A Platform for Asian Pacific Americans

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Oct 18 18:57:17 UTC 2008

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

Editor's 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 President's 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 government's 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

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 don't 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

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 nation's 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 country's 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.


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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