JULY 2003

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Immigration Policy Divides Families
From The World Journal
June 14, 2003

To fight for legal immigrant status, Chinese-American laborers in New York City are ready to give strong support to the first nationwide “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” sponsored by various labor organizations. At a June 13 news conference held by the Central Labor Council, Li Jing Xian, a Chinese-American garment worker, told how U.S. immigration policy has separated her family across the Pacific Ocean.

Li, who immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in 1989 with her husband and youngest son, told the audience that her two other children could not come at the time because they were slightly over 21 years of age. After her arrival, Li began working in a garment factory in Chinatown while waiting for her children to come.

But that waiting took six years. In 1995, her oldest son finally completed all the immigration applications and brought a girlfriend with him to the United States. Shortly after the young couple settled here, the two married and had a baby girl. Then, in 1996, when a new immigration law prohibited families who remain too long in the in the United States from coming back to the county in the future, the family became frightened.

Although she still had visitor status, Li’s daughter-in-law was afraid to stay any longer. She took her daughter back to Hong Kong and waited until she could return to the United States. Now, seven years have passed, and there is still no news from the immigration department. For all these years, Li’s son and his wife and daughter have been separated.

Li emphasized that she knows the situation of family separation is not just confined to her family. There are many laborers like her, living without other family members around.

Chen May Ying, Associate Manager of Local 23-25 of UNITE (the Union of Needle Industries and Textile Employees), is in charge of liaison work in New York City for “The Freedom Ride.” She explained that since immigration was put under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, the application process has become more and more difficult, and it takes more time to for the application to go through. Even people with green cards now wait longer to receive citizenship.

“The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” is a national movement organized by different immigrant rights organizations, civil rights groups and labor unions. Beginning September 20, immigrant workers of various backgrounds from cities around the country will board buses leaving for Washington. Along the way, the workers will seek support from state and city governments and many civil rights organizations.

When the workers converge in Washington, D.C. the group will meet with Congress members. Them, on October 3, they will gather at the Liberty State Park of New Jersey. A mass rally for immigrant workers will be staged in New York City on October 4.

Chen Mei Ying and Li Jing Xian call for more Chinese-American involvement in “The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” movement. For information, people can visit look into its website www.iwfr.org, or call (212) 929-2600 to the education department of the garment workers union.


Translated from Chinese by Michael Huang

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