Immigration reform: Biden and Harris pledge to work with Asian Americans

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Several top Indian-American leaders attend the meeting

Our Bureau
Washington, DC

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pledged to work with the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA & NHPI) community on immigration reform. The pledge was made during a meeting Thursday with 13 AA & NHPI leaders, including four Indian American community leaders, “representing the rich diversity of the AA & NHPI communities.”

Biden and Harris “restated their support for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, farm workers, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holders, and essential workers through budget reconciliation,” according to a White House readout.

“The conversation focused on the importance of combating the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, economic opportunity, commitment to equity, protecting the sacred right to vote, and immigration reform,” it said. Biden and Harris “reiterated their promise to work together to ensure the needs of the diaspora of the AA & NHPI communities are heard, uplifted and met,” the White House said.

They also “acknowledged the AA & NHPI community record turnout in civic engagement and vowed to continue working to strengthen our democracy and the protection of voting rights.”

After the March 16, 2021 shooting in the Atlanta area that claimed 8 lives including six Asian women, Biden said, “Kamala and I traveled to Atlanta, met with a group — some of whom are here — of Asian American leaders.”

“And creating millions of good-paying jobs in every community, including the AA & NHPI community and delivering affordable childcare, paid leave, universal pre-K, as well as community college,” he said.

The President acknowledged that “there is work to do on immigration; there’s work to do on voting rights and so much more.”

“On my first day in office, I signed an executive order to advance racial equity and a whole-of-government approach to address inequities and injustice in America from every agency,” he remarked. “And this group’s input has been critical and continues to be critical to that approach.”

Executive director of Indian American Impact, Neil Makhija, said later that he “raised issues of immigration, voting rights and specifically green card backlog in context of explaining how country caps are remnants of exclusionary laws in the past, particularly enacted in the 20s.”

Biden has an “acute awareness of the unfairness in the system,” he added.

Other Indian American leaders attending the meeting were: Seema Agnani, Executive Director, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), Satjeet Kaur, Executive Director, Sikh Coalition and Kiran Kaur Gill, Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF).

Meanwhile, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki indicated that his plans for a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers and others through the budget process did not cover the several thousands of Indian children who came to the US legally but go out of status on turning 21.

“It’s not in the current, I think it’s not in the current discussions, but it is something the President would like to address,” she told reporters in response to a question. It is something that Biden “has proposed addressing in a comprehensive immigration bill”, and supports giving these children protection, she added.

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