San Francisco, CA — Today, Asian American and Pacific Islander community organizations from around the country, including Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco, sent a message to the White House to use all of its existing legal authority to alleviate the family backlogs, which disproportionately impact Asian families. “Some 54% of Asian Americans surveyed in 2012 said that visa backlogs presented a significant problem for their families.”

As part of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, announced on November 20, 2014, a Visa Modernization Task Force was formed to propose changes to the current visa system within 120 days of the announcement. The Visa Modernization Task Force posted a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register to which community groups responded with the resounding message to keep families together.

According to the White House Office of the Press Secretary, “As of November 1, 2014, there were approximately 1.8 million Asian family-based immigrant visa applicants waiting to join their families [in the United States]. Immigrant visa applicants born in mainland China and India must wait up to 12 years depending on their visa category. Immigrant visa applicants born in the Philippines must wait up to 23 years depending on their visa category.” “Within our own Asian and Pacific Islander immigration history we know the impacts of family separation on our communities when unjust immigration laws borne of fear and bigotry created bachelor societies of API men in the United States who were separated from their families abroad. Keeping families apart due to flaws and inefficiencies in our immigration system is unjust and uncompassionate particularly when fixing that system is completely within our governments power,” stated Annette Wong, Immigration Program Manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action.

Community advocates from different parts of the country responded to the RFI in a joint effort including the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates, the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center (KRCC) and Korean Resource Center (KRC), the We Belong Together campaign, and the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) and their affiliates. While there are no clear indications of what the Visa Modernization Task Force will suggest to the President, included in the response and comments from community groups to the Task Force were suggestions to streamline the current visa system, to fully utilize all immigrant visa numbers, to recapture unused visas from prior years, and to allow family members to be together, or temporarily paroled into the United States, while people wait for visas to become available to avoid years and even decades of separation.

CAA remains fully engaged and committed to these efforts, especially after House Republicans failed to call a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. CAA’s priorities for reform remain keeping all immigrant families together, providing a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, and protecting the worker and civil rights of all immigrants.

While community advocates serving immigrant communities prepare for the implementation of visa modernization, expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), many are concerned for those who do not benefit from these actions, including the 6 million people who do not qualify for relief and remain living in the shadows. For truly meaningful changes to this nation’s broken immigration system community organizations are continuing to call on congress to pass humane and just comprehensive immigration reform.