For this Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let us take time to remember that the policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also affect Asian and Pacific Islanders in America. For one ACLU of Maryland client, ICE’s actions have been downright destructive to his family and his life. Mr. Lin is an undocumented immigrant from China married to a naturalized U.S. citizen, Ms. Lin, and is legally allowed to apply for his Green Card.

Acquiring a green card begins with a petition to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and a “marriage interview,” where an immigration officer assesses whether the marriage is legitimate. When the Lins went into the Baltimore USCIS office and completed their interview, their petition was approved. Mr. Lin was authorized to move forward to the next step of the process.

But he never got the chance.

Immediately following the marriage interview, Mr. Lin was taken into another room and detained by ICE agents. He was separated from his family for months while he was detained. On November 20, 2018, Mr. Lin was flown to China and left stranded at an airport in Shanghai, almost 7,000 miles away from his wife, kids, and home in St. Mary’s County. He had almost no money, no cell phone, and no goodbyes exchanged with his family.

Alone back at home, Ms. Lin struggled to tend to their three children, while running their Chinese restaurant alone. She worried that she would never see Wanrong again.

The Lins are victims of ICE’s cruel “bait and switch” practice, in which the agency separates immigrant couples who are applying for legal status in the U.S., and who show up for required check-ins or meetings as part of the process.

Mr. Lin’s story of ICE’s cruel practice is similar to other inhumane cases around Maryland surrounding ICE’s harsh, discriminatory policies. Roxana Santos is a Latina who was racially profiled and detained for months by ICE when local sheriff’s deputies in Frederick arrested her for taking a lunch break. Their only excuse for approaching Roxana was because she was eating her food “suspiciously.” Abegninan Amouzou, better known as Coach Fofo, immigrated from Togo and has long lived in Montgomery County. When he attended his mandatory ICE check-in a few months ago, he feared ICE would detain him for deportation because ICE’s practices are unpredictable, opaque, and extremely unjust.

ICE’s legacy also includes encouragement of local police to prey on and harass people who they don’t think “look” American. Aravinda Pillalamarri is a U.S. citizen and Indian American who was stopped and unlawfully detained by Bel Air police while she was taking a walk in her own neighborhood, as she often did. The officers demanded to know her citizenship status on the grounds that she was part of a “criminal investigation,” even though she had done nothing wrong or suspicious.

Stories like those of Aravinda Pillalamarri, Abegninan Amouzou, Wanrong Lin, and Roxana Santos show the diversity of communities affected by ICE’s harsh and racist policies. Despite the common trope that Asians are “good” immigrants, or that they “came here the right way”, the model minority myth perpetuates and erases the real effects of ICE’s racist enforcement practices on Asian and Pacific Island immigrants while at the same time pits different POC against each other; an intentional and nefarious strategy of establishing white supremacy. The model minority myth lumps all Asian people together as law-abiding, submissive, and wealthy, erasing the tremendous diversity in experience of who might be considered “Asian American.”  Asian Americans have the greatest income inequality of any racial group in the United States.[1] This is harmful because many poor Asian immigrants are forgotten and ignored because as a whole, Asian Americans appear to be wealthy with all the privileges wealth brings. The Asian American immigrant story is not universal, and ICE’s tactics have devastating impacts on the Asian Pacific Islander community, much as it does with immigrant communities from Central and South America, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Immigrants of Color receive very different treatment than white immigrants in America. Even when People of Color are born in the States, they are still labeled as “exotic” and “not really from here.” From the Patriot Act that targeted Muslim and Sikh Americans as “terrorists,” to internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that targeted immigrants from China, to President Trump’s Muslim ban, American history shows what our government believes is America’s identity: a white immigrants’ story. What drove policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act is the same ideology that drives the current policies that are caging, torturing, and murdering Latinx children. This is America’s legacy, a white supremist legacy, but it does not need to be its future.

Immigrants of Color have constitutional rights in the United States, and they need to be protected. Please join us in advocating for the rights of all.

To read more on the model minority myth, click here: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/asian-americans-are-falling-through-cracks-data-representation-and-social-services


[1] Rakesh Kochhar, Income Inequality in the U.S. is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians, Pew Research Center, Jul. 12, 2018, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/07/12/income-inequality-in-the-u-s-....

 

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