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Asian American Advocates Say Immigration Action Falls Short

Advocates and legal experts welcome President Obama's action for temporary deportation relief, but say comprehensive immigration reform is necessary.
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President Obama's executive action to enact temporary deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants received mixed reviews among Asian Americans, with many leaders and legal experts expressing dismay the president's plan did not go further.

There are an estimated 1.4 million Asian and Pacific Islander undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“The President's action is a bold move that will benefit large numbers of deserving immigrants--especially those with U.S. citizen children,” said Bill Ong Hing, USF law professor, and the founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, to NBC News.

But Hing says parts of the community still need help.

"Many deserving individuals are left out of his announcement," said Hing, "like those who are waiting patiently on waiting lists, those with minor criminal offenses, and the parents of DREAMers.”

Some, like Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) called deportation relief a “welcomed step” that was “fair and humane." But she also notes that without comprehensive reform, many Asian Americans are still left without access to services like health care.

“The president can, and must do more,” said Ko Chin. “We are disappointed that, as millions of Americans shop for and enroll in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage options, some immigrants who legally live, work and pay taxes in this country are locked out of the marketplace.”

Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director of the National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights, expressed concerned that positive aspects of the plan were offset by the continuation of a hardline approach on border enforcement. While some families may get deportation relief, the five year qualification requirement means there will be no relief for more recent border crossers, including children. “A surge in border enforcement is all the more disappointing,” said Tactaquin, who saw it as a way “to offset the backlash from conservative elements.”

Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA17), Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), praised the president’s actions, but acknowledged the political pressures.

“The (president’s plan) will make our immigration system more fair, humane, and workable,” Honda said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that he was forced to take this (executive) action because Speaker John Boehner has not allowed the House to do its job and vote on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

Honda said the action doesn’t immediately address the backlog of visa petitions and an increase in H-1B visas to attract top business and tech talent in his district the Silicon Valley.

“This is why we need a full immigration reform package to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President,” Honda said.