How Congresswoman Judy Chu is trying to protect immigrants and the AAPI community under a Donald Trump administration

Photo by USDA is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents Alhambra and other San Gabriel Valley cities, is fighting to protect the civil rights of those who will be targeted under a Trump administration.

As the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Rep. Chu wrote a letter to President-elect Donald Trump on November 23, requesting a meeting to talk about the concerns of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on whether their civil rights would be protected. There has been no response yet, Chu’s communications director Ben Suarato wrote in an email Thursday.

Chu spoke with the Source to share CAPAC’s top priorities, which includes protecting the rights and privacy of undocumented immigrants who enrolled in President Obama’s executive action program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows temporary protection from deportation and work authorization for those who qualify. Chu and 105 other Congress members have also made a call to President Obama, urging him to issue an Executive order to prohibit the misuse of enrollees’ private information.

Another top concern for Chu and her colleagues is to stop the practice of registering Muslims due to national security concerns. She, along with more than 50 House Democrats, have called on the Obama administration to completely dismantle the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which was implemented by the Bush administration following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In part, the letter says: “The most controversial portion of the NSEERS program involved a ‘domestic’ registration system targeted certain males who entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas from primarily Arab, Muslim-majority, African, and South Asian countries. The program was fundamentally flawed in its false assumption that people of a particular religion or nationality pose a greater national security risk and should be subject to racial profiling.”

Chu shared more about her letter to President-Elect Trump in a Q&A with the Alhambra Source:

What motivated you, as chair of CAPAC, to write the letter?

There are very critical issues that are happening now, a great deal of fear and anxiety in the community about President-elect Trump's immigration policy, pertaining to the Muslim registry. We felt that it was important to meet with him to express our concerns, regarding these issues, and that's what prompted us to write this letter.

Has he done any outreach to the Asian-American community at all?

I have not seen any evidence of outreach to the Asian American Pacific Islander community after his election.

What do you hope to achieve in sending a letter to request a meeting with Donald Trump?

We would like to express our concerns on numerous issues. Remember that he said, within the first 100 days of office, he would cancel every executive action, memorandum, and [similar actions] brought by President Obama. He might consider DACA, one such executive action that he would cancel. That would make 750 young people in great danger of being deported if DACA is undone. These young people who have grown up here, who know no other country than the United States, who have been educated in our system, who could be sent to a country that they don't even know.

He said, he would begin removing the more than 2 million criminal undocumented immigrants to poor countries that won't take them back. Well, if he's willing to do that within 100 days, how is he going to find 2 million immigrants to deport immediately? I have grave concerns that the ones that he does find are those that are "Dreamers" enrolled in the DACA program. So I certainly would raise the issue of privacy information of those in the DACA program. There is quite a bit of information on them. They have their addresses, but beyond that, they have their fingerprints, birth certificates, passports, travel records and hospital records. In order to qualify for DACA, they have to submit an extensive number of background items. It can be easily found and could make them targets for deportation for all we know. So we want to emphasize that they must be kept safe. And then he said that, within the first 100 days, he would suspend immigration from terror-prone regions, where vetting cannot safely occur. He's included, in previous comments, countries like the Philippines and basically any country with large Muslim populations. We have grave concerns about such a blanket ban on immigration.

In addition, he has this 'end illegal immigration act,' which would build the wall, but he has also made comments about H1B visas. H1B visas are visas used by those from other countries, who are educated in our colleges and universities. Without an H1B visa, they cannot stay here and work. We don't actually have the benefit of their wonderful education, and then they end up just going back to their country, and creating their businesses or inventions back there. So we are losing all these valuable resources by not having H1B visas.

We also have grave concerns about this Muslim registry. And we have great sensitivities to this as an Asian Pacific American Caucus. This lays the groundwork for the camps. This rationale has been used to intern a whole grouping of people, and of course, one of the greatest injustices the US has ever committed was the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WW2. The Muslim registry would be unacceptable. It would be racial profiling. It would create great fear amongst those who are of Muslim background.

It seems like a big problem because they provided all this information under the assumption that this information would be kept confidential. They trusted the administration.

Absolutely. It is of grave concern that this confidential information could be used for these purposes.

Have you heard anything from his camp yet?

No we haven't. If we don't hear anything, we are going to press again. We will continue this. We will still be here, and he will still be here.

How can constituents be involved to say what they think about Trump's proposals?

We certainly know Trump uses Twitter. I do think that we have to have a public showing of concern all across America [on social media]. People saying it's un-American to deport these DREAMERS, or to have a Muslim registry, or to curtail the legal system of immigration that we've had. We need to express our outrage. Use Twitter.

How did you and your colleagues in CAPAC feel following the election of Trump? Initial reaction, and now today.

I think we were totally in shock. We had expected Hillary Clinton to win. She had visited CAPAC, right after she announced her candidacy. We had an extensive discussion about the priority issues for CAPAC and for Asian and Pacific Islander community. So we had fully expected that she would win. We were shocked, we were numb. Now we are coming down to the reality of it all. We realize that we need to be as strong of an advocate as much as we can to make sure these policies do not take place.

How do you plan to defend the rights of residents in the city of Alhambra, who may be targeted during Trump's administration? The list of vulnerable residents is long: Asian Americans, Latinos, Muslims, South Asians, immigrants, undocumented folks, LGBTQIA+ folks.

We want to make sure they are protected. In Alhambra, there are many immigrants of different backgrounds, and we want to ensure that they are able to maintain their civil rights. I think that we should, for one thing, encourage that they tell their stories so that these negative policies do not occur in the first place. So they can be relieved and live the life that they want to live. I also think that we need to have entities in place to protect their rights. We should have a network of legal groups, civil rights advocacy groups, to be a resource to anybody who may be experiencing issues.

It's been stressful for a lot of people to hear news about white nationalists like Steve Bannon gaining appointments within his administration. People feel like they are powerless in stopping Trump from inviting those who have spewed hateful, racist, xenophobic rhetoric and plan to carry out their goals. Do you have any consoling words for folks who feel that way?

We need to unite, those who believe in an America that accepts all people, and we need to say that message loudly and clearly. I was really upset to hear about the terrible letters sent to the Muslim mosque around the area, including the mosque in Claremont. I was thinking, we need to have a 'speak out' or some kind of event that would show we are united and that we will protect everyone's rights to be in this country. These events need to take place all across the country. That is what people are hearing, not the xenophobic, ugly rhetoric that seems to be coming from Donald Trump and his supporters. I can see for instance an event at our local mosque and have people of all backgrounds and religions, saying that we stand united, we stand together, to protect all our rights. 

Leave a Reply