WASHINGTON — In light of recent comments attacking the need for certain categories of family immigration visas, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) sent a letter of concern on March 11 to the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” and Senate Leadership urging them to preserve family sponsored immigration to the United States.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Keeping families together has been a cornerstone of our immigration policy for decades. Eliminating certain categories of family-sponsored immigration would produce only a small reduction in visas while inflicting greater hardship on thousands of U.S. citizens and their loved ones, many of whom have been waiting in lengthy backlogs for decades.

“The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is already disproportionately impacted by these backlogs, with some being forced to wait 24 years to become American citizens. This is simply unacceptable. Rather than restricting pathways for legal immigration or redefining our concept of families, we must make family unity a priority for any immigration reform package.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), Immigration Task Force co-chair: “We cannot allow our family immigration system to be compromised – the line in the sand is drawn here. Eliminating the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings and married adult children for legal permanent residence would cause tremendous hardship and heartache for thousands of U.S citizens and their loved ones.

“A drastic change to our family immigration system ignores the historical social and economic contributions of immigrant families, as well as lengthy visa backlog that keep families separated for decades. Immigrants come to the U.S. with the hope of a better life for their families and themselves. Comprehensive immigration reform must preserve family-sponsorship as the cornerstone of our immigration system.”

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Immigration Task Force co-chair: “Currently, the visa backlog creates up to a 20-year wait for immigrants to reunite with close family members.  The Senate should be considering ways to clear the visa backlog instead of eliminating these family-based categories altogether. The ability to bring family members to the United States is a key component for employers looking to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world.

“By eliminating the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings or their married adult children, many talented immigrants will choose to take their talents to countries with pro-family immigration policies. Family unification should be the cornerstone of any comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): “It’s clear that our immigration system is broken, and we must find a comprehensive solution that both protects our county and helps keep families together. This is an issue very real to many families in Hawaii.  I join my fellow members of CAPAC to urge my Senate colleagues to retain the opportunity for families to reunite after being separated, in some cases, for decades.”

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam): “Maintaining a strong family unit for those who immigrate to our country should be a priority in any debate on comprehensive immigration reform. AAPIs make up nearly 42% of all family-based immigration backlogs, with some waiting more than 24 years to be reunited with their families. Eliminating family visas, especially those for siblings and adult married children, would have a minimal impact on number of immigrants admitted to the U.S., but it will have significant negative consequences on the families that are torn apart.

“I will continue to work with my CAPAC colleagues as Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that family-based immigration is protected.”

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “It is imperative that comprehensive immigration reform protects and expands access to family-sponsored immigration. As a teenager, I was separated from my mother for more than six months as she waited for approval to enter the United States. I can only imagine the hardships that families that have to wait more than twenty years to be reunited must endure.

“Strong families are the backbone of our communities and Congress should do everything within its power to create an immigration system that is humane and prioritizes keeping families together.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “We must address family reunification within the context of comprehensive immigration reform. In Hawaii, our communities are disproportionately affected by our outdated immigration laws. Many of our families can wait up to 24 years to be reunited with family members from the Philippines, for instance. By bringing our families together, we can strengthen our communities and our economy.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “While I am encouraged by the national discussion our country is having about comprehensive immigration reform, I have great concerns about the threat to U.S. citizens no longer being able to sponsor their family members for legal permanent residence. I urge senators involved in negotiations to keep our family-based immigration system in place.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “With over 1.8 million Asian or Pacific Islanders in line for immigration visas, fixing our broken system is a top priority within the Asian community, as many of those waiting are members of our own family. To keep these families together, we must retain the ability for U.S. citizens to sponsor their brothers and sisters and married adult children for legal permanent residence.

“Let us commit ourselves to ensuring that our immigration system fixes are family centered, as family units have long played an integral role in our nation’s growth.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach): “Family unification is a critical component of comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that family members have the support they need to be successful in the United States. Families that are unified are able to thrive and contribute to the social, political and economic framework of our country.”

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.): “Keeping families together is a universal ideal that strengthens our nation; and as such, any immigration reform plan that is comprehensive must not prevent the unification of our families.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Commerce): “As we move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, keeping families together must remain a priority. Strong families are at the heart of our national identity and our immigration policy should reflect our values. We must make unified families a priority.”

According to CAPAC, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately impacted by family immigration backlogs. Of the 4.3 million people in line, 1.8 million are of Asian or Pacific Islander origin. The Philippines, Vietnam, India, China, Pakistan, South Korea, and Bangladesh rank among the top ten countries with the largest number of siblings and married children awaiting immigration visas.