- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006


As a Pakistani, Hamid Khan stood out among the Hispanics he marched alongside at a recent immigration-law protest. When he told one demonstrator where he was from, the man responded: “Then what are you doing here?”

Mr. Khan was surprised.

“I said ‘Look, there are non-Latino groups who are also suffering under these laws,’” said Mr. Khan, 49, a commercial pilot and director of an advocacy group called the South Asian Network.

Hispanics, the nation’s largest immigrant group, are leading the movement to demand a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and defeat legislation that would criminalize them.

Mr. Khan’s experience provides a glimpse into the ambiguous role non-Hispanic immigrants play in a public debate that has yet to fully include them.

While some Asian, European and Middle Eastern immigrants are supporting calls for sweeping immigration reform, many who are here illegally have shied from the public debate either because they feel Congress has overlooked needs specific to their communities or simply because they’re afraid to come forward.

Forty-eight percent of the nation’s 34 million foreign-born immigrants come from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and countries such as Canada, with most of the remainder coming from Latin America, according to the Census Bureau.

But of the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens, fully 78 percent come from Latin America, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The next largest illegal population comes from Asia, with 13 percent.

While all illegal aliens could benefit from proposals in Congress that would give them a chance at citizenship, many non-Hispanic immigrants say lawmakers should take into account their reasons for coming to the country illegally.

For Vietnamese immigrants, a central complaint is the waiting period before relatives are allowed to join them, which can be 10 years, said Duc Nguyen, a 31-year-old Vietnamese health worker who lives in Orange, Calif.

He said he doesn’t see Congress considering that aspect. “Why are [lawmakers] only doing a half reform?” asked Mr. Nguyen, who said he went to a few demonstrations, but only to watch.

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