AAPIs Abstain from Food to Push for Immigration Reform

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Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO Executive Director Gregory Cendana and Rep. Judy Chu.

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO Executive Director Gregory Cendana and Rep. Judy Chu.

WASHINGTON–Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) fasters, including leaders from two prominent Korean American organizations, spoke on Tuesday about the message they want to send to elected officials: Our communities want humane and inclusive immigration reform now.

AAPIs are engaged in a daily fast with immigrant rights, faith and labor leaders as part of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Leadership” in Washington D.C. The fast is intended to put pressure on congressional leaders and to get them to bring legislation that would improve our nation’s broken immigration system to the House of Representatives floor.

“I’ve joined the fast to urge leaders in the House of Representatives to end people’s suffering and the pain of family separation. Children are going to bed crying and missing their mothers who have been deported,” said Dae Joong “D.J.” Yoon, executive director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). “We have a moral crisis. A majority of Americans have said that we need immigration reform now. The House leadership said they would fix the broken system, yet they keep postponing any action. Our community can’t take any more of this kind of suffering. We pray for leadership and a vote.”

“Ever since the Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform in June, the legislation has hit a stone wall of Republican opposition in the House,” said S.J. Jung, president of MinKwon Center for Community Action. “So we are sending a wake-up call to House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans that now is not the time for lip service or delaying tactics. As we go without food here in Washington, we highlight that immigration reform is not only a moral imperative, but also an indispensable bridge that will connect us to a more prosperous and secure America. Our nation needs real immigration reform now.”

Sang Hyug Jung, an immigrant father from Los Angeles, explained why he decided to fast.

“I want America to be a strong country. But at the same time a beautiful and humane country in which any person living here would have dignity and rights regardless of one’s immigration status,” Sang Hyug Jung said. “Immigrant families are suffering. This can stop with a show of commitment from House leadership to passing immigration reform.”

Pratishtha Khanna, a DREAMer and University of Maryland college student, urged other community members to join in the national fasting effort.

“My family and I are the ‘American Dream.’ We are hard-working, law-abiding immigrants who yearn for a chance to become citizens,” Khanna said. “I encourage the AAPI community and DREAMers to come out of the shadows and share their stories of struggle and take action in support of immigration reform.”

During the news conference, AAPI leaders also shared their deep commitment to just and humane reform for all immigrants.

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, joined leaders of the AAPI Immigration Table, a group of national organizations taking part in a coordinated campaign to share information, coordinate events and amplify AAPI issues.

“I stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who are fasting to reunite families and reform our broken immigration system,” Chu said. “They are a constant reminder of what is at stake and how much this community is willing to sacrifice. We’ve waited long enough. The time for comprehensive immigration reform is now, so let’s get this done.”

“We support these fasters who are sacrificing their physical comfort and showing our collective dedication to take action in support of immigration reform,” said Gregory Cendana, executive director of Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO and a member of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans’ executive committee. “We want the House leadership to hear us loud and clear: We will not refrain from actions until they take a vote to improve the lives of all immigrants.”

“Everyone, Americans and aspiring citizens alike, should have the same opportunity to contribute to our nation, live without fear and have a healthy future,” said Priscilla Huang, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) policy director, who also spoke Tuesday. “Yet, none of this is possible unless Congress acts. Now is the time to heed the voices of millions in our immigrant communities and pass meaningful and inclusive reform.”

The AAPI Immigration Table consists of eight AAPI organizations: Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, APALA, APIAHF, NAKASEC, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

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