US: Analysis: Bush Presidency Good, Mostly Bad for Asian Americans
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Sun Feb 22 18:57:38 UTC 2009
Analysis: Bush Presidency Good, Mostly Bad for Asian Americans
Written by Connie Zheng
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Former President George W. Bush leaves behind a checkered legacy for
Asian Americans. He appointed more Asian Americans to his
administration than any other president; community health centers
received record federal financing; and many scholars lauded his
foreign policy initiatives toward Asia. However, these achievements
were weighed down by the detrimental impact of his policies on civil
rights, immigration and education.
Poor Leadership and Policies
Following 9/11, hate crimes, racial profiling and constitutional
violations ballooned against South Asians, often mistaken to be of
Middle Eastern or Muslim origin. The Bush administration's poor
leadership and policies further exacerbated the problem.
"People might say the increase is because of 9/11, and not because of
Bush, but the leadership of the country plays a big role in the
example it sets to the rest of the country," says Bill O. Hing, law
professor at the University of California, Davis. "When the US lashed
out on Muslims after 9/11, it set a bad example to the country on how
to react and treat people of different countries."
Another example of poor leadership was the administration's failure to
reform federal hate crime legislation, says Priya Murthy, policy
director at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national
civil and immigrant rights organization for South Asians.
While federal policies aimed at combating hate crimes exist, they are
often neither fully enforced nor adequately comprehensive. With
current federal law, protection for hate crime victims is limited only
to incidents where the victim attempts to engage in a federally
protected activity, such as voting, attending school or working.
In addition, since the 9/11 terror attacks, a series of policies have
directly targeted South Asians. Airport security, immigration
enforcement agencies, and state and local law enforcement have singled
out South Asians for additional scrutiny and investigation. Profiling
based on ethnicity, national origin and religion has risen and South
Asians have reported higher incidents of profiling.
"A lot of racial profiling has been disproportionately done with an
eye toward the Muslim and South Asian communities," Murthy says.
"Looking back at the past eight years, a slew of different policies
implemented by the Bush administration have taken the lead in seeing
the South Asian community as enemy."
After 9/11, the FBI began to indefinitely detain individuals suspected
of ties to terrorism, unfairly targeting South Asians as a result.
South Asian immigrants have also been increasingly subjected to
harassment by immigration officials while in immigration detention,
with Sikh detainees reportedly unable to practice their faiths or wear
religious attire during detention, according to SAALT.
In 2002, the Department of Justice established a special registration
program, formally known as the National Security Entry-Exit
Registration System, which required male noncitizens on nonimmigrant
visas from Muslim countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, to
register with immigration authorities. Consequently, many South Asian
immigrants were deported for failing to register or if they were
discovered to be out of status.
The Asian American Justice Center found that South Asian Americans who
filed for permanent resident status or naturalization after 9/11
experienced longer delays with their applications because they were
characterized to be Islamic fanatics supporting terrorism.
These unfair policies "come down from government protocol," Murthy
says. "They're explicitly mentioned in the laws to treat people from
different countries specifically. South Asians, Muslims and Arabs must
be treated differently under the law."
Asian American Students Left Behind
The No Child Left Behind Act, Bush's prized education law, has
assigned insufficient funding to bilingual language programs, causing
poorer test performances and higher numbers of dropouts for Asian
Asian Americans constitute 12 percent of all English language learners
in the nation. In 2007, the Democratic Policy Committee criticized
Bush's budget for not assigning enough funds for English language
development programs, widening the achievement gap between English
language learners and other students.
With a dearth of Asian-language bilingual programs and language
development programs available, English language learners are forced
into English-only classrooms. Although their lessons focus on English
language acquisition, on English standardized tests they are tested on
English language arts that measure literacy development. They perform
poorly on standardized tests as a result of being tested on content
they have not yet learned in a language they have not yet mastered,
according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
AALDEF has also found that some schools allow Asian American students
who are English language learners to drop out or even intentionally
push them out for fear they will score poorly on mandated standardized
tests and lower the amount of federal funding the school receives.
These students have either been forced into GED programs, allowed to
drop out with little or no intervention, or have been expelled under
questionable circumstances. In one instance, Asian Americans in
Lowell, MA, made up nearly 43 percent of the high school students who
were removed, pushed out or dropped out due to truancy-related issues
that the schools failed to address between 2005 and 2006. Frustrated
by the lack of support in mainstream classrooms, many English language
learners fail to attend class, perform poorly or drop out.
Record APA Appointments
However, Bush did leave some positive marks on the Asian American
community. He appointed more than 400 Asian Americans to positions in
his administration, the most ever, including two cabinet secretaries
and more than 150 positions that required Senate confirmation. More
than 20 Asian Americans, a record number, served in the White House
In a first, Bush appointed two Asian Americans to a presidential
cabinet: Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Secretary of
Transportation Norman Mineta. Chao, the first Chinese American and
first Asian American woman to be appointed to the cabinet, was the
only cabinet member to serve the entire Bush presidency. Chao
appointed more Asian Americans than ever to positions in the Labor
Department. Mineta, who resigned in 2006 after five years as
secretary, became the longest-serving transportation secretary and was
the only Democratic cabinet member in the Bush administration.
Benefiting Community Health Centers
During his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush pledged to expand and
create more community health centers as a centerpiece to his
"compassionate conservatism" platform. The President's Health Center
Initiative in 2002 benefited many underserved Asian American
communities, though in general, health care costs and the number of
uninsured Americans were rising.
Analysis of funding for five prominent Asian American community health
centers found that federal financing increased from 2000 through 2008.
Federal financing for the Asian Pacific Health Venture, Inc. in Los
Angeles County rose to $2.6 million in 2008 from $550,000 in 2000.
Federal financing for Kalihi-Palama Health Center in Hawaii rose to $2
million in 2008 from $680,000 in 2000.
Federal financing for South Cove Community Health Center in
Massachusetts rose to $2 million in 2008 from approximately $730,000
Federal financing for Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in New
York rose to $2.5 million in 2008 from $1.7 million in 2001.
Federal financing for Asian Health Services in Oakland, CA, rose to
$1.75 million in 2008 from $1.5 million in 2001.
The Institute of Medicine has noted the vital role health centers play
in addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. Community health
centers primarily serve low-income individuals (over 90 percent of
patients) and minorities (two-thirds of patients). The Association of
Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations has credited the Bush
administration's initiatives in dramatically expanding community
health center care, enabling them to provide culturally appropriate
and comprehensive care that fit their patients' individual language
and cultural needs.
Victor Cha, Georgetown professor and director of Asian studies,
disputes the conventional wisdom that the Bush administration's
policies in Asia have failed.
"Relations with Asian allies have deepened under eight years of Bush," Cha says.
By achieving a cooperative and pragmatic relationship with China and
by expanding and strengthening the alliance with Japan at the same
time Japan and China were improving their bilateral relations, a
US-China-Japan partnership has emerged that strengthens regional
stability. The United States has strengthened its defense relationship
with South Korea. On North Korea, the United States successfully
facilitated the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear program in 2007.
Bush came into office viewing China as a strategic competitor. Over
the course of his presidency, Bush shifted in his approach, instead
going for a more results-driven and practical approach that
strengthened the prospects of peace and stability.
US-China relations have been at their best since the two countries
normalized relations, says L. Ling-chi Wang, professor emeritus in
Asian American studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Fareed Zakaria, noted foreign policy scholar, journalist and author,
has credited Bush to have sided with China on the issue of Taiwan in a
more direct manner than any previous president, enabling better
In fact, Wang regards Bush's stance on Taiwan as one of his
presidency's few accomplishments.
"Bush has succeeded in doing what all previous presidents were unable
to do - removing Taiwan as a thorn in the flesh," Wang says. "It was
the only thing he did that did not go down the drain."
During his presidency, Bush indicated strongly to Taiwan that the
United States would not support Taiwan should then-President Chen
Shui-bian try to push for independence. "Bush realized Chen Shui-bian
was trying to provoke a conflict, potentially a war, between the US
and mainland China and Bush put an end to that," Wang says.
By siding with the Chinese, Bush, in effect, removed one of the
biggest thorns between the two countries' relations. At the same time,
the removal has strengthened the unity of the Chinese American
community at home and significantly reduced the tension between the
China and Taiwan, Wang says.
"Tension between China and Taiwan directly impacts the Chinese
American community because the community cannot be united on any issue
as a result of this conflict," Wang says. "In the past, the tension
has been there because US containment policies encouraged Taiwan to
provoke China, leading to erupting tensions."
Going Out on Low Note
Bush came into office in 2000 pledging reforms in social security,
health care and immigration, but he left the White House failing to
deliver on many of his promises.
"Clearly he's leaving office as one of the least popular presidents,"
Cha says. "There may be a different history written about George Bush
in terms of what he did for the country after 9/11, but in terms of
Asian Americans, there's been no other president before Bush who
appointed two Asian Americans at the secretary level for two
Time will tell on how Bush is remembered.
"If you look at approval ratings for past presidents, the real history
of how American presidents is not how they are remembered two weeks
before they leave office, but how they are remembered 30 years from
now," Cha says.
Connie Zheng is a writer living in San Francisco. She is also a
committee member of the San Francisco Asian Heritage Street
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