The Often Overlooked Group Affected by Trump's Immigration Plans

March 1st 2017

Kyle Jaeger

President Donald Trump's rhetoric around immigration — and calls for increased enforcement efforts — has focused on those coming from Mexico and Central America, there's another group at risk of deportation that doesn't get as much notice: Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants.


Over half of the undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. come from Mexico, and those numbers have been steadily declining since 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. At the same time, the number of undocumented immigrants from Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and India has been on the rise since 2000.

The latest numbers reveal that Asian and Pacific Islanders represent about 14 percent of the total undocumented immigrant population in the U.S.

There's no clear explanation for the spike in immigration from Asian countries, but one expert — Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of U.S. immigration policy at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) — told The Atlantic last year that the trend was linked to improved economies across Asia in the 1990s. The economic boost empowered Asians to immigrate, whether legally or illegally, Rosenblum said.

But these immigrants are often overlooked, researchers at the Urban Institute noted in a recent report, and that lack of attention appears to account for disproportionately low enrollment in federal programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) among undocumented Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants.

Just 20 percent of Asian or Pacific Islanders who qualify for DACA — which grants protection from deportation for some who were brought to the U.S. as children — applied for the program.

"Several factors, including cultural stigma, limited media coverage, and language barriers, contribute to these differences," the Urban Institute notes. In addition to legal and immigration services, there's a need for "housing, education, workforce development, health care, and safety net programs... to provide translated and interpreted services for those hardest to reach."

The demand for legal services has become especially important in the weeks since Trump took office. After signing two executive orders on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two memos last week that serve as guidelines for federal immigration agents. The memos greatly expanded the number of undocumented immigrants who would be subject to deportation.

ATTN: reached out to DHS for clarification on the number of undocumented Asian and Pacific Islanders immigrants who have been affected by recent enforcement efforts, but a representative was not available by the time of publication.