Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

After speaking out in concern over certain provisions in a comprehensive immigration bill, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) cited the art of compromise for helping her sign onto the legislation authored in part by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Meng, the junior congresswoman from Queens, sent a letter to Schumer last week in defense of the Asian-American community objecting to certain limitations in the bill that she said would bar U.S. citizens from sponsoring adult siblings and married adult children to achieve permanent residence.

In the letter, Meng said the original text of the legislation would de-emphasize adult sibling and adult married child relationships, putting a roadblock in the way for those looking for a path to citizenship — especially in the Asian-American community, which makes up 60 percent of the current foreign-born population in America.

“The Asian-American community faces unique challenges that are not addressed in the current proposal and deserve further consideration,” Meng wrote. “Asian-American families, like all families, have a strong interest in ensuring that any comprehensive immigration bill retains provisions to enable all current family reunification pathways.”

Schumer stood by the bill, adding that his bill was especially generous to the Asian-American community.

But after discussing the legislation and establishing some provisions, Meng came out in support of the reforms and praised Schumer’s ability to work with his colleagues in government. She is the city’s first Asian American elected to Congress.

“Sen. Schumer has a very tough job needing to listen and balance the concerns from people throughout the country,” Meng said. “We are excited about this legislation because this is probably in may ways a better bill than originally anticipated and a bipartisan bill at that.”

Schumer said present law would allow roughly 600,000 Asian Americans into the country over the next 10 years, but under the current reforms up for debate that number would increase six times to nearly 3.6 million.

In order to achieve that increase, Schumer said his legislation would work to clear up the family backlog over the next decade, which is most prevalent in Asian countries like South Korea, where some wait 13 years to enter the United States.

Schumer’s bill would also allow adult siblings over 31 years old of current U.S. citizens an 18-month period to petition onto a list to enter the country in the next 10 years. The lawmaker also said the bill would establish a new type of visa that favors those with skills needed in America, which he said would benefit Asian Americans more than any other group.

“Under our bill, the number of Asian Americans that will come to New York and America will greatly increase, far more than under the status quo,” Schumer said. “By clearing the visa backlog it will reunite hundreds of thousands of Asian-American families. No one will get everything they want with this bill, but it is very good for the Asian community.”

Schumer said the family provisions will likely receive the most scrutiny from Republicans on Capitol Hill, but he was still confident the bill would pass. He said he worried that the House of Representatives was not as immigration-friendly as the Senate, so the legislation’s survival relied in part on the Senate passing it.

“I think we’re going to have to do everything we can to keep the present provisions from being watered down because they are so important,” Schumer said. “It would be better for the House to pass the Senate’s bill, rather than to do its own because it likely won’t be as generous.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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