Op-Ed: What Asian immigrants, seeking the American dream, found in Southern California suburbs
LOS ANGELES — In a suburb of San Diego, at an old gas station that’s empty now and covered with a white sheet, some immigrants are still here. They’re waiting for a bus that’s on its way to the bus depot. They’re out on the street, talking and watching. They’re hoping it will take them to Chinatown.
“This is my neighborhood,” says a girl named Sonia, carrying a brown bag with her sister, Lorna, who is 16.
Both girls, they tell reporters, are from the Philippines. Lorna is a high school student, while Sonia is studying at the University of Southern California.
“We came here five years ago,” Sonia says. “We are going to get a visa when we get to college.”
In the past few months, they are among around 2,000 immigrants who have recently applied to come to the United States as citizens.
It’s one of the first group of permanent resident applicants from Asia, part of an unprecedented wave that has reshaped Los Angeles, the nation’s second most populous city.
The surge of newcomers from the Philippines stands out from the more than 2 million naturalized residents of Asian ancestry living in the United States. While the diversity of ethnic backgrounds in this nation is increasing, the numbers of people of Asian origin in the U.S. is on the rise the most rapidly among immigrant groups.
“Some of these folks are really interested in getting into the U.S.,” says Paul Pang of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, whose office is in San Pedro, in the heart of Los Angeles’ Asian-dominated Chinatown.
“They don’t want to speak Spanish – they’d much rather speak English,” he says. “But if they don’t have the English language skills – education is key – but they have the economic and social skills – that opens up a lot of opportunities.”