Census, Immigration, Voting Rights Raised at AAAJ National Conference

Published in Asian Fortune on

The biggest Asian American national conference on civil and social justice took place at the nation’s capital recently.

The biggest Asian American national conference on civil and social justice took place at the nation’s capital recently. It ended with calls for stepped-up efforts on top concerns: the citizenship question in the 2020 Census, immigration, voting rights and the 2018 midterm elections, and health care.

The forum attracted over 600 Asian American leaders and advocacy affiliates from nearly 90 advocacy organizations, as well as civil rights groups, universities’ Colleges of Law, and American companies with minority outreach or popular shows starring minorities (Disney Channel, ABCTV – Fresh Off the Boat). Wallace H. Coulter Foundation was the premier sponsor of the event.

Leaders from across the country learned about better community advocacy. They listened to, and visited U.S. Senators and representatives. In sessions and workshops, they learned about community organizing, effective fundraising, strategic messaging, legislation and lobbying, as well as other skills.

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC, the host organization, called for stepped-up efforts after the April 11-13 conference, starting with the proposed new question in the 2020 Census.

Yang expressed concerns about undercounting, which affects access to federal and local services, in an interview: “The decision to add a citizenship question by the Department of Commerce betrays the trust of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) organizations which have worked over decades to ensure an accurate count of hard-to-count AAPI communities, especially among Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian populations. Now AAPI organizations will have to work harder to educate the community on the importance of the census and allay fears that this question will likely cause.”

In an earlier interview with the Huffpost, Yang urged the public “to fight back and make their views known once the U.S. Census Bureau seeks public comment on the questions.” He also suggested that constituents call their Senators and House Members of the U.S. Congress to stress that the issue is important to them.

CAPAC Chair Judy Chu

The conference featured members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), including U.S. Congresswoman CAPAC Judy Chu. When the citizenship question was announced in March, Congresswoman Chu released the following statement:

“I’m incredibly concerned by the inclusion of an untested citizenship question whose sole impact will be to suppress participation in the 2020 Census. The census is essential for ensuring fair and accurate representation and distribution of government resources. But by including a question on citizenship, which is not required by the Constitution, the Trump Administration is exploiting the fear of immigrant communities who are already reticent to divulge personal information to the federal government.

“The census is not about who should be in the country. It’s about understanding who is currently in the country and it should not be treated as just another weapon in Trump’s anti-immigrant arsenal. It’s too important for our schools, roads, hospitals, and communities that we have an accurate reporting.

“It’s also concerning that this question was apparently rushed into the Census, without undergoing the usual testing that other questions do. Suppression of responses risks significant undercounting in the 2020 Census that will disproportionately impact communities of color.

“I’m encouraged by (California) Attorney General Becerra’s legal challenge and I hope to see this problematic question struck from the census before it can distort our representative government into one that ignores immigrants and communities of color. And if the Administration decides to go forwards with this question, I am committed to using the legislative process to stop them and preserve the integrity of this census.”

Other Issues

Yang enumerated the other actions on other top Asian American concerns, as follows:

–Intensifying advocacy on immigration, including continued energy on passing the DREAM Act to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. DACA recipients, children and minors who entered the country without authorization, were granted two-year, renewable work permits and also relief from deportation under an Executive Order by President Obama in 2012. DACA was ended last March 5. Its fate will be decided in the courts, or through legislation. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill, is pending in the U.S. Senate.

–Supporting language access for the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections and supporting the voter hotline (888-API-Vote), and

–More involvement on media telecommunications, technology, and diversity.

Conference Participants

Groups which participated in the conference were: Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus; Asian American Federation; Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities; Asian Services in Action; Bauman Foundation; Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation;

Florida Asian Services Center; U.S. Senate; U.S. House of Representatives; Georgia House of Representatives; Georgia House of Representatives; Virginia House of Delegates; former Deputy Secretary of Labor & Advisor; CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities;

Leadership Conference on  Civil and Human Rights; Anti-Defamation League; American  Civil Liberties Union; Latino Victory; Mayor of Hoboken, N.J.;  VAYLA New Orleans; University of Maryland; OCA – Greater Houston; Asian Community Development Council; Freedom, Inc.; The Opportunity Agenda; Roadmap Consulting;

Chinese Progressive Association; National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC); National Education Association; Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN); Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA); Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF); Lake Research Partners; Adhikaar;

National Immigration Law Cente; American University Washington College of Law; UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); National LGBTQ Task Force; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; HANA Center; National Women’s Law Center;

Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association (CAPASA); Open Society Foundations; Asian Pacific American Media Coalition; Disney Channel; ABC – Fresh Off the Boat; CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment); Storyline; Capital K Pictures;

UCLA; New York Immigration Coalition; Asian Resources, Inc.; Brennan Center for Justice; Eritrean American Community of Georgia; Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center; Ayuda; Bank of America; Merrill Lynch; CRW Strategy LLC; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC); National Association for College Admission Counseling;

Colorado State University; New American Leaders; AAPI Data; University of Massachusetts Boston; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote; Asian American Cultural Center, University of Connecticut; Spitfire Strategies and AndACTION; Justice for Muslims Collective; Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM);

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement; Papa Ola Lokahi; Homestead Housing Authority; OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates; Korean Resource Center; Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum; Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, and Asian Health Services.