is working on the “Welcoming Michigan Initiative,” and the immigration reforms will definitely complement this state’s program.

Asian Americans are also urged to call their US senators and US representatives and ask them to support the immigration reform packages.

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Willie is a teacher at the Detroit Public School. A very popular and influential leader in the Filipino-American community in Michigan, Dechavez is the incumbent Michigan state chairperson of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) and public relations officer of both the Filipino-American Community Council (FILAMCCO) and the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM). A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he is also vice president of the Bicol Association of Michigan. He is recipient of numerous awards.

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