WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 18, 2015) — Organizers from the Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP) were in the nation’s Capitol last week together with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), along with other lawmakers and allies for a convening on Asian American civic engagement.
Advancing Justice is a national civil rights group led by former Minnesota State Sen. Mee Moua. AAOP members also attended the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance AFL-CIO (APALA) reception, and the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies (APAICS) gala to celebrate Asian American Heritage Month.
Through its national partnership with Advancing Justice, Linda Her, Jay Xiong and Daniel Yang, AAOP members participated in a national conversation on mobilizing APIA and transforming civic engagement and participation in democracy. Minnesota is home to more than 250,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the fastest growing racial group in the state.
AAOP and Advancing Justice leaders pledges to join together in the effort build a stronger civic infrastructure engaging the next generation of AAPI leaders and address immigration policies, voting rights and LGBTQ issues at the local and federal levels.
“It was an exciting week to be in DC during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with AAOP leaders Linda Her and Jay Xiong,” said Daniel Yang, AAOP Board Chair. “We were all deeply inspired by the work and staff of Mee Moua’s Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC organization and are looking forward to partnering with them to build power across Asian American communities back home in Minnesota.”
The organizers also attended the APALA reception at the IBEW International Office to celebrate Asian American Heritage Month with national organizations and lawmakers. The group spoke with Asian American congressional members Mark Takano (CA-41), Mike Honda (CA-15), and Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) about AAOP’s organizing in Minnesota.
Yang and his colleagues also attended the 21st annual APAICS gala where members of Congress and national Asian American organizations celebrated Asian American Heritage Month. The evening keynote speaker was recently appointed Surgeon General Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murthy who gave an inspiring and promising speech to address the epidemics of obesity, tobacco related disease, and stigma associated with mental illness and ending violence on women and in our communities.
The gala is the premier event in Washington, D.C. celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Community, business and political leaders from across the country attend to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations who continue to empower the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
The highlight and priority of the Washington D.C. visit was meeting with U.S. Senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5). Together they worked to urge the Department of Homeland Security to grant Temporary Protected Service (TPS) for the 5,000 Nepalese community members in Minnesota in the wake of the recent earthquakes in Nepal. Earlier in May, AAOP signed a letter with Advancing Justice and other national organizations to urge for the relief.
“The temporary humanitarian aid will allow Nepalese here in the United States to more effectively support their own home country during the rebuilding,” said AAOP Executive Director Jay Xiong. “It would also ensure the protection of Nepalese in the U.S. from deportation and grant work authorization to permit them to continue working and send remittance to Nepal. Moreover, the devastation in Nepal and dire conditions make it unsafe for any Nepalese nationals to be forced to return to the country at this time.”
AAOP also spoke with members of congress to support comprehensive immigration reform.
“It’s a critical conversation for the Asian American community since 78 percent of adult Asian Americans are foreign-born,” said AAOP Associate Director Linda Her. “In Minnesota, 7.3 percent of Minnesotans are foreign born. Undocumented immigrants play a vital role in our economy — paying $87 million in state and local taxes in 2012. However, we currently make up close to 40 percent of the family visa backlog. We need congress and the President to work together to resolve the dysfunctional system so that we can help undocumented Asian Americans as well as continue to bring our families here.”
The organizers also spoke with congressional members about the thousands of Filipino veterans who served in World War II and were denied official recognition and veteran benefits. Congress enacted Statute 405 of the Immigration Act of 1990, to extend eligibility for United States citizenship to aging Filipino veterans. The late measure allowed 30,000 Filipino war vets to finally immigrate to the the U.S.
“However, no allowance was made for their children and the veterans had to individually sponsor their children who were residing in the Philippines,” Her said. “Due to the overwhelming visa backlog, many of these Filipino war veterans have now passed away, without having the chance to reunite with their families.”
AAOP urged members of congress to support efforts underway to reunite Filipino war veterans with their families by asking the White House to parole their children — a benefit previously used for Cubans and Haitians.
“Senator Franken and Representative Ellison have been very responsive and supportive of our concerns. We are very thankful for them being on top of issues concerning our Asian American community in Minnesota,” Yang added.
Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP) was founded in 2013 by a diverse group of community organizers to create, sustain and push for more community empowerment through grassroots engagement. The mission of AAOP is to advance Asian American and Pacific Islander participation in democracy for an equitable and just society.