'Undocumented' Stigma A Barrier In Asian-American Communities In Monterrey Park, Calif. — home to the fastest growing population of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. — community leaders are trying to get the word out about "deferred action" eligibility.

'Undocumented' Stigma A Barrier In Asian-American Communities

'Undocumented' Stigma A Barrier In Asian-American Communities

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In Monterrey Park, Calif. — home to the fastest growing population of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. — community leaders are trying to get the word out about "deferred action" eligibility.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Many immigrant communities are still trying to figure out what President Obama's executive action on immigration means for them. The majority of those who will now be protected from deportation or eligible for work permits come from Mexico and Central America.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

But there are millions of others. And today, we'll hear from Haitians in Miami, where many are not eligible for relief. We'll also go to Boston, where there are an estimated 12,000 Irish immigrants in the country illegally.

SHAPIRO: We start in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, which is home to a large concentration of Asian immigrants. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Just east of Los Angeles, Atlantic Avenue in Monterey Park looks like classic 1950s suburbia, except Asian banks are squeezed alongside dim sum houses, and most of the billboards and signs advertise in Chinese.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGLER: It all feels like home to high school senior Peter Liu, who came to LA in 2010 on a tourist visa with no intention of going back to China.

PETER LIU: And then I came here to live with my uncle who is a U.S. citizen. He is able to take care of me some ways and financially support me. That's why I came here - the main reason.

SIEGLER: In LA County, it's estimated there are about 80,000 undocumented Asian immigrants like Liu.

(APPLAUSE)

SIEGLER: At a community center here this week, local leaders pleaded with Chinese media to help them get the word out about the president's immigration plan.

STEWART KWOH: We know that there's fear, but we're here to help.

SIEGLER: This is Stewart Kwoh, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. He says, there's a stigma to being undocumented in Asian immigrant communities.

KWOH: Because we want to do things in the proper way. But life isn't always that clean and perfect.

SIEGLER: Kwoh and others are worried that Chinese immigrants, in particular, maybe haven't even heard of the president's plan or won't come forward. Well, that was a problem in 2012 when Obama first extended deportation relief for the children of immigrant parents.

KWOH: I think Asian-Americans still have a lot of shame for being undocumented, and they're worried about being separated from their families.

SIEGLER: This is Peter Liu's reality. His grandparents back in China are sick, but he's afraid if he goes home to visit them, he won't be allowed back in the U.S. He's currently applying to colleges here.

LIU: My future is pretty much uncertain on how I'm going to be able to pay for my college tuition and even work and stuff.

SIEGLER: The president's executive action won't affect Liu. He's been here for four and half years, not the required five, though he says he'll keep advocating for what he calls a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Now, that could address another big concern for Asian immigrant communities. Activists say. there's an estimated 1.5 million people in the legal system who have been awaiting processing on family visas for years. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Culver City.

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