How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Student Steve Li being released from detention

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A week ago, it seemed there would be nothing stopping the deportation of San Francisco student Steve Li to Peru, where the 20-year-old Chinese-American was born while his family was living there. Now, a few days after the intervention of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein temporarily halted his removal from the country, he is being released from an Arizona detention center and is on his way home.

Inside Bay Area and other outlets reported earlier today that Li would soon be on his way back to San Francisco via Greyhound bus, according to his lawyer. From the story:

He will remain under supervision and must regularly report to immigration officers once he is back in the city, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

News of his release came hours after Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private relief bill in Congress on behalf of Li. The bill, if enacted, would grant Li a green card allowing him to permanently reside in the United States. Congress rarely passes such bills, but the mere introduction of the private bill effectively halted Li's deportation.

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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.

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A last-minute reprieve for student Steve Li

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A photo of Steve Li, from a Facebook page set up by friends

San Francisco college student Steve Li will not be boarding a plane for Peru today as planned, his deportation stalled following a last-minute reprieve.

Late yesterday afternoon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that while the 20-year-old Chinese-American nursing student remains in custody at an immigrant detention center in Arizona, his Monday deportation to Peru was put off. Li's attorney Sin Yen Ling told the Chronicle that an immigration officer advised her of the change, but did not provide her with details as to why or what happens next.

From the story:

"Why? I don't know," said Ling, whose client is at a detention center in Florence, Ariz. "In terms of when he's going to be put on a plane, I don't know that either. They wouldn't provide me with additional information but I do think it has a lot to do with the advocacy work that's been happening."

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A Chinese-American student's pending deportation to Peru

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Steve Li in a photo from a Facebook page set up by friends

A story that has been making the rounds in recent days is that of Steve Li, a 20-year-old Chinese-American college student from San Francisco who is being held in an Arizona immigrant detention center awaiting his imminent deportation to Peru.

The destination seems baffling at first. Here's the backstory: Li's parents left China for Peru before he was born. He was born in Peru and lived there as a child until his parents left for the United States, fed up with political instability there. They applied for asylum here but their application was denied. At the time they arrived in the United States, Li was 12 years old.

While deportation cases involving American-raised young people are sadly common, Li's case is unusual in that his parents, who were temporarily detained then released on electronic monitoring, would be deported to China permitting their native country takes them back. But because they had their child in Peru, where Li has no friends or family, he is considered a Peruvian national.

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