The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) stands in solidarity with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the nation who have endured racism in this country for centuries and, over the past year, have been the frequent targets of violent hate crimes. Our hearts go out to the community in Atlanta now mourning the deaths of eight people, including six Asian American women.
The most recent wave of violence can be directly linked to the prior administration’s racist statements and rhetoric linking Asians to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the former president exploited to shut down U.S. borders to migrants, primarily impacting Black and Brown asylum seekers. Racist and frequently misogynist notions about immigrants’ bodies undergird this and other public health policies and policing — a reality that has become painfully clear this week with the Atlanta police chief’s dismissive statements regarding the motivation of the white man who, according to reports, told police he intended to murder Asian women.
But policy making founded in anti-Asian racism and sexism is not new. For centuries, policy makers have passed immigration laws to keep specific populations out of the United States or to profit off of their incarceration. From the Page Act of 1875 which prohibited Asian women from immigrating to the United States, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to 20th Century laws that criminalize crossing or re-crossing the border including a 1996 law that further punishes over-policed immigrant communities, the list of tactics to criminalize immigrants has continued to grow. Immigrant communities of color have long suffered under a cloud of fear of detention or deportation based on arbitrary raids and racial profiling.
Shamefully, the Biden administration has kept some of the prior administration’s most racist policies in place by continuing Title 42 expulsions of asylum seekers and families at the border. Additionally, the administration has continued to detain and deport AAPI members of our communities, including 33 Vietnamese immigrants this week. NIJC strongly condemns the Biden administration’s continuation of these policies.
The right to be treated with dignity and the rights to family unity, freedom, and wellness should not be contingent on one’s place of birth. Immigrants make our communities stronger, and we must all work to uphold justice for all. Never has that been more clear than the past year. Our pathway out of the pandemic will require our society to work together, recognize each other’s humanity, and confront the white supremacy that has put communities of color, including Asian American communities, at the most risk.