New York Times (Op-ed)
By Esther Yoona Cho
September 12, 2016
As comprehensive immigration reform becomes ever more distant in the rear-view mirror, we have been left no choice but to zoom in on the needs of our own communities. In the absence of congressional action, state and local agencies have strengthened their efforts to improve the day-to-day experiences of undocumented immigrants.
This concentrated local advocacy has increased awareness of the diverse experiences of undocumented residents across the country.
With Asian and African undocumented communities comprising nearly 20 percent of the undocumented population, for instance, we cannot afford to see or treat their needs as monolithic.
Why have only one in ten eligible undocumented Asian American and Pacific Islander youth and young adults requested Deferred Action to receive work authorization and shield them from deportation? Why aren’t more of them, and more African immigrants in California obtaining AB60 driver’s licenses, which explicitly don’t require legal residency?
While we continue to hope for comprehensive reform, state and local governing bodies must make a concerted effort to improve access to pro-integration programs, policies, and laws, rather than leaving the onus of this labor to underfunded, understaffed ethnic community-based organizations.
On all levels of government, personnel must be trained to tailor their services to diverse undocumented immigrants with the requisite linguistic and cultural understanding. Resources must be accurately translated into all necessary languages and disseminated widely. Only through such attention to the vast breadth of backgrounds and experiences of the undocumented population can immigrant communities better advocate for one another. Deeper awareness that the undocumented experience extends beyond those coming from south of the border could galvanize greater collective consciousness that surpasses language, culture, race, and class.
These measures cannot heal our fractured system, but by being sensitive to the varied narratives of undocumented immigrants, we can offer more effective, tangible avenues for them to lead better lives.
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