Community, Immigration Reform
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SEARAC Fasts to Keep Families Together and to Urge Congress to End Deportations

Little Laos on the Prairie received a statement from the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington DC:

Washington, DC –  Staff and board members of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) are fasting today in solidarity with “Fast for Families” in support of reform that allows for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, family reunification, and an end to deportations that are devastating immigrant and refugee communities. “Every day that Congress waits to pass immigration reform, more families are torn apart by deportation,” said Phuong Do, SEARAC’s interim executive director. “Deportation traumatizes families and destabilizes communities, and we are fasting to call on Congress to take action.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that in FY 2012, it deported over 400,000 people.

Deportation as a consequence of old criminal convictions has hit Southeast Asian American families particularly hard. Since 1998, over 13,000 Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans have received final deportation orders, including many legal permanent residents. In most of these cases, individuals came to the U.S. as infants and toddlers, fleeing the conflicts in Southeast Asia as refugees with their families. Deportation in these and other immigrant communities soared after 1996 when Congress passed laws that made deportation mandatory in many cases.

“Even if current proposals in Congress were to pass, they would not stop people with criminal records, even those with green cards, from being torn from their families and communities,” said Mari Quenemoen, SEARAC policy advocate. “It is in honor of these families, in addition to millions of undocumented families, that we fast. We will continue to fight for fair policies that keep communities and families together.”

SEARAC urges Congress to pass reform that reinstates judicial discretion for all deportation cases, ends mandatory detention and deportation, narrows the definition of “aggravated felony,” ends retroactive punishment, and keeps families together. Read our full statement of principles here.

In participating in “Fast for Families,” SEARAC is joining a larger movement begun by three fasters in Washington, DC. SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, DREAMer and Mi Familia Vota’s Cristian Avila, and NAKASEC’s Dae Joong Yoon abstained from all food for 22 days, beginning on November 12. On Tuesday, they handed over the fast to new fasters who are carrying on their mission. Throughout the country, over 500 Asian American and Pacific Islanders answered the call to fast in solidarity and will do so throughout the rest of the week.

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