Politico broke the news earlier today that President Donald Trump has decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had provided deportation protection and employment authorization for registered undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. The program had been implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, and enjoys broad popularity in the United States.
Trump had promised to end DACA on the campaign trail, but had been flip-flopping on the issue since his inauguration. However, facing threats from the attorneys general of ten Republican states, Trump now appears to have decided to eliminate the DACA program, throwing the fate of nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” — including at least 18,000 Dreamers from Asian countries — into question.
Asian American advocacy group, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), is currently one week into a marathon 22-day vigil in front of the White House. Activists with NAKASEC are protesting Republican efforts to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) programs, two programs that grant protection from deportation and offers work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants.
DACA was implemented in 2012 as a program to provide protection for undocumented immigrants who are current (or recently graduated) students, who have no criminal history, and who who were brought to the United States as young children. Undocumented immigrants registered under DACA — known colloquially as Dreamers — were raised knowing only America as their home. Yet, without deportation protection, they are at-risk of being detained and removed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a totally unfamiliar country. TPS is a program that provides deportation relief for undocumented immigrants whose lives would be at risk due to war or environmental catastrophe if they were returned to their countries of origin; currently, TPS covers undocumented immigrants from El Savador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Representing over 18 million people, AAPIs are a diverse, fast-growing population that includes Americans who identify with one or more of numerous East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups. Even the most populous of of AAPI sub-groups — Chinese Americans, Indian Americans, and Filipino Americans — individually comprise less than one-quarter of the total AAPI population.
And yet, the federal government still largely fails to collect data that reflect the diversity of the AAPI community; instead, most federal agencies follow an archaic standard — established in 1997 — wherein they lump together all AAPI into the two broad categories: “Asian” or “Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander”. Such a generalizing approach misses the nuance of the AAPI community, and washes away the specific socioeconomic challenges faced by AAPI sub-groups.
Last month, US Customs and Border Protection announced a proposal to institute a “voluntary” social media check of Chinese travelers to the United States. The proposal would add an “optional” question requesting account information for an applicant’s social media accounts to the Electronic Visa Updates System (EVUS), the system that foreign visitors use to manage their visa applications to the United States.
A mandatory social media check policy is already proposed or in place for travelers from several Muslim-predominant countries, and those practices have already been widely criticized as unreasonable and unjust. It is unclear how voluntary the proposed “voluntary” social media check of Chinese travelers will be in practice.
This past weekend, I made a whirlwind trip to Portland, Oregon to speak at my first-ever Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) conference, the nation’s largest academic conference of Asian American Studies scholars. I was honoured to be included as part of a round-table discussion on Asian American feminism, sexism, sexual violence, and toxic masculinity; and, I was deeply moved by the fact that such a difficult subject attracted a full room of young scholars, academics and activists at 9:45am on a Saturday morning. I was even more excited to learn that the AAAS community is seeking to revive a focus on AAPI feminism at upcoming conferences.
I’ve already made many arguments about why we need AAPI Studies. The engaging, thoughtful, and supportive environment at AAAS is only the latest reason that I believe our community desperately needs to do more to support our Asian American Studies academics and scholars.
This past weekend, I attended my first AAAS conference; I certainly hope it will not be my last. For one thing, I am particularly impressed by the announcement this week that the AAAS board has decided to take a stance in support of the LGBTQ community, and to withdraw their 2018 conference from Tennessee where the state legislature has attempted to pass a spate of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the past year.