Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog
- Posted byon February 19, 2013 at 5:45 PM EST
“It seems obvious that the Chinese-speaking minority receive fewer benefits than the English-speaking majority from respondents' school system, which denies them a meaningful opportunity to participate in the educational program -- all earmarks of the discrimination banned by the regulations.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Douglas for the majority, Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974)
Though it’s been nearly 40 years since the Lau decision – a landmark ruling that expanded the rights of non-English speaking students in America, language access still remains a critical civil rights issue today for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other immigrant communities. In 2010, over 25 million individuals – about 9% of the U.S. population over age 5 – reported having limited English proficiency. And for over two-thirds of Asian Americans and nearly one-third of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, English is not spoken at home.
In an effort to address the persistent challenges facing limited English proficient (LEP) communities across the nation, the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has done remarkable work to improve language access in federal and federally-assisted programs and activities. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s illegal for any federally-assisted program to discriminate based on race, color, or national origin. These protections extend to individuals with limited English proficiency. These protections also apply to the federal government’s own programs, under an Executive Order issued by President Clinton in 2000. The many and varied programs that the federal government runs – from disaster preparedness, response, and recovery to Medicare and Social Security, to naturalization and immigration proceedings, tax collection matters, and law enforcement action – must also ensure access for LEP individuals.
At the Department of Justice, FCS has jurisdiction to address allegations of discrimination along these lines. Along with a component of the Office of Justice Programs – known as the Office for Civil Rights – FCS ensures that recipients of DOJ grants – including the vast majority of police departments, state courts, and state and local correctional facilities and jails – comply with all applicable protections.
This means ensuring that law enforcement officials don’t permit race, color, or national origin to influence or affect their investigative work – and that LEP individuals don’t receive fewer protections than their English-speaking counterparts. It means working to guarantee that courts don’t discriminate or allow legal proceedings to move forward without a qualified interpreter for LEP individuals. And in our nation’s correctional system, it means lowering communication barriers between staff and LEP inmates, while prohibiting a broad range of discriminatory practices. After all, as Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, recently said: “[i]t is essential as a safety matter and as a civil rights matter for officials who administer a jail to ensure that employees can effectively communicate with prisoners who have limited English skills.”
In each of these areas, I am proud of the strong track record that the Justice Department has established – and continues to build upon – in the vital work of improving access for the LEP community in police departments, courthouses, and correctional facilities all across the country. I am confident that we will continue to raise awareness, while vigorously and consistently enforcing our civil rights laws whenever and wherever appropriate.
I’m particularly grateful for the leadership that Attorney General Holder has shown in translating this commitment into action. In 2010, the Attorney General called for the creation of a Departmental Language Access Working Group to develop, implement, and monitor the Department’s LEP plan. This past March, we posted our language access plan, and nearly 30 Department components – including the Civil Rights Division – have developed and are currently in the process of implementing plans and procedures to ensure our ability to communicate clearly and effectively with LEP persons. Perhaps most importantly, the Attorney General has also taken the bold step of calling upon all federal agencies to do the same, and has charged FCS with leading these efforts across federal agencies.
As Chief of FCS, I am proud to help lead this critical work for LEP communities in America. But helping the LEP community is not just my professional mission – it’s also a personal one. From my experience volunteering and working with a variety of nonprofits that serve Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant communities, I understand the importance of our racial and ethnic diversity, and I will strive to foster even greater inclusion for everybody living in America.
Deeana Jang is Chief of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Posted byon February 14, 2013 at 12:17 PM EST
For nearly three decades, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the President’s State of the Union Address have been invited to join the First Lady in her viewing box. Guests have included students, teachers and innovators, entrepreneurs and those serving in our armed forces.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, one guest in the First Lady’s box was Menchu de Luna Sanchez, a Registered Nurse at New York University Langone Medical Center. When Hurricane Sandy cut the power at NYU Langone Medical Center, Sanchez devised a plan to transport twenty at-risk infants to intensive care units around the city. She organized the nurses and doctors to carefully carry the babies down eight flights of stairs with only cell phones to light the way. Even as her own home was flooding, she thought only of protecting the babies in her care.
Sanchez was born, raised, and educated in the Philippines and she immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. She has worked as a nurse in New York for more than 25 years, and has been at NYU since 2010. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children, both of whom are in college.
“This is like a lifetime achievement, lifetime honor, and lifetime privilege,” Sanchez told me when asked how it felt to be mentioned in the President’s State of the Union Address. “It was like floating in air,” she added, in reference to her experience sitting between First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in the First Lady’s box.
Sanchez was lauded by President Obama during his speech:
“We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.”
“The experience that night is unimaginable to think about now, but saving lives comes very naturally when situations like these arise,” she said.
When asked how she felt about the President’s speech, Sanchez thanked the President for addressing hardships faced by Americans throughout the country. She recognized how her own family has benefitted from the policies the President laid out in his speech, including around housing, education, and immigration.
Finally, when I asked her if this experience has changed her life, she humbly brushed it off and said that she’ll be the same as she was before: still the mom of her children, and still the wife of her husband. The only thing that will change, she noted, is that she hopes to set a good example for others and inspire them to do good things within their communities.
Like the other guests of honor in the First Lady’s box, Sanchez embodies everyday Americans doing extraordinary deeds to better our nation. We look forward to highlighting the stories of other inspiring Americans in the years to come.
Jason Tengco is the Advisor on Public Engagement for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon February 11, 2013 at 1:17 PM EST
Today, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) released Fiscal Year 2013 federal agency plans and a report entitled “Continuing Progress for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community, Federal Agency Accomplishments”. The report showcases the accomplishments made by the federal government to address the needs and improve the quality of life of AAPIs across the country.
The Initiative has partnered with 23 federal departments and agencies to develop and implement specific plans that will increase the participation of AAPIs in federal programs and services. Some notable accomplishments include:
- The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration published a new health and safety guide for nail salon workers. Given that approximately 40% of nail salon workers in this country are AAPI, the guide has also been translated into Vietnamese and Korean.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted outreach and provided education materials to Hmong communities about the nutritional benefits of USDA programs in California, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expanded its ability to collect demographic information from individuals filing a charge of discrimination from five Asian national origin categories to twelve.
The agency plans establish program goals that relate to several overarching themes: expanding data disaggregation systems to help us better understand the needs of the AAPI community; ensuring that individuals with limited English proficiency have access to federal programs and services; expanding workforce diversity programs; and utilizing existing federal grant programs to help support AAPI communities.
The Initiative will collaborate with federal agencies to continue to provide for the 16 million AAPIs living in the U.S.
Courtney Chappell is a senior advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon January 31, 2013 at 6:34 PM EST
Last week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks in Las Vegas about creating a fair and effective immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
"I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long." President Obama said. "I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.”
President Obama's proposal for immigration reform has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.
In response to the President’s remarks, a number of organizations that advocate for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the nation issued statements applauding the President for his leadership. Here are a few of those statements:
“Today, API Equality-LA, a grassroots coalition advancing LGBT civil rights in Asian and Pacific Islander communities, applauds President Obama’s newly released principles on comprehensive immigration reform that include a pathway to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and enhanced family reunification provisions, including eliminating existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system, raising annual country caps, and giving binational couples the ability to apply for permanent residency.”
“The Asian American Institute, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice welcomes President Obama's urgent remarks on comprehensive immigration reform, and looks forward to seeing the specific details of the proposal and unfolding debate.”
“AAI is especially pleased to hear the President address family reunification and protection for a legal pathway to citizenship in his remarks as key issues in reform, because both represent some of the most pressing concerns around immigration for the Asian American community. The bipartisan Senate framework, along with the president’s remarks, represents important first steps in continuing this conversation.”
“Today President Barack Obama unveiled his plan for commonsense immigration reform. In reiterating his commitment to fix our broken immigration system, he outlined four general themes: update our antiquated immigration system to keep families together, strengthen border security, hold employers accountable for unfair practices and create a roadmap for citizenship.
The president's plan reflects the American values of fairness, diversity and opportunity, which he extolled in his inauguration speech. The Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, applauds the president's announcement.”
“Today, President Obama endorsed several provisions of comprehensive "common-sense" immigration reform offered yesterday by a bipartisan group of eight senators. We commend the President and members of the Senate for taking action to fix our broken immigration system.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) supports immigration reforms that strengthen family reunification, provide a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, and protect the rights of all workers.”
“The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO thanks President Obama for making immigration a priority in his 2nd term. Today marked another step forward with the President’s re-affirmed commitment to an issue that impacts the Asian Pacific American community. A viable pathway to citizenship not tied to increased enforcement, better protection for workers, reuniting all families, and ending discrimination against same-sex bi-national couples are important to our country’s progress.”
“The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, is pleased with this week’s announcements by President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of 8” proclaiming that immigration reform is a national policy priority. The commitment of our nation’s leadership to fixing the broken U.S. immigration system is heartening for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) – a community that is approximately 60% immigrant and the fastest growing racial group in the United States.”
"APIAHF applauds President Obama for taking a strong stance to overhaul our broken immigration system. For far too long, our immigration laws have been a black eye on the values we hold dear in America—equality and justice.
President Obama’s renewed push for commonsense immigration policies and the Senate’s bipartisan framework are an important step in the right direction. Now the door is open for Congress to make the necessary changes to our immigration laws that unite families, provide a pathway to citizenship for aspiring citizens and promote full integration.”
“The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) applauds President Obama’s remarks today to fix the nation’s immigration system.
We are pleased that the administration and Congress are taking positive first steps to tackle a crucial issue affecting many of our country’s new American immigrants. We know that essential details still need to be fleshed out, but we are encouraged by this bipartisan move toward an immigration system that creates a path to citizenship for aspiring new Americans already contributing to the growth and prosperity of this country.”
“In light of the frameworks set forth by President Obama today and the bi-partisan group of Senators yesterday, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 30 national Asian Pacific American organizations, welcomes a robust dialogue on immigration policy reform.
The statements from President Obama and the bi-partisan group of Senators this week give us hope that immigration policy reform will soon become a reality. Our community members are deeply affected by every facet of our nation's immigration laws and enforcement practices. Our communities also have sent the message that changes in immigration policy are critical in uniting families, accessing employment, education and health care, and living without fear of detention and deportation.”
“We applaud President Obama for stepping up to show leadership on immigration and taking such a strong stance for the rights of all immigrants and future of our country. We have been fighting to ensure that families do not have to live in fear of constant separation for close to a decade and that families have a way to reunite with loved ones. We know that there is much to do and many details to sort through and we are hopeful with the comments made by the President on the path to legalization and family backlogs. 2013 is the year to pass immigration reform legislation.”
“The Japanese American Citizens League applauds President Obama's plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
This is an issue that hits close to home. In many ways the current state of immigration is not that dissimilar to the barriers that were in place a century ago that enforced xenophobic policies. The President's initiative benefits residents that are already good Americans in every way -- all they lack is citizenship. I commend the President for standing up for a common sense approach to immigration and citizenship.”
“Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Senators released their immigration principles that include many of the proposals the President outlined. This development signals that the Senate stands ready to resolve the issue of immigration reform thoughtfully and with input from a wide variety of stakeholders, breaking through the gridlock that has affected the legislative process. We commend the President and leaders in the Senate for working to fix our immigration system.
KAYA continues to be supportive of immigration reform that strengthens Filipino American families and communities and will closely monitor any future developments on this issue.”
“The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) applauds the positive steps that both the President of the United States and the Senate are taking to prioritize immigration policy reform. The time is now to fix our broken immigration policies.”
“NAPAWF is eager and prepared – as we have been over the years leading up to this moment– to engage in upcoming dialogues with our leaders in Congress as well as the White House.”
“The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) commends the Senate and the President on taking this initial first, bipartisan step. Immigrants’ rights and the need for comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrant communities.”
“This week’s announcements from lawmakers and President Obama have given us hope for the future of South Asian Americans and all immigrants in our nation. We urge the Administration and Congress to continue to work together and pass immigration policy reform that unites our families, provides us with options towards obtaining visas and citizenship, and ends unjust enforcement measures that have affected so many of our community members, especially in the past decade. Only then will we have a system that is just and humane for South Asian Americans, all immigrants, and society as a whole.”
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- Posted byon January 28, 2013 at 4:07 PM EST
As the Regional Administrator of the Atlantic region for the U.S. Small Business Administration, it is important to continually develop relationships with and engage our different small business communities throughout the region, and really understand the issues that small business owners and entrepreneurs face that are specific to their communities and to let them know how we can help.
Part of this engagement not only includes visiting small businesses and organizations throughout our region, but also recognizing them through programs like this year’s National Small Business Week where we honor some of the greatest contributors to the small business community as well as champions within the veteran, minority, and women’s business communities. The deadline for the program is fast approaching, with applications due by Jan. 31, 2013.
- Posted byon January 3, 2013 at 11:55 AM EST
The disruption of the seafood industry caused by the BP Oil Spill in 2010 continues to have a significant impact on the livelihood of an estimated 80% of Southeast Asian American families in the Gulf Coast Region. Last month, we traveled to New Orleans, LA, and Biloxi, MS, to meet with AAPI community members, fishermen, business leaders, and government officials and learn more about the economic opportunities and challenges facing the community.
Throughout these conversations, common themes and issues emerged, specifically around barriers to language access, financial products to re-start small businesses, health care, delays with accessing BP claims, disaster preparedness and recovery, and technical assistance in applying for federal grants. While some fishermen are transitioning to different jobs in the areas of welding, pipe fitting, and sustainable agriculture, others are focused on restoring the fishing industry. Despite the barriers or difficulties in transitioning to other jobs, the AAPI community in the Gulf Coast remains resilient and vibrant.
We look forward to continuing to partner with local community groups and working together to create opportunities for economic and community development in the months ahead.
Adil Kabani is the Economic Policy Advisor and Courtney Chappell is the Senior Policy Advisor with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
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