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California Chinese Community Divided Over Immigrant Rights Issue

SAN FRANCISCO- Chinese community in California remains divided over immigrant rights issues as some 10,000 protestors, including some religious leaders, staged a demonstration Sunday.
( [email protected] ) Apr 25, 2006 10:04 AM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO- Chinese community in California remains divided over immigrant rights issues as some 10,000 protestors, including some religious leaders, staged a demonstration Sunday.

The pending federal legislation HR 4437 has drawn controversy due to its strict stance on illegal immigrants, who have made up a big part of employment among some low-paying businesses. The law proposes to make it a felony to enter the U.S. without legal documentation and that would penalize anyone helping undocumented immigrants. Pro-immigrants seek to push for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Some Chinese Christians or social groups in California have drawn to attention, although they may have not showed a great presence in the widespread protests that have captured the nation's attention. At the country’s most immigrant-rich state, they should be an influential voice for the issue.

Whether from the Christian point of view or from the general social perspective, there are a wide variety of opinions. Based on the teaching of the Gospel, Christians should not discriminate against any people of different nationalities, races or social statuses.

"Whether these immigrants are legal or illegal, we will help them with all that we can," said Rev. Samson Wong, ministry director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chinese Christian Herald Crusade (CCHC), which mostly serves the Chinese immigrants through providing social services and introducing them the Gospel. Over 80 percent of CCHC clients are Chinese immigrants.

Concerning the pro-immigrants’ request to push for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Wong has remained neutral. Since many people have tried to immigrant to the U.S. through legal method, it is very unfair to just grant the illegal immigrants with citizenships.

"This time, even if these illegal immigrants are allowed to receive citizenship, it does not really solve the entire problem," said Wong. "After this group of people, another group of people with similar case will come."

"There are many reasons why people left their own countries and migrated to the U.S. Earlier in last century, many Chinese came to the U.S. because of political reasons. They want to have freedom. In these years, most people come here to look for better life in terms of economy," shared Wong from his counseling experience.

Wong suggested that the low-paid jobs in the U.S. are not very popular among the American native, however the immigrants have filled in the shortage. Therefore, Wong proposed the US government can adjust the law so as to allow them to work and earn a living.

Wong insisted that although Christians must try their best to help the immigrants regardless of their legal status, the church should not encourage the illegal way of immigration.

"When we meet our clients who are illegal immigrants, we realize that they have more difficulties in changing their lives because of their fear of being caught and lack of confidence," Wong said. "After they have migrated to this country illegally, that is actually influencing the rest of their lives."

Nevertheless, should the reform on immigrant law be reinforced, as a Christian social group, Wong is most concerned about how the law will affect the ministry, "No matter how the law develops, I hope that Christian social groups, churches or pastors will not be charged for helping illegal immigrants."

Dr. Bill Tam, the executive director of the Traditional Family Coalition (TFC), a California-based pro-family movement, on the other hand, holds a comparatively stricter stance on the immigration law.

"As a citizen of the U.S., I think the U.S. government must uphold the U.S. immigration law. If they just grant the citizenships to illegal immigrants after people protest, that will cause great problem," he said.

"The US government doesn’t observe the law that they have set, not only it is very unfair for those who have applied for immigration through proper process, but also when the shortcut for illegal immigrants exists, that will mean that we are encouraging more people to choose this path, instead of the legal path. I think I am not in favor of that," Tam continued.

US President George Bush has just visited Irvine for a speech on immigrant law. He promotes a moderate law that would give temporary guest worker permits to foreigners in low-paid jobs while strengthening border security.

Latino immigrants have made up the majority of the protestors nationwide, with the small number of Chinese, South Asian, European and Middle Eastern immigrants. Of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, 78 percent come from Latin America. The next largest undocumented population comes from Asia, with 13 percent.