"It's almost impossible to find residence here unless my brother petitioned me," Dr. Dorothy Chung told ABC7 News. She says the sibling amendment of the immigration law allowed her brother, who had citizenship, to sponsor and bring her to the U.S. from Hong Kong. It was the beginning of her thriving physical therapy practice in San Francisco's Chinatown, the Chinatown Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Center.
"I wouldn't be able to hire other people either. I have 10 to 12 employees and I'm very active in the community," she said.
But on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee shot down the sibling amendment during a live televised session on immigration reform.
Opponents want to give priority to immigrants in science and technology. "We're living in a very competitive world and these visas have to be earned," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Even Sen. Feinstein voted it down in favor of preserving the overall immigration bill. "We need to keep the support and so I am a no vote on the amendment," she said.
"Sen. Feinstein should know that this vote sorely disappoints the community," says USF Law School Prof. Bill Hing. He says it's not just an Asian issue and adds that Feinstein should also know how families build economic strength.
By allowing new immigrants to create a family network, advocates for the sibling clause believe it helps anchor them into the community. "After they reach a certain level, they can still contribute to society, but they might take their assets and take them back home and be with their family," Chung said.
Proponents say there's an outside chance the sibling amendment could be revived, but they admit they may have missed their best chance.