By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Aparna Bhattacharyya opened her e-mail on April 16 and there it was: a note from the White House informing her she was a Champion of Change.
The 41-year-old Atlanta woman was surprised. But those who know her say she shouldn't have been.
She's been working for almost two decades with Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization that addresses a host of issues in the South Asian community. Over the years, Raksha has done the simplest of things, like helping someone set up online banking. But mainly, they've done a whole lot of heavy hitting by supporting victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
She is one of 15 Asian-American and Pacific Islander women who will be honored Monday at the White House for "doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country." The event is part of the White House's observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. FULL POST
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Partisan tempers flared at a Senate immigration hearing on Monday as top Democrats accused opponents of comprehensive reform legislation of using last week's Boston Marathon bombings to slow or even derail the bill.
"Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston marathon bombing," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
"I urge restraint in that regard. ... Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous attacks of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people," Leahy added.
He said the bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" would "serve to strengthen our national security by allowing us to focus our border security and enforcement efforts against those who would do us harm."
"A nation as strong as ours can welcome the oppressed and persecuted without making compromises in our security," he said. "We are capable of vigilance in our pursuit of these values, and we have seen the tremendous work that the local law enforcement as well as the federal law enforcement have done in the Boston area, and I am so proud of them."FULL STORY
Editor’s Note: World-renowned chef, author and Emmy winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Los Angeles' Koreatown in "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” with self-described "bad Korean" Roy Choi and David Choe. Grace Lee is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker of fiction and documentary films that have explored identity. Her new film is “American Revolutionary" about Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs.
(CNN) - Over the years, I’ve envied the achievements of the “good Koreans”: their Ivy League credentials, their fluency in the Korean language and their dedication to their golf game and families - no matter what.
Even into my 30s, I regularly pondered whether it was too late to go to medical or law school so I could provide for my parents in their twilight years, or at least give them something to brag about to other Korean parents.
I went to graduate film school instead and made films on topics such as zombies, street food and electoral politics. My latest documentary, "American Revolutionary," is about a 98-year-old Chinese-American woman in Detroit who devoted her life to the civil rights and black power movement.
My career may sound exciting to the average reader. But these pursuits do not come with job stability or a 401(k). Bad Korean.
At the same time, I know many “good Koreans” who confide to me that they wish they could have chosen a different path. They tell me about their dreams of making movies. I tell them I wish I had their benefits and health insurance.
They are incredulous when I tell them my parents never pressured me to make a ton of money, that they instead encouraged my sister and me to be independent and seek happiness on our own terms. I tell them that I wished they had meddled a little more – maybe then I could have gone to an Ivy League school!
Perhaps one of the hallmarks of being Korean-American is that we always think we could be better. No matter how good we are, we are not good enough. FULL POST
By Halimah Abdullah, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Opponents of a bipartisan Senate effort to reform the nation's immigration policies calculate that dragging out debate by offering so-called "poison pill" amendments designed to tank support and stoking conservative ire on the airwaves will derail the proposal.
It is a strategy that stymied the immigration overhaul efforts of 2007.
Legislative aides and the bill's supporters worry that with days running out in the congressional calendar and a heavy plate of issues before lawmakers, efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration system could get sidelined.
The so-called "Gang of Eight" senators who have labored for months, largely in secret, are expected to discuss their proposal at a press conference on Thursday.
But the pushback has already begun.
"It seems pretty clear that they are pursuing a strategy of trying to draw this out as long as possible because this bill has to get done as quickly as possible," said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, which advocates for low-income communities.
"It's a ploy to try and throw sand in the gears and I suspect there will be a long list of poison pill amendments that will be offered through committee," Bhargava said.FULL STORY
(CNN) - A bipartisan group of senators formally filed legislation early Wednesday calling for border security as the cornerstone of immigration reform. The bill also would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States. Read the bill.
Editor's note: Angela M. Kelley is vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research and policy institute.
(CNN) - Working diligently for over four months, a bipartisan group of senators - the so-called Gang of Eight – has accomplished a remarkable feat: They have produced an immigration bill that is pragmatic, creative and forward looking. The bill, introduced early Wednesday, is - like any big piece of legislation - a compromise.
Stakeholders will find parts they love and parts they loathe.
First, the parts to love: The senators have largely navigated a dizzyingly complex arena - U.S. immigration policy - in ways that while not perfect, would substantially improve the dysfunctional status quo.
Among other things, the bill would bring the nation's 11.1 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and put them on a road to citizenship. It would increase and streamline border security, mandate a national employment verification system and eliminate the visa backlogs that have caused decades-long family separations. And it would promote economic competitiveness by revamping employment-based immigration so that business can bring in needed workers while still protecting the wages and jobs of American workers.
It is a remarkable starting point but with several crucial missed opportunities.FULL STORY
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - The border with Mexico must be secure.
This requirement is the cornerstone of an immigration reform bill a bipartisan group of senators are to file on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. There will be no path to legal residency for migrants without it.
Undocumented immigrants may also not reach the status of fully legal residents under the proposed legislation, until the Department of Homeland Security has implemented measures to prevent "unauthorized workers from obtaining employment in the United States."
The bill drafted by the "Gang of Eight" senators stipulates that the security of "high risk border sectors along the Southern border" must be verified, before most undocumented immigrants can access pathways to legal residency laid out in the proposed legislation.
The bill makes exceptions for those eligible for the DREAM Act, law-abiding immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors and completed high school in the country. It also includes allowances for certain agricultural laborers.FULL STORY
By Sudip Bhattacharya, CNN
Washington (CNN) - It should have been a happy day for Raymond Jose: He had been accepted to college, with scholarships to help pay for it.
But when he told his parents, his mother started to cry.
"I was puzzled why she was crying after hearing such great news," said Jose, who was to attend Montgomery College in Maryland. "That was when she started to explain to me we were undocumented, that we had overstayed our tourist visas."
Jose's family had come to the United States from the Philippines in 2000, when Jose was 9. They first lived in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area but moved four years later to Maryland.
Jose had been assimilated into American life and culture and didn't know that he was undocumented until that day. When he found out, he was heartbroken. His undocumented status prevented him from using scholarship money to help pay for school.
Every day after that, it was really hard to get out of bed," Jose said.
The debate over immigration reform has been focused on border security and immigrants from Latin America.
But the Asian population in the U.S. grew by more than 40% between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of those identifying themselves as Asians, either alone or in combination with another racial group, grew from 11.9 million to 17.3 million.
Of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 1.3 million are from Asia, according to the Department of Homeland Security.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Last November, Hispanic voters planted the seeds for serious immigration reform when they backed President Barack Obama by a record margin.
This April, we'll see if those seeds can grow in Capitol Hill's toxic partisan soil.
Congress returns from spring break Monday, and immigration reform tops the agenda. The Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" is preparing to release its long-awaited plan for resolving the status of 11 million undocumented men, women, and children now living in America's shadows.
Can a unique confluence of factors - a Democratic president trying to build his legacy, a Republican Party grappling with new demographic realities - overcome the usual strong bias for inaction in a sharply divided Congress? The answer remains unclear.FULL STORY
(CNN) - CNN's Miguel Marquez says immigrants hope the next pope will focus on issues like human rights and economic justice.