Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: On the need for Asian voices in the immigration debate

"It is really frustrating to be mostly left out of the conversation. Mostly it's because the Asian-American vote is missing — the media do not sample the Asian vote to tell what we're really voting on."

- Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C., quoted in an opinion piece in the Seattle Times


Syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda's piece from yesterday has hit a nerve, making the rounds extensively on Twitter today. The column begins: "If I were a member of the third-largest minority group in the United States, I'd be really frustrated that the immigration issue continues to be discussed almost exclusively with Latin Americans in mind."

Too true, for a number of reasons. Narasaki, whose civil rights organization advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant communities, estimates that the Asian vote represents only about 5 percent of eligible voters, while Latino voters represent about 9 percent. Both political parties have failed to invest in Asian voters and don't understand them very well, Narasaki said.

But the "Latino-centric immigration narrative" that Cepeda criticizes stems from a number of causes, among them limited community outreach in Asian communities (compared with Latino communities) and, on the media side, mainstream-media laziness and a general dearth of minority journalists who know better.

Yet one of the biggest immigration stories of the past week, the pending (and now postponed) deportation of San Francisco college student Steve Li, involves a young Chinese-American man born in Peru. Like the mostly Latino kids who have been the subjects of media coverage surrounding the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that would give undocumented college students and military recruits a path to legal status, Li was also living in the shadows unable to adjust his status, along with his family.

It's all the more reason to bring the voices of these immigrants and their families into the conversation.

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