Asian Americans Speak Up Against SB 1070

by Dennis Chin, guest blogger

The rhetoric surrounding Arizona's new law, popularly known as SB 1070, has raised the furor of communities nation-wide.  Essentially, SB 1070 would criminalize anybody that "looks" like an undocumented immigrant.  Nobody, even Governor Jan Brewer who signed the bill into law, can describe  how this law will be implemented without resorting to racial profiling.

So the question is, who "looks" like an undocumented immigrant?

The answer is not as simple as you think.  The popular debate on immigration reform has focused on Latinos, particularly immigrants from Mexico.   But there are other communities that are left out of this frame.

In January, the New York Times wrote a profile on the increasing number of  "illegal" Chinese immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.  According to the United States Border Patrol in Tucson, the number of Chinese immigrants arrested while illegally crossing the border into Arizona increased ten-fold in the last year.

That means that SB 1070 will  affect Arizona’s Asian & Pacific Islander American population too.

To many of us who work or know folks who work with Asian immigrant communities, this bit of news isn't surprising.  After all, there have always been an influx of "illegal" immigrants from Asia.  And the long story of Asian & Pacific Islanders in America reveals the backlash that our communities have historically felt (see, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882).  Nowadays,  many undocumented immigrants from Asia have overstayed visas.  Some like Mohammad (who also identified as gay) were brought here illegally by his parents at a young age.  Others, like DREAM activist Tam Tran, were caught in limbo from a broken immigration system.

And now we see immigrants from Asia crossing the border into Arizona in record numbers.

Thanks to research by Jenn from Reappropriate we now know that the Asian & Pacific Islander community in AZ is one of the fastest growing minority populations in the state, nearly doubling in size between 1990 and 2005.  Will these folks be subjected to profiling too?

Thankfully, there are organizations that are doing their part for justice.   This week, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center filed a lawsuit with other national civil rights organizations to challenge SB 1070.  And many organizations based in Asian & Pacific Islander communities are mobilizing against this unjust law too.  (see NAKASEC for example)

At this point, I'm wondering about the opportunities for cross-racial organizing in AZ to create long-term power above and beyond immigration reform.  Imagine the possibilities!

In the meantime, for my fellow Asian warriors in the struggle, take action against SB 1070 here:

Sign the petition

Photo:  Seng Chen