To that end, pro-immigrant groups are also in the unique position of having to defend policies that benefit the segment of the population they serve and navigate around strict immigration proposals.
Take the UndocuBlack Network, an organization that advocates for undocumented black people. Immigrants from Africa are among those who have benefited from the diversity visa program, which allocates a limited number of visas to countries that don’t usually migrate to the United States. It’s in the interest of the group to ensure the diversity visa lottery stays intact.
“There is no green card shiny enough for me to justify the devastating consequences on vulnerable communities here and abroad. So we say, not in our name,” said Jonathan Jayes-Green, the director of UndocuBlack Network and a DACA recipient, in a press call last month.
UndocuBlack Network is not alone in opposing the end to the diversity visa lottery. Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, a Maryland-based organization that advocates for Latinos and immigrants, said he too is against it being scrapped. “In terms of the diversity visa and the family reunification, I am not going and I’m unwilling to sacrifice these two important issues for DACA,” Torres said.
The family-reunification system, which allows close relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to legally migrate to the country, has become a point of contention for other advocacy groups as well. According to the Department of Homeland Security, in fiscal year 2017, roughly two-thirds of new green-card holders had family connections to U.S. citizens. Immigrants from Asia make up a large share of visas issued under this category. The Asian Americans Advancing Justice—AAJC, a group focused on advancing civil and human rights for Asian Americans, has made protecting the system a priority in talks with lawmakers. “When you’re talking about cuts to legal migration, that’ll hit us really hard,” said John C. Yang, the president and executive director of AAAJ—AAJC.
Karin Wang, the vice president of programs and communications for Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, cited the troubled history between Chinese immigrants and the U.S. as reason for concern. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first major law restricting immigration, barred the Chinese from obtaining U.S. citizenship and suspended the entry of laborers for 10 years. “I don’t know that [problems with ending the family-reunification system are] unique to Asian Americans, but I know for Asian Americans especially, given a very explicit history where we were valued at one point as low-wage laborers but not considered human enough to be allowed to have families and communities, this feels really relevant,” Wang said.
In many cases, DACA recipients live in mixed-status households, meaning that some relatives may be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents while others may be undocumented. This plays a significant role in the debate over DACA, since proposals to cut legal immigration could directly impact the families of the program’s beneficiaries. As many recipients will tell you, it’s not just about passing legislation that provides them legal status but also one that doesn’t alienate their relatives.