If there was such a thing called 'A Day of Absence' to commemorate by when I was in high school, it would have saved a lot of students the trouble of coming up with lame excuses and trips to detention for skipping classes. But yesterday's 'Day of Absence' was not some silly stunt born out of adolescent boredom or academic burnout. It was actually called 'A Day Without Immigrants,' when immigrants boycott work and school for a day in protest of bills passed in both the US House and Senate early this year that make felons of illegal immigrants and make immigration enforcement and citizenship process stricter for them. From Long Island to Long Beach, Lower East Side to Los Angeles, huge street protests were organized to show the economic importance and influence the immigrants (legal or illegal) have in the daily grind of the American economy.

The country, founded and labored by immigrants over centuries, is engulfed with unemployment, crime, and (the current favorite of an excuse) terrorism — social problems that are conveniently blamed on the influx of immigrants out to chase the proverbial American dream or cross to greener pastures.

I will not chew out a mouthful on the issue because it's all over most, if not all, media organizations anyway. Besides, my opinions may be deemed biased because I am an immigrant-in-waiting (so to speak). What I would like to do is raise a crucial point that may be a twig in a branch of the issue; well, it's actually more of a question: Where are the Asian immigrants? After all, they are stakeholders of this issue, too.

Perhaps because of the recurrent border protection concerns with Mexico and Cuba, the issue is fixed on the Latino community in the US. True, of the 11.1 million who are in the country illegally, 78 percent are Latino but whatever happened to the 13 percent who are of Asian origin? Based in Immigration records in 2000, the largest group of undocumented Asians were Chinese (23 percent), followed by Filipinos (17 percent), Indians (14 percent) and Koreans (11 percent). So where were they in all of these protests across the US? Surely, as one of the most persecuted and discriminated immigrant races in US history (eg Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917), Asian-Americans (numbering almost to 15 million now) could at least sympathize with and rally behind the cause of their Latino counterparts.

The debate, of course, is still hot whether the 'Day Without Immigrants' national protest served as a catalyst favorable to the immigration cause or only resulted to fear of (and therefore all the more reason to pass measures to curtail) the expanding clout of immigrants in the American public; but this issue definitely warrants a more pro-active role among the Asian-American community. This is a perfect time to disprove the popular belief and misconception that Asians are a passive lot. This is a perfect time to prove that Asians sincerely embrace the political and civil liberties Americans claim to be champions of. This is the time to be present, to speak and be heard, and to be counted. In a chance to contribute for change, absence in this political exercise won't make others grow fonder of them. 

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