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Asian American Center for Advancing Justice and Launch National Campaign for Immigration Reform

Feb 27, 2013


February 28, 2013
Betty Hung, 
Chris Punongbayan,

LOS ANGELES—Today, the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice and launched “18 Million Hearts: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Immigration Reform.” 

This collaborative and innovative effort lifts up the voices of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the current national discussion on immigration. The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice is comprised of the Asian American Justice Center (Washington, D.C.), Asian American Institute (Chicago), Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (Los Angeles).

“The time has come for us to mobilize and let other Americans know how the broken immigration system is separating and hurting Asian American and Pacific Islander families and communities,” said Betty Hung, policy director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “Any reform of the immigration laws must fully incorporate our shared American values of family unity, fairness, and equality.”

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are growing in strength, in number and in political power and with this campaign, we plan to flex our political muscles,” said C. M. Samala, director of “AAPIs are nearly two-thirds immigrant and the fastest growing racial group in the nation, including in swing states like Nevada and Virginia. In the 2012 election, AAPI voters helped to tip the balance for President Obama, for whom 73 percent of Asian American voters cast their ballots.”

“The 18 Million Hearts campaign will highlight our stories as immigrants and as descendants of immigrants to build America’s future together,” said Chris Punongbayan, deputy director of the Asian Law Caucus. “Asian American immigrants are an integral part of America—we are workers, neighbors, and small business owners who revitalize communities and contribute to the economy.”

The 18 Million Hearts campaign ( urges AAPIs to weigh in with their members of Congress by signing a petition that calls for:  

  • Creating a clear and reasonable roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who are committed to our country and want to become Americans;
  • Ending the separation of families waiting years and even decades to be reunited with loved ones waiting overseas;
  • Reforming 1996 immigration laws that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of unfair deportations and greatly impacted Southeast Asian refugees and Pacific Islanders; and 
  • Granting equal immigration rights for our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters.

“The Asian American and Pacific Islander community wants immigration reform that reunites families. Approximately 1.3 million AAPIs are undocumented,” said Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney with the Asian American Justice Center. “Nearly two million AAPIs are waiting for their family visas so that they can be reunited with their families, and numerous AAPIs who are LGBTIQ are separated from their loved ones due to discriminatory immigration laws. Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders are deported at a rate three times higher than immigrants as a whole due to regressive immigration laws passed in 1996.”

“We launched this campaign to ensure that Asian American and Pacific Islander policy priorities and issues are included in immigration reform legislation and to promote a fair, vital, and sustainable immigration system for all,” said Reema Ahmad, campaigns & civic engagement manager at the Asian American Institute. “Today, we add our voices to the call for just and fair immigration reform.”

This online petition and campaign coincides with a comprehensive list of principles supported by approximately 80 AAPI national, state and local organizations throughout the nation that outline AAPI legislative priorities for immigration reform. The petition is hosted at and being promoted with the use of #18millionhearts on social media. You can access the principles here:


The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice ( works to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities, and  is comprised of the Asian American Justice Center (, the Asian American Institute (, the Asian Law Caucus ( and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center ( (18MR) promotes Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civic engagement by leveraging the power of technology and social media. 18MR collaborates with a wide range of partners -- from community based organizations and print magazines to popular Asian American blogs and YouTube channels -- to create new, engaging, and effective ways to build power and community.