'Deportation relief' more important to Asian Americans: survey

Updated: 2013-12-20 08:24

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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Asian Americans and Hispanics believe it is more important for unauthorized immigrants to be relieved of the threat of deportation than it is to have a pathway to legal citizenship, new Pew Research Center surveys show.

With the two groups, 49 percent of Asian Americans think being able to work in the US without fear of deportation is more important than having a clear path to citizenship, and 55 percent of Hispanics said the same.

The Pew Research Center conducted two surveys on immigration legislation attitudes between October and November this year. The Asian-American survey was done among a nationally representative sample of 802 Asian-American adults, and the Hispanic survey was conducted among a nationally representative survey of 701 Hispanic adults.

The surveys were done after the US Senate passed an immigration bill during the summer, one of the key provisions being that undocumented immigrants are provided a 13-year pathway to citizenship. The bill remains stalled in the House of Representatives.

A large majority of Asian Americans support the measure — 72 percent — and 44 percent said it is important to them that new immigration legislation passes. Among the Asian-American respondents, 48 percent feel that if the bill were to fail to pass, they would "mostly blame Republicans in Congress," the survey said.

The surveys show that more Asian Americans than Hispanics said they have personal experience with the US immigration system — 69 percent and 45 percent, respectively. A majority of Asian-American respondents — 59 percent — ­said that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would "strengthen the US economy," the survey showed.

On the effect of unauthorized immigration on Asian Americans living in the US, 25 percent of Asian Americans said it has a negative impact on those living here and 21 percent said it has a positive impact.

The Pew survey also showed that a higher percentage of Asian Americans than Hispanics reported having seen or heard nothing at all about the immigration legislation being considered — 20 percent Asian Americans versus 15 percent Hispanics.

At a panel discussion on Wednesday hosted by the New York Immigration Coalition and the Center for Community and Ethnic Media, immigration experts stressed the importance of outreach efforts to educate and help immigrant groups in New York on legislation efforts and how to become citizens if eligible.

Katherine Fennelly, a senior fellow at the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, said that New York lags behind other states in legalization applications, particularly because the immigrant groups in New York are more diverse.

"There is difficulty in outreach to a very diverse immigrant population with fewer cross-community networks," she said. "There were fewer efforts to target non-Latino immigrants and that affected New York."

Fennelly said that undocumented immigrants are predominantly Latino and outreach to a group that only speaks one language and has an extensive community network.

In addition, according to the literature review she conducted, Fennelly said that for Asian undocumented immigrants, there is a stigma attached to being undocumented.

"There is perhaps a greater stigma to being undocumented than there might be for some Latino immigrants, particularly the Filipino community, the Chinese and Korean communities. People do not want to be identified as being undocumented," she said.

Outreach efforts have to be diverse, she said, and for Chinese communities, for example, local-language newspapers and radio stations are more effective at passing along information than the web or social media.

"Communities like the Chinese community were not as engaged and informed," Fennelly said. "We have much to learn and I hope that as we get ready for comprehensive immigration reform, we will take those lessons to heart and talk to people within the community."

Contact the writer at amyhe@chinadailyusa.com