Recap: Taking Action in Response to Emerging Threats to the AAPI Community

Recap: Taking Action in Response to Emerging Threats to the AAPI Community

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Members of Congress and civil rights and immigration experts convened Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol to discuss pressing issues affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

The panel discussions followed a separate Congressional Ceremony by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and ended with a panel and reception hosted by Mnet America.

Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), chair of CAPAC’s civil rights task force, framed the first conversation by addressing multiple issues facing our communities, from increased hate incidents and violence, to the threat of millions being stripped of their health coverage.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) moderated the civil rights panel with panelists Kathy Ko Chin, President & CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Manar Waheed, Legislative and Advocacy Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and John C. Yang, President & Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. (Photo: Nick Lee)

Suman Raghunathan opened the panel by talking about how today’s political environment is threatening our civil rights, from the dismantling of our healthcare system and the change in the Census Bureau to voter intimidation across the country and the surge in hate violence and surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric.

During the conversation, Manar Waheed said that while the continued attacks on our communities under this administration are alarming, she is inspired by the numbers of people who stood up against the Muslim ban.

Kathy Ko Chin added that under the proposal being considered in Congress today, 24 million people could lose their coverage, of whom two million are Asian American and Pacific Islander. Language access provisions written into the Affordable Care Act were far-reaching and also could be taken away.

John C. Yang talked about why data collected by the Census is a civil rights issue--in order to address issues facing our communities, we must have accurate data to get the full picture.

Tina Tchen, Former Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama gave keynote remarks emphasizing the urgency of the moment to advance the soul and future of our country. She challenged us: “Every generation gets tested, and we are in a testing moment .. how do we give voice to the voiceless and how do we call out what is wrong?”


 (Photo: Nick Lee)

NCAPA’s immigration panel featured remarks from Eddy Zheng, co-chair, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, who said that as a collective community, we have the power to make a difference to make sure our voices are heard when it comes to the little-known narratives of our communities.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) talked about bridging divides and while we have many challenges ahead, she is hopeful because there are people who have woken up across the nation to fight for their rights and get engaged in the political process.

The panel was moderated by Quyen Dinh, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) & NCAPA Chair. Panelists were Avideh Moussavian, Senior Policy Attorney, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Arlene Inouye, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) & Treasurer,  United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and Ivy Teng Lei, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates Member.

To begin the immigration discussion, Quyen Dinh highlighted the need to get rid of the good versus bad immigrant narrative and to get the public to really understand immigration beyond the Latino narrative. For instance, 16,000 Southeast Asian Americans have received deportation orders to countries they fled and do not necessarily know.

Arlene Inouye talked about her advocacy for safe schools and the fear her students, parents and teachers are facing in light of the recent immigration executive orders.

Ivy Teng Lei, who has had the courage to speak out about her undocumented status, stressed the need rebrand how the community and the media talks about undocumented stories to change the public opinion on immigration.

Avideh Moussavian discussed how difficult it is to give our communities guidance, especially with the insecurity around Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which makes it difficult to provide resources for immigrant communities.

To conclude, NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang said that as we celebrate APAHM, we must take time to reflect on both the positive and less positive parts of our history: The murder of Vincent Chin echos in the murder of Srivnivas Kuchibhotla, and the proposed Muslim ban is similar to the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Kang added that to drive our communities forward, we are thankful for our tremendous leaders, and we hope the event will encourage others to continue their activism and to educate others to sustain the movement toward social change.


Take Action

Moving beyond the conversation, here are suggested ways from our speakers to protect and support communities.

Track Hate: Multiple organizations are tracking hate incidents and encouraging community members to speak out and report such incidents. You can find SAALT’s hate crime tracker at and on social media using #TrackHate.

Know Your Rights: Seek out local Know Your Rights trainings and forums in your area, and share resources from NCAPA members, available in Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Nepali, Punjabi, Urdu, Vietnamese and Spanish.

People Power: The ACLU created for people across the country to post and find action events to participate in.

Protect health care: Tell your Senator to protect the Affordable Care Act. Find their contact info here. You can also learn more about the next open enrollment period from APIAHF.

Just show up: Panelists Avideh Moussavian and Ivy Teng Lei encouraged us to use our physical presence and show up in communities where you do not normally.


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