By Doua Thor
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 25, 2012) — At Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, we listened to the president’s State of the Union Address with interest, as this was an opportunity for us to consider his proposals and their impact on the many issues that we work on for the Southeast Asian American community.
Below is a breakdown by issue area of the president’s speech and our analysis of how they may impact the policies we work on and the communities we serve.
On aging, health care, and Social Security: The president emphasized reforms that “…rein in long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid and strengthen Social Security so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.”
In the last year, many of the proposed changes to Medicare and Medicaid by the House of Representatives have included dramatic cuts that make health insurance less accessible and could lower the quality of health care many elders across the nation, including Southeast Asian American elders, receive.
SEARAC stands with President Obama’s commitment to make government more efficient, but strongly urges policymakers to make sure that efforts to rein in costs do not hurt the quality of care or access to care.
SEARAC believes that the Affordable Care Act should be fully implemented, allowing Medicare and Medicaid to expand health access and improve health care quality for Southeast Asian Americans, while lowering health care costs nationwide. Additionally, Social Security is a crucial source of income for many aging Southeast Asian American elders and must be protected from any cuts.
On economic security: The president talked, at length, about prioritizing the restoration of our financial system’s core purposes, rewarding responsible behavior, and reducing deceptive and abusive lending practices.
Many low-income communities, including immigrants and refugees, have historically been targets of unfair lending practices that threaten their economic security, and we welcome proposals that protect vulnerable Americans from such practices.
On education: President Obama talked about providing schools with resources to keep and reward good teachers. He also proposed that states require all students to stay in high school until they graduate or are 18.
On higher education, the president talked about the growing cost of college and the struggles that students and families face as their student loans increase. He urged an extension of the tuition tax credit and proposed doubling the number of work study jobs in the next five years so that students can work their way through college.
The president called on states to do their part by prioritizing higher education in their state budgets and for colleges and universities to work toward keeping their costs down. He stated, “Higher education can’t be a luxury–it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Recognizing that education access, and higher education in particular, are a challenge for many Southeast Asian American students, SEARAC welcomes the president’s support of these priorities. However, there is also a great need to reform K-12 education policies, and we look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to ensure these needed changes.
On immigration: Finally, President Obama reiterated his support for high achieving, undocumented students (DREAM students), stating, “…send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”
In addition, the president said that we should be working on comprehensive immigration reform. While SEARAC agrees that comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue, we also recognize that there is a long road ahead and a great deal of work and support needed from all decision-making levels to address the diverse provisions in immigration law that need reform.
DREAM is only one of many needed immigration policies, and SEARAC is also committed to continuing our work with the administration and Congress to address deportation policies affecting our communities.
Doua Thor is the Executive Director of SEARAC.