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KCBS Cover Story: Concerns In SF Chinatown Over Immigration Reform

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People watch a traditional lion dance in front of a bank on the first day of Chinese New Year on January 29, 2006 in Chinatown, San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

People watch a traditional lion dance in front of a bank on the first day of Chinese New Year on January 29, 2006 in Chinatown, San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A coalition of local organizations have aligned themselves against a part of the federal immigration reform proposal that would change the existing family reunion program.

Many in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, have said the reform measures would change the culture of the historic neighborhood.

Frank Lee with the Organization for Justice and Equality is among those concerned. He said there is growing concern about how Chinatown will be impacted if Congress takes away the right of U.S. citizens to sponsor siblings and married children who are over 30 years old.

“Right now, the Senate proposal is to eliminate 90,000 family-based immigration quotas. That’s about 40 percent of the total family-based immigration quotas and that’s too many for us,” Lee said.

Chairman Pius Lee of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association said the new immigrants are vital to the makeup of the neighborhood.

“All the people working in the grocery stores and Chinese markets, they’re all newcomers,” he said.

Sue Lee, Executive Director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, said the cultural cross fertilization is a dynamic part of Chinatown.

“I’m a third-generation Chinese American. I appreciate the fact that there are new immigrants that can teach me things about language, culture and heritage that my family may have lost in three generations,” she said.

Opponents said denying reunification green cards for certain people over 30 would move the system to one that’s employment-centered, instead of family-based. Pius Lee called it unjust to take away the opportunity for such family reunions.

“What will happen, 30-40 years from now, is Chinatown will probably be completely changed,” he said.

Frank and Pius Lee helped deliver a petition against this part of the proposal this week to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s offices in San Francisco.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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