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Family immigration issues for Cleveland's Asian community
Philippine Cultural Center
April 4, 2013

Currently there are considerable discussions at the federal level about immigration reform. One of the key areas of debate is family immigration (sponsorship of relatives to immigrate to the United States) and the specifics on who is and who is not included as part of the provisions that are being discussed.

Michael Byun, Executive Director of Asian Services in Action, led a timely and critical panel discussion at the Philippine Cultural Center in Parma with representatives from the different Asian communities who are impacted.

Asian community panel on family immigration - Bessie Schiroky, Jayashree Bidari, Gia Hoa Ryan and Michael Byun

Bessie Schiroky, Jayashree Bidari, Gia Hoa Ryan and Michael Byun


Byun said that presently, there are 4.3 million people waiting to receive their visas in what is commonly known as the 'backlog.' Almost 2 million (nearly 50%) of those individuals are Asian. He told how important family immigration provisions are to the Asian community many of whom run family businesses.

Michael Byun

Michael Byun




Michael Byun

They reported that in the current immigration system:

  1. 2/3 of visas are given to legal immigrants' family
  2. 14 percent is given for employment
  3. Priority is given as follows:
    1. Spouse & Minor (under 21) Children
    2. Unmarried 'Adult' Children (over 21)
    3. Married Adult Children & Brothers/Sisters ('Siblings')

A Washington Post article from March 14th revealed that the Senate Gang of 8 plans to remove the second two priority categories from above, effectively eliminating legal immigration for the unmarried and married children over 21 of legal immigrants, as well as their brothers and sisters.

Indian immigrant and attorney Jayashree Bidari spoke of the need to move away from the brain vs. blood dichotomy of employment-based vs. family-based visas and immigration. She asked, "Who would want to come to a country where you can't reunite with your family?"

Jayashree Bidari

Jayashree Bidari



Jayashree Bidari

The most powerful part of the program were the personal stories told by people affected by the outdated system.

Bessie Schiroky with the Philippine Nurses Association of Ohio gave examples of how families are being split and unfairly affected by current immigration laws from the situation in her own family.

Bessie Schiroky with the Philippine Nurses Association of Ohio

Bessie Schiroky



Bessie Schiroky with the Philippine Nurses Association of Ohio

Vietnamese immigrant Gia Hoa Ryan told how it took almost 20 years to get many of her family members to the United States and some of the young children are now over 21 so cannot come with their family.

Gia Hoa Ryan

Gia Hoa Ryan



Gia Hoa Ryan


Michael Byun stressed how important family immigration provisions are to the Asian community many of whom run family businesses.



Panelists Bessie Schiroky, Jayashree Bidari, Gia Hoa Ryan and Michael Byun

Panelists Bessie Schiroky, Jayashree Bidari,
Gia Hoa Ryan and Michael Byun


Organizations represented at the event included:

  • Association of Philippine Physicians of Ohio
  • Korean American Association of Greater Cleveland
  • Federation of Indian Community Associations
  • Global Cleveland
  • Philippine American Society of Ohio
  • Philippine Nurses Association of Ohio
  • Organization of Chinese Americans of Greater Cleveland
  • Vietnamese Association of Greater Cleveland
  • Asian Services In Action

Filipino and other Asian Organization representatives



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