OAKLAND -- Some in the Bay Area's Asian immigrant communities are celebrating the U.S. Senate's passage of a sweeping immigration reform bill. Others fear it.
Two days after the Senate's historic vote, more than 100 people gathered Saturday at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center to air their concerns and learn more about the fast-moving debate as it shifts to the House of Representatives in July.
"I'm looking forward to the day when everyone can come out of the shadows," said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, speaking to an audience that included immigrants from China, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and a host of other countries.
Some listened on headphones to translations of the discussion in Cantonese or Mandarin.
Audience members shared mixed feelings about the Senate proposal, which includes a 13-year citizenship path for immigrants in the country illegally and a faster process for young people brought when they were children. It also opens some new legal immigration routes and closes others.
Of the half-million immigrants living in the Bay Area illegally, more than 20 percent are believed to be from Asia, according to a University of Southern California report. Most overstayed short-term tourist or business visas.
Looking forward to a chance at legal residency was Filipino immigrant Emmanuel Valenciano. He said he was displeased, however, by the Senate's last-minute compromise deal to pump $46 billion into securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I feel really conflicted," said Valenciano, 24, of Daly City. "It shows us a pathway to citizenship, but it's filled with border enforcement that really militarizes the border."
For prospective immigrants hoping to migrate here legally, the bill would change some of the laws that have allowed some people in and blocked others.
Clearing up a backlog of hundreds of thousands of people waiting for green cards, as the Senate bill promises to do, will be good news "if you have friends and family who want to come," Chan told the audience. "That will be greatly beneficial to the Asian community."
She and others, however, had concerns about a provision to eliminate green cards for adult married children and siblings. If passed, the bill would end a decades-long tradition of Asian immigrants earning U.S. citizenship and then inviting their brothers and sisters to join them.