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Maryland should be protecting immigrants, not jailing them | READER COMMENTARY

In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a news conference in Annapolis. On Wednesday, May 26, the Republican governor vetoed two bills supported by immigration advocates including a measure that would prohibit local jails from entering into agreements with federal authorities on immigration-related detentions. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)
In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a news conference in Annapolis. On Wednesday, May 26, the Republican governor vetoed two bills supported by immigration advocates including a measure that would prohibit local jails from entering into agreements with federal authorities on immigration-related detentions. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File) (Brian Witte/AP)

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed two bills supported by immigration advocates in the state to provide protections for undocumented immigrants including prohibiting local jurisdictions from contracting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented people in local jails (”Maryland Gov. Hogan vetoes bills that would limit state’s aid to federal immigration enforcement,” May 26).

As a lifelong Maryland resident and a child of immigrants, the debate over immigration in the state is a personal one. While many might see my last name, Castillo, and assume that my Nicaraguan heritage solely drives my interest in immigration, they would be wrong. My mother, an ethnic Chinese refugee from Vietnam, also shares in the immigrant experience. And as such, my Asian American roots are just as important as my Latino roots in shaping my views on this topic.

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According to the Pew Research Center, of the 44.8 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States in 2018, 28% were from Asia. Since 2009, new arrivals entering the U.S. each year from Asian countries have actually surpassed those from Latin American countries with 37% of new arrivals in 2018 hailing from Asian countries and 34% hailing from Latin America. And by 2065, Asians are expected to become the largest immigrant group in the nation. This substantial presence is magnified in the undocumented population, of which Asians are the fastest growing racial group, increasing six-fold since 1990.

In terms of public opinion, Asian Americans themselves consider immigration a pressing matter. According to the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey, 67% of Asian American voters rated immigration as either a very important or somewhat important issue in the 2020 election. Furthermore, their policy preferences tend to fall on the liberal side with 59% of respondents supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and 50% of respondents holding favorable opinions of the Dreamer movement.

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Yet despite their relevance to immigration policy, Asian Americans are often excluded from national coverage on this topic. In a 2019 study of immigration stories in three national magazines, researchers found that Latinos made up roughly three quarters of all identifiable immigrants pictured. Asians, despite constituting over a quarter of the immigrant population, only made up 13%. In fact, Asians are less likely to be included in national conversations in general. According to the 2016 National Asian American Survey, overall contact of Asian American respondents by both partisan and nonpartisan organizations was only 33%, compared to 46% of white respondents and 47% of Black respondents.

The data are clear: Asian Americans, while largely excluded from the immigration debate, remain deeply affected by immigration policy and strongly support immigration reform. My parents, Asian and Latino alike, settled down in Maryland because it offered them opportunity and support as recent immigrants. They raised my siblings and I to embrace our Maryland pride through the lens of our immigrant heritage and our immigrant rights. Governor Hogan should do so as well.

Elizabeth Castillo, Bowie

The writer is a 2021 graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park.

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