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A Platform for Asian Pacific Americans

Asian American Village, Executive Summary, Staff Posted: Oct 18, 2008

A Platform for Asian Pacific Americans - National Policy Priorities for 2008
By NCAPA - The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

Editors note: The following is an Executive Summary of the document, Call To Action: Platform for Asian Pacific Americans National Priorities for 2008. The Platform is a project initiated by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, a coalition of nonpartisan community organizations representing diverse AAPIs nationwide.

In its 2008 Platform, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) presents information and policy recommendations of vital national importance in order to enrich discussion leading up to elections in the fall of 2008.

Founded in 1996, NCAPA is a coalition of twenty-six organizations that advocate for the interests of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders (here referred to as AAs and PIs) on the national level. By affirming their support for the Platform, signatories strongly request that Presidential candidates, their political parties, and others vying for public office seriously consider and publicly respond to the information and policy recommendations put forward within the document.

This Introduction highlights the shared conviction among signatories that progress for AAs and PIs in all public policy areas including civil rights, economic justice, education, health care reform, and immigration depends on progress in data collection and presentation; equal access to programs and services; and comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together, creates paths towards citizenship, and is fair and humane.

NCAPA also presents two recommendations for pursuing the recommendations put forth in this Platform. First, the next President should reinstate and support the expansion of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (the Initiative) and the Presidents Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (the Commission), which were first created by executive order under President Bill Clinton and then extended until May 2007 by President George W. Bush. The next President should empower the Initiative and Commission to ensure the full participation of AAs and PIs in all aspects of the federal governments operation, including but not limited to aspects that relate to economic development (as was the case during the Bush Administration). Second, the next President should direct his or her Administration to partner more fully with national and local organizations that are rooted in the AA and PI communities in order to most effectively formulate and pursue policies that are in the communities interest. NCAPA member organizations stand ready to pursue this course of action with the next Administration.

Community Strength and Diversity

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders are significant forces in American politics, and diverse in terms of party affiliation and loyalty. Leading up to the 2004 election, 41 percent of likely AA and PI voters were not able to pick between the Democratic and Republican parties when asked which regards the opinions of their national or ethnic group in a more important way. No candidate or party can afford to take them for granted.

AAs and PIs number over fifteen and a half million, which is roughly equal to the combined populations of Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York City.iii Since 2000 the Asian American community, which now includes over 14.6 million people,iv has grown by over 23 percent,v making it the fastest growing racial group in the country. Since 2000 the Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander community, which now includes over 990,000 people,vi grew by over 13 percent.vii Rapid growth trends continue, and by 2050 AAs and PIs are projected to number well over 35 million.

AAs and PIs trace their heritage to dozens of distinct ethnic groupsix and span the gamut in terms of geographical distribution, native language and culture, religion, immigration history, and the achievement of the American Dream. As the sections below and the Platform itself demonstrate, AAs and PIs form vibrant and diverse communities that resist stereotypes.

Cross-Cutting Themes: Data, Access, and Immigration Reform

Signatories to the 2008 Platform affirm that substantial progress in all of the public policy areas attended to in the Platform civil rights, economic justice, education, health care reform, and immigration depends on significant progress in the following areas: First, more accurate data about AAs and PIs must be collected and disseminated. Second, all community members must have equal access to publicly supported programs and services, regardless of English language ability and other factors. Third, Congress must enact, and the President must sign into law, sensible comprehensive immigration reform that is consistent with American values such as family unity and fairness.

Accurate Data Must be Collected and Made Available

Data must be collected and presented for specific communities, as well as for overarching groups such as Asian Americans, or Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. When data are provided only for the overarching groups, important differences between the communities become invisible, reinforcing the tendency to stereotype AAs and PIs as model minorities. The design, operation, and evaluation of programs and policies by the federal and local governments, schools, hospitals, and other organizations all depend on the availability of data focused on specific communities.

The lack of accurate data about specific communities currently impedes progress in the following areas, among many others:

Civil Rights: Hate crimes against AAs and PIs often go unreported, in part because many communities lack language-appropriate mechanisms for reporting them.

Economic Justice: The lack of disaggregation of data under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act means that we dont know exactly how predatory lending is affecting AA and PI subpopulations that are disproportionately low-income, and our efforts to combat predatory lending are compromised.

Education: Most research and data on AA and PI educational achievement provide averages for all Asian American and Pacific Islanders, ignoring the unique struggles faced by individual ethnic groups, including Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Since data inform decisions regarding policies, programs, and resources, the lack of disaggregated data can promote the model minority myth and prevent individual communities from obtaining the resources that they need.

Health: Studies show that AAs and PIs are disproportionately prone to several serious illnesses such as hepatitis B, liver cancer, and others. More disaggregated data are needed to identify additional health disparities so that treatment can be effectively targeted.

Immigration: Without data on whether increased fees for naturalization have disproportionate impacts on certain AA and PI groups, we are less able to target naturalization assistance effectively.

Accurate and readily available data focused on specific Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander communities are the foundations upon which effective public policy must be built.

The Communities Must Have Full Access to All Publicly Funded Programs

In 2004, 34 percent of Asian Americans and nearly 8 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders lived in households where English was not the primary language spoken, and they spoke English less than very well. The vast majority of AA and PI immigrants strive to learn English, despite the widespread shortage of English as a second or other language (ESOL) programs and other barriers.

While they do so, many face language barriers in making use of services that are provided or supported by the federal government, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has found that these barriers constitute discrimination based on national origin and are forbidden under legislation as well as Presidential executive order.xii Examples of hardships created by lack of effective language access include the following:

Civil Rights: Due to cultural and language barriers, community members are often not able to file complaints with federal agencies such as the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Economic Justice: Many community members lack access to affordable high-quality housing, in part because language barriers stop them from communicating with housing agencies and other resources.

Education: AA and PI students who are English language learners face significant challenges with succeeding in school. Schools need adequate resources to gauge the progress of these students through appropriate assessments, including in some cases native language assessments, and to involve parents who face language barriers.

Health: Because they cannot easily communicate with many medical personnel due to the lack of translation and interpretation services, many community members leave illnesses untreated until they require trips to the emergency room.

Immigration: Many AA and PI immigrants who are detained are less able to understand the detention and deportation process, and less able to negotiate the immigration system, because they do not have access to translation and interpretation services.

Regardless of their English-language abilities, AAs and PIs need to have access to all essential services, and particularly those that make use of federal government funding. Laws requiring government-funded programs to offer translation and interpretation services must be vigorously enforced.

The Communities Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Over 60 percent of Asian Americans and 4 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are foreign-born, compared to just over 11 percent of all people in the U.S. The communities account for over 25 percent of the nations foreign-born population.xiii Since many of the public policy challenges outlined in the Platform are faced most acutely by immigrants and the people who are close to them, substantial progress in areas such as civil rights, economic justice, education, and health are all inextricably linked to progress in immigration reform. The next President of the United States must create the political will for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together, creates paths towards citizenship, and is shaped by American values of fairness.

Family unity is a fundamental cornerstone of the American immigration system, and yet people coming to join their AA and PI relatives face some of the worst backlogs in the world. AA and PI U.S. citizens must wait between 6 and 22 years to be reunited with adult children and siblings after petitioning on their behalf. Spouses and children of lawful permanent residents must wait between 5 and 11 years to be eligible for immigrant visas. Thousands of community members, many of whom arrived in the U.S. as children and are the sole wage-earners for their families, face deportation even after paying the penalties imposed on them in courts of law. Strong families provide mutual support that can help their members integrate with American society. The countrys immigration system should foster, rather than impede, family unity.

Approximately 1.3 million of the 12 million total undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are of AA or PI descent. Many have come to the United States in order to join family members who are citizens rather than wait decades for their requests to be processed through the immigration system, or they have come to work.

Once they have built their lives in this country, many seek to pursue a college education. As contributing members of American society undocumented AAs and PIs deserve a place on the path to citizenship.

All people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent who reside in the U.S. must be treated as human beings with certain inalienable rights and access to essential services, regardless of their immigration status. Like everyone else in America, they must have access to due process and legal counsel within the justice system, and they must be protected from selective enforcement of the law based on racial or religious profiling. In addition, they must have access to essential medical, public safety, and educational services. Enforcement only approaches towards immigration reform, as well as initiatives that bar people from essential services, violate human rights and Americans shared sense of decency.

Conclusion

Three cross-cutting themes the needs for more and better data, full access to publicly supported services, and comprehensive immigration reform reappear throughout the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans 2008 Platform. Improvements in these areas as they relate to civil rights, economic justice, education, and health are essential to the continued flourishing of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders in the U.S. The NCAPA member organizations that affirm their support for this Platform look forward to hearing responses to these positions from Presidential candidates and people vying for other public offices in the 2008 elections.




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