Immigration News from Memorial Day Weekend, May 29-31, 2021

On the last day of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, two stories feature Minnesota immigrants forced from their homes by the U.S. war in Vietnam: Bao Phi, author of books of poetry and children’s books including Hello, Mandarin Duck (cover above) and Chef Yia Vang. Those stories lead today’s post, followed by two important stories about Biden administration long-term plans on immigration. 

Poet, writer, and community organizer Bao Phi talks about his family’s immigrant journey, growing up in Minneapolis, and becoming a parent. (Today)

“‘We went to a see a doctor, and they give you a questionnaire,’ Phi recalled. ‘And one of the questions was, ‘Has anyone in your family or your family line survived war?’ It was like a switch had been flipped, that I was like, ‘Yes. In fact, it was me.’ Being a survivor of war actually had an effect on who I was, and could have an effect on my child.’

“After his child was born in 2009, Phi began to notice the lack of representation for Asian Americans and other immigrant families in children’s books. He wanted his child to connect with his family, so he began writing those stories himself.”

Chef Yia Vang, owner of Union Hmong Kitchen and Vinai restaurants in the Twin Cities, tells a Sahan Journal reporter that he’s really a storyteller, like his dad. This interview has lots of great storytelling. 

“All the anti-Asian hate stuff coming out and being brought more to the light—I’ve experienced it growing up. I think it’s always been there. Now people are realizing that this stuff is real. 

“I think the first question I asked myself is,what can I do? And the second question was, will I even make a difference? Is this machine way too big for me to actually make a difference? It came to this point that, regardless, I’m still going to try to do something….

“I want to say this to all the kids who brought the “stinky” food for lunch, and you were made fun of—this one’s for you. No longer do we have to hide behind the idea that we’re the kid with the stinky food.

“But one day, the kids who make fun of us for bringing the stinky food, they’re going to be wanting to come and find that stinky food. Because for them, they’re going to be a few years behind or they’re going to  want to be educated. In that moment, I would say to those kids, you have two choices. You either say, ‘Screw you, you used to make fun of me, I don’t care anymore.’ Or you be the better and the bigger person and say, ‘Hey, I understand, join us.’” 

Many, perhaps most, of the changes proposed could be made without going through Congress, where Republicans block all immigration legislation. The change would streamline the immigration process and address backlogs by “expanding virtual interviews and electronic filing, as well as limiting the requests for evidence from applicants.” Regulatory changes would also re-open the asylum process to victims of domestic and gang violence and for LGBTQ people facing persecution and offer protection to people on the waiting list for U-visas. (New York Times)

“A 46-page draft blueprint obtained by The New York Times maps out the Biden administration’s plans to significantly expand the legal immigration system, including methodically reversing the efforts to dismantle it by former President Donald J. Trump … 

“The blueprint, dated May 3 and titled ‘D.H.S. Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System,’ lists scores of initiatives intended to reopen the country to more immigrants, making good on the president’s promise to ensure America embraces its ‘character as a nation of opportunity and of welcome.’…

“Divided into seven sections, the document offers detailed policy proposals that would help more foreigners move to the United States, including high-skilled workers, trafficking victims, the families of Americans living abroad, American Indians born in Canada, refugees, asylum-seekers and farm workers. Immigrants who apply online could pay less in fees or even secure a waiver in an attempt to ‘reduce barriers’ to immigration. And regulations would be overhauled to ‘encourage full participation by immigrants in our civic life.'”

What does the Biden budget proposal say about immigration? Although the budget is a massive document, and will be changed in many ways before it passes, its provisions signal directions for immigration policy. (Washington Post

While leaving DHS funding flat, the budget would “eliminate border-wall funding, boost spending on care for unaccompanied migrant children to $3.3 billion and overhaul the way asylum seekers are handled at the Mexican border by dramatically increasing staffing to process their claims.

“The budget would also increase internal oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, set up a $30 million fund to assist migrant families separated during the Trump administration and more than double the resources available for a major increase in refugee admissions….

“The administration also faced criticism from immigrant advocates Friday who expressed disappointment that Biden’s budget continues to fund tens of thousands of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, while maintaining a controversial program that deputizes state and local police to detain immigrants for deportation.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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