National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Responds to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Applauds Initiatives that Will Benefit AAPI Women and Girls
WASHINGTON — In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), released the following statement:
“NAPAWF applauds the President for lifting up this country’s need for paid family leave, pay equity, protection of women’s health, affordable childcare, accessible college education and fixing our immigration policies in last night’s State of Union Address. More than 8 million AAPI women and girls would stand to benefit from the President’s proposals.
“The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is the fastest growing community in this country and there are false perceptions of our community as being more wealthy than other communities. In fact, the rate of AAPIs living in poverty has grown faster than any other racial group. ‘Middle class economics’ and common sense immigration policies that lift women up and keep families together are essential to the well-being and economic security of AAPI women and girls.
“We are also grateful that President Obama explicitly named the bisexual and transgender communities in his speech, making this the first time in history that these words have been spoken in a State of the Union address.
“NAPAWF looks forward to working with Congress to build an American future that works for us all.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum is the nation’s only national organization building a movement for social justice and human rights for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls.]]>
Thanks to all our members and allies who made these achievements possible and continue to feed us strength and courage as we continue to fight the good fight in 2015!
Kicking off 2015, the new GOP-led Congress has wasted no time in reviving its anti-choice agenda, introducing 5 new abortion restrictions within the first 3 days of the session alone.
Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S.48, a federal ban on sex-selective abortion that would criminalize providing an abortion to a woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy because she has a preference for the sex of her child. One of the most proposed abortion restrictions in the country, over the last few years, these bans have been introduced in Congress and at least 21 states, and have passed in 8 states. Cloaked in the language of equality, sex-selective abortion bans are a deceptive tactic to chip away at reproductive rights and could open the door to further abortion restrictions. They are based on harmful racial stereotypes about immigrants from Asia and, though these bans harm all women, can reduce health access for AAPI women in particular.
On the first day of the 114th, GOP lawmakers in the House also introduced a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. The bill is based on the premise that fetuses are sentient at 20 weeks of pregnancy and assumes that after that point an abortion procedure would be painful for them. However, scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that even at 20 weeks and even beyond viability, fetuses have not yet developed their nervous systems to the point where they can feel pain. A 20-week abortion ban is a direct challenge to the protections afforded under Roe v. Wade of a woman’s right to choose up until the point of a fetus’ viability. Doctors, including the American Medical Association, agree that fetuses cannot survive outside the womb until about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy—at less than 21 weeks, no delivered baby has ever survived.
At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2015, 20 states raised their minimum wages, lifting the pay for over 31 million workers throughout the country. While the increase in 9 of these states can be attributed to inflation-indexing provisions in state minimum wage laws, increases in the remaining 11 states are the result of new changes to state minimum wage laws that advocates fought for and won. Other states introducing minimum wage increases in the new year include New York, which raised its minimum wage on December 31, 2014, and Delaware, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia later in 2015. This wave of increases brings the grand total of states with minimum wages above the federal minimum wage up to 30, including the District of Columbia. Despite progress in the states, however, the federal minimum wage stays the same at $7.25 per hour, currently holding a value roughly 23% less than it was worth in the late 1960s when it was first enacted. Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage in 1968 would equal about $10 today.
|State||Amount of Wage Increase||New Wage on Jan. 1, 2015|
|New York (L)||$0.75||$8.75|
|New Jersey (I)||$0.13||$8.38|
|Rhode Island (L)||$1.00||$9.00|
|South Dakota (B)||$1.25||$8.50|
|West Virginia (L)||$0.75||$8.00|
Key: I=Indexing L=Legislation B=Ballot
Source: Economic Policy Institute
According to exit polling by Asian American Decisions, 74% of AAPIs support raising the minimum wage. The share of AAPI women at or below minimum wage more than doubled from 2007 to 2012. Moreover, in 2011, 12.3% of AAPI women—more than 1 million—lived in poverty, compared to 7.7%of white men.
Following weeks of contention, on December 13, 2014, Congress passed and the President signed into law a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will determine how federal programs are funded in the near year. The bill combines long-term provisions that fund most government agencies until September, and a short-term continuing resolution targeted at the Department of Homeland Security that would fund that agency for a shorter period of time. This combination of short-term and long-term funding provisions—known affectionately as a “cromnibus” bill—was structured to give Republican lawmakers greater flexibility regulating immigration in the next Congress.
Unlike previous years, the spending bill does not do much to change the status quo with regard to reproductive justice, however, this year’s version includes one long-sought after fix—equal access to coverage of abortion services for Peace Corp volunteers in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers reported sexual assaults. An abortion in a doctor’s office costs about $500, and with volunteers making a stipend of just $300 to $500 a month, having access to abortion coverage is critical to protecting the health of female Peace Corps members.
Before quitting chambers for the holidays, Supreme Court justices gave immigrant rights advocates in Arizona the gift of refusing to intervene in an appeals court decision to allow certain undocumented immigrants to receive drivers’ licenses. In 2012, Arizona decided to deny drivers’ licenses to DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants deemed legally present under the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA recipients can lawfully obtain drivers’ licenses in nearly every state, except Nebraska and Arizona. Since Arizona’s order was signed, a challenge brought by immigrant advocates has been working its way through the courts. In the summer of 2014, a federal appeals court ruled that the denial of licenses was impermissibly discriminatory and a violation of the federal DACA program. The Supreme Court’s decision on December 18 not to intervene in the case allowed the Arizona DMV to begin issuing drivers’ licenses to DREAMers while the merits of the case continues to be litigated.
Arizona’s AAPI community is one of the fastest growing in the nation with a 95% increase between 2000 and 2010. There are an estimated 108,024 potential DACA beneficiaries from Asia, with South Korea, the Philippines, and India currently included among the top 15 countries of origin for DACA applicants.
On December 22, 2014, a federal appeals court ruled that doctors cannot be forced to describe sonograms to women seeking abortion prior to their procedure. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision struck down a North Carolina law requiring abortion providers performing an ultrasound to place the sonogram image in the woman’s line of sight and describe the embryo or fetus in detail, even if the woman asks the doctor not to, closes her eyes, or covers her ears. Doctors who violate the act are liable for damages and may lose their licenses to practice in the state. The court found that requiring doctors to disseminate a state message discouraging abortion is ideological in nature, not medically necessary, and constitutes compelled speech in violation of a provider’s constitutional free speech rights. The Fourth Circuit’s decision conflicts with a Fifth Circuit ruling addressing a similar law. Both cases are being appealed to the Supreme Court, who will have to decide which application of the 1st Amendment is the correct one.
Between 2000 and 2010, North Carolina was home to one of the country’s fastest growing populations of AAPI, nearly doubling with an increase of 85%.
On December 15, 2014, the Supreme Court declined to review a decision by a federal appeals court blocking Arizona regulations that would severely limit patient access to medication abortion. Offering no explanation for its decision, the Court’s action allows Arizona doctors to continue providing medication abortion to patients without unnecessary and undue restrictions.
The restrictions were enacted in 2012 and would have required providers to follow outdated Food and Drug Administration recommendations, unnecessarily restricting patient access to medication abortion. The restriction would have prohibited off-label use of the drug RU-486, used to induce abortions, and bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy. Adherence to FDA labelling is not required by the agency and different, newer regimens requiring less medication have been scientifically proven to be equally as effective.
After over a year since his nomination by the President, Dr. Vivek Murthy was finally confirmed to the seat of Surgeon General on December 15, 2014. Dr. Murthy was one of the presidential nominees caught up in an opposition campaign by the National Rifle Association for their support of gun-control policies. Prior to Dr. Murthy’s confirmation, the seat of Surgeon General had been vacant since July of 2013. Dr. Murthy was nominated by the President in November 2013 and had been vetted and approved by the Senate health committee in February 2014.
On December 4, the U.S. Department of Education released a memo on single-sex education that included a provision that would provide greater protection against discrimination for transgender students. The memo states that schools cannot discriminate against transgender students on the basis of sex, and that, for the purpose of single-sex education, schools should treat these students based on their gender identity rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
AAPI youth experience disproportionately high rates of bullying. A report released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Transgender Equality, and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance revealed that AAPIs who attended school expressing a transgender identity or gender non-conformity reported alarming rates of harassment (65%), physical assault (39%), and sexual assault (19%) in K-12. Of these respondents, 11% experienced harassment so severe that it led them to leave school.
On January 6, 2015, a Florida court ruling striking down the state’s statutory and constitutional bans on same sex marriage went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case. Some county clerks announced they would end all courthouse weddings to avoid forcing staff members who object to same-sex marriage to participate in the ceremonies, but others opened courthouse doors to couples at midnight.
Meanwhile, this month, the Supreme Court is set to consider whether to take on a case that would once and for all decide whether same sex marriages must be allowed nationwide. The Court passed on the opportunity to rule on the issue in October of 2014, but additional petitions have been sent their way since then. If the Court does decide to take up the question, it will announce its decision before the end of the month and rule by June of 2015.]]>
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced an executive action on immigration offering relief to millions of undocumented immigrants. His plan comes after the 113th Congress failed to pass immigration reform legislation, and in response to demands for action from communities, activists, and leaders President Obama took action himself. Key pieces of the executive action include:
President Obama’s action represents the most significant transformation of immigration policy in decades, however, there is still work to be done to fight for citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. The announcement does not address the many barriers to health care access for our communities. Undocumented immigrants eligible for relief programs will not be eligible to participate in the Affordable Care Act—meaning 5 million people will continue to be excluded from equal and affordable access to care.
Read NAPAWF’s press release on the Administration’s actions here. For more specific details about Obama’s plan, visit Adminrelief.org. Check out the resources we prepared, including a fact sheet and talking points, here.
In the weeks that have passed since the midterms, analysts and advocates have had a chance to look more closely at AAPI voter turnout and exit polling. In addition to reports of ongoing barriers to voting faced by AAPIs, largely due to discrimination and lack of language assistance, it was widely noted that AAPIs are the fastest growing ethnic group and swing vote in the country, with a full 40% of AAPIs not identifying with any particular party.
Early news coverage focused on exit polls that found that almost half of AAPIs voted Republican, a sharp contrast from 2012 when 73% of AAPIs voted for Democratic candidates. Many analysts point to the selective and disproportionately low AAPI voter turnout during midterm elections to explain the shift in numbers, however, a more nuanced analysis revealed that the AAPI sample size from these initial polls was only 304 out of 29,581. This means that AAPIs made up between 1.0% to 1.5% of those surveyed – even though AAPIs are estimated to only make up 3% of all voters. In fact, community-specific polling by Asian American Decisions found that 66% of AAPIs voted for Democratic candidates during the midterms. While AAD’s number suggests a more modest shift in AAPI voter preferences since the last elections, it also underscores the potential impact of AAPI influence in future ones.
The big headline of the November elections was the Senate shift in power to the GOP. However, the midterms also reflected a different turning of the tide—overwhelming voter support for initiatives that gave workers paid sick days and that boosted the minimum wage. Even states that have traditionally leaned Republican voted for the measures, which have long been associated with Democrats. Minimum wage increases were passed in Alaska; Arkansas; Nebraska; South Dakota; San Francisco, CA and Oakland, CA. Measures to implement or improve paid sick days were also passed in Massachusetts; Trenton, NJ; Montclair, NJ; and Oakland, CA. At the end of last year, only one state and 6 cities had required paid sick leave, but the total is now up to three states and 16 cities.
According to exit polling by Asian American Decisions, 74% of AAPIs support raising the minimum wage. The share of AAPI women at or below minimum wage more than doubled from 2007 to 2012. Moreover, in 2011, 12.3% of AAPI women—more than 1 million—lived in poverty, compared to 7.7%of white men.
On November 15, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) online health insurance marketplace reopened to allow millions of Americans to renew their current health insurance plan or to shop for, compare, and enroll in a new one.
Before implementation, approximately 15 percent, or 2.32 million, of Asian Americans and 18 percent of Pacific Islanders did not have access to health insurance—compared to 13 percent of whites. During last year’s open enrollment period, AAPIs accounted for 5.5 percent of all enrollees in the federally facilitated marketplace, more than the 5.1 percent of the total population that was uninsured in 2012.
During this enrollment period, depending on income, financial assistance is available to those who may need help affording coverage. Enrollment is open to U.S. citizens and lawfully present persons, but individuals who are ineligible for coverage may still apply on behalf of other family members without being required to disclose their citizenship or immigration status. Immigrants are encouraged to apply and their immigration information will only be used to verify eligibility.
The marketplace will remain open until February 15, 2015, but to ensure coverage on January 1, 2015, consumers must enroll by December 15, 2014. Enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, and for small businesses is open all year-round. For more information, including information about where to enroll, please visit HealthCare.gov. To find someone who can help you in person—including non-English language support, visit Localhelp.healthcare.gov.
In a surprise move, on November 7th, the Supreme Court decided to hear a new challenge to provisions of the ACA. This time, King v. Burwell asks the Court to consider the constitutionality of the federal tax subsidies that help eligible low income individuals and families afford a plan in health care exchanges. In creating these subsidies, Congress said that they were intended to be used in exchanges “established by the State.” Challengers to the ACA are asking the Court to interpret that language literally and hold that the law actually limits the availability of tax credits to state-run exchanges. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is arguing that reading that language in so limited a way as suggested by challengers would go against the program’s broader purpose and be contrary to Congress’s intent.
Since the health care exchanges have been in operation, nearly 5 million individuals have received federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance through the exchange run by the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that at least 80% of uninsured AAPIs are eligible for tax credits in the health insurance marketplace under the ACA
The last challenge to the ACA was decided by the Court in 2012 and called into question the constitutionality of the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion.
Last month, a federal appeals court struck down a 2006 Arizona law that denied bail to undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes. On November 12th, the Supreme Court issued a refusal to block the ruling, allowing undocumented immigrants to once again seek bail while awaiting trial for criminal charges. The Court’s decision does not guarantee bail—that decision will be made by individual judges—but clears the way for bail hearings for immigrants across the state. Arizona’s AAPI community is one of the fastest growing in the nation with a 95% increase between 2000 and 2010.
On November 3rd, the Supreme Court refused to hear two abortion-rights cases, letting stand the lower court rulings for each case.
The first case affirmed a New York City law requiring truth-in-advertising for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Passed in 2011, the law requires CPCs to disclose to patients whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff and whether they provide referrals for abortions, emergency contraception, or prenatal care, and to provide a message that the New York City Department of Health encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed provider. A lower court previously had struck down the law, but a federal court of appeal reinstated the disclosure regarding whether a licensed medical provider is on staff.
The Supreme Court also refused to take up a challenge to Colorado’s buffer zone law, which makes it a crime to “knowingly obstruct, detain, hinder, impede, or block another person’s entry to or exit from a health care facility.” The complaint in that case argued that Colorado’s law was unconstitutionally vague and too broad, but a federal appeals court disagreed.
This month, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages in Kansas and South Carolina to proceed after declining to intervene in cases where lower court judges had ruled each respective state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, in Montana, same-sex marriage advocates scored another victory when another ban was struck down by a federal court judge.
Despite this progress, however, November also brought sobering news in the form of a federal appeals court decision upholding bans on same-sex marriage in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. Dismissing the equal protection rationale relied upon by the lower courts to overturn bans in the four states at issue, the appeals court ruled that same-sex marriage was an issue that should be left to the democratic process.
The merits of these cases will continue on appeal, but until then, these decisions bring the number of states allowing same-sex couples to marry up to 35.
On November 6th, the White House announced the creation of a new Interagency Initiative on Hate Crimes to address prevention and effective responses to hate crimes. Launched to commemorate the five year anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Initiative will be coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council and was launched along with several other actions to strengthen and improve the federal government’s ability to prevent and respond to hate crimes.
This month, the White House also launched the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, a joint project of the White House Initiative on AAPIs (WHIAAPI), the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 25% of all students—nearly 7 million in total—between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school during the 2010-11 school year, with some areas reporting significant rates of bullying of AAPI students. For example, on study found that over two-thirds of turbaned Sikh youth in Fresno, California reported experiencing bullying and harassment.
The Task Force will bring together federal experts in civil rights, language access, education, community relations, public health, mental health, and data. This task force will help federal agencies better understand the impediments to seeking relief and support, analyze data regarding the prevalence of bullying in the AAPI community. Consequently, this will help improve outreach, develop training and toolkits for schools, students, and parents. The Task Force will also make policy recommendations to address the AAPI community’s growing concerns about bullying of AAPI Youth.]]>
For Immediate Release
November 25, 2014
Contact: Lyndsay Christian, email@example.com / 212.255.2575
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum stands with Michael Brown’s family and the community of Ferguson
WASHINGTON — In response to the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting, Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), released the following statement:
“We are profoundly saddened and outraged by the St. Louis County grand jury’s decision. The failure to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, is a national travesty. As an organization that builds a movement daily to advance social justice, this is an extremely painful moment to bear, as justice was not served.
“As an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women’s organization that works relentlessly to dismantle the systemic layers of racism, discrimination, and injustice that AAPI women face on a constant basis, this decision feels like a big slap across our face. We cannot allow and will not permit this system built on fear to be a deterrent to us in this fight for justice. NAPAWF stands in solidarity with those in the street demanding accountability and justice for Ferguson and the African-American community.
“We strongly urge the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate racial profiling, police brutality, excessive force, and officer-involved shooting policies and practices in the Ferguson Police Department. As a community, we cannot heal until justice is served, and we are going to continue demanding for answers and hold our leaders accountable.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only national, multiissue Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women’s organization in the country. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for AAPI women and girls.]]>
The White House held its breath as Affordable Care Act open enrollment began for a second time last week. In addition to the prospect of reliving the website malfunctions that occurred when the ACA began, the number of people who take advantage of the ACA this time around is projected to be low. Based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calculations, 9.1 million people are expected to enroll by the end of the enrollment period in February. That is just 1.8 million more than the number enrolled in August.
Given this mediocre prediction, there has been much talk among government officials and healthcare advocates about how to have the best, most robust outreach possible. But these conversations most often ignore the people locked out of healthcare because of their immigration status.
The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as many call it, is rightfully seen as President Obama’s most pivotal achievement. Even his detractors support some of the act’s provisions. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 10 million people have gained access to health insurance since it first began. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people based on a preexisting condition or charge more because of gender, and they are now required to cover prevention and wellness benefits at no charge.
Making health a national priority by ensuring as many people as possible are covered is immensely important for obvious reasons — anyone could get hurt or sick at any time. No person should live in fear that one accident or illness could threaten an entire family’s economic security.
However, there are millions of people living and working in the United States who are unable to access the important benefits made available by the ACA. It has been reported that 112,000 people lost their ACA coverage this year because they did not verify their eligibility based on citizenship and immigration status. Moreover, there are more than 11 million people living in the United States who are ineligible for the ACA at the national level simply due to their immigration status.
More than 550,000 of them are young people, often called “Dreamers,” who came to the United States as children and are, at present, lawfully residing here. These Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients, who have been given reprieve from deportation, were explicitly carved out of the ACA through announcements made by CMS and HHS on Aug. 28, 2012, issued as federal regulations and guidance. The announcement altered federal rules for DACA-eligible people by excluding them from health insurance options available to others with deferred action status.
Immigrants work, pay taxes, and contribute to our communities and our economy. They should have the same responsibilities and opportunity to participate in health care as their friends and neighbors. Further, it’s better and more affordable for all of us when immigrants can participate in the health care system their tax dollars support. Affordable health coverage improves access to preventive care, protects public health, prevents suffering, and puts less strain on under-resourced and costly emergency services. The impact of the large number of uninsured on our economy is huge. It results in a loss of $65 billion to $130 billion annually, consisting of lost wages, absenteeism, and family leave.
Offering DACA recipients the same opportunity for affordable health insurance as people in other deferred action categories would be a strong step toward ending the staggering numbers of uninsured immigrants across the country. This is something the Obama administration can and should take action on immediately for the hundreds of thousands of young people in this program, and a step that would benefit the country as well.
Of course, the number of uninsured would decrease dramatically if everyone, regardless of immigration status, had the opportunity to receive health coverage under the ACA. Everyone needs health care at some point and everyone should pay a fair share.
At this moment, as we await the president’s executive order on immigration reform and begin the second ACA enrollment, this one adjustment would make sure we at least cover the 550,000 young people who have been left out.]]>
For Immediate Release
November 21, 2014 – amended 3:41pm
Contact: Lyndsay Christian, Lyndsay@caminopr.com / 212.255.2575
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum supports the Obama administration’s actions to provide relief to immigrant families
Asian American and Pacific Islander Women to come out of the shadows
WASHINGTON — In response to President Barack Obama’s immigration announcement, Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), released the following statement:
“The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) joins with immigrant women around the country to celebrate President Barack Obama’s leadership in taking the critical first step to reform the broken immigration system. These reforms include granting relief from deportation and work authorization to over 4 million members of our country’s undocumented community, reforming immigration enforcement practices and dismantling the Secure Communities program, increasing protections for victims of workplace abuse, and indicating an intent to address the backlogs in the family immigration system. Over hundreds of thousands of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women will be able to breathe a sigh of relief today.
“There is no doubt that history was made today — thanks in large part to immigrant women who came out of the shadows and have been fearless advocates for change. Over 75 percent of undocumented immigrants are women and children. Women bear the burden of trying to raise their families while working and living under the constant fear of deportation. The president’s actions bring hope to immigrants across the United States and throughout the world.
“The president heard our calls to enhance protections for survivors of violence against women. We know that AAPI women disproportionately experience intimate partner violence and many come to America seeking refuge from abuse. By ending Secure Communities and by strengthening the visa systems for trafficking and domestic violence survivors, the president did right by our survivors.”
“The victory today also reflects the dedication of many individuals, especially those that have been organizing for decades, courageous undocumented folks of many who were AAPI coming out and stepping up, and allies from all walks of life who understand that immigration reform is a human rights issue. And I’m proud of all the work that NAPAWF has done to get us to this place.
“However, we continue to be disappointed that the many barriers to health care access for our communities remain. Undocumented immigrants eligible for relief programs will not be eligible to participate in the Affordable Care Act — meaning 5 million people will continue to be excluded. Asian Americans already experience barriers to accessing health care, and this only adds to the hardship our communities continue to face.
“NAPAWF is committed in this fight, and we will keep organizing for broad and permanent immigration reform to ensure that all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants — mothers, fathers, and children living, working and contributing to our communities — are able to raise their families without fear. Behind all the statistics are the lived experiences of millions of women suffering under a broken and defective immigration system. Over half, 52.9 percent, of Asian immigrants are women. AAPI women cannot be left out of the conversations about immigration, because immigrant justice is a women’s issue and is central to all women’s equality.
Now is the time for Congress to take President Obama’s lead to ensure that no family is left behind.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only national, multi-issue Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women’s organization in the country. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for AAPI women and girls.]]>
Published in the Minnesota Women’s Press
by May Esperanza Losloso
Immigration has always been an important subject for me. As a 1.5 generation Filipino-American, I have memories of growing up in the Philippines with my mom while my dad lived in the United States. For years, I didn’t understand why my parents were separated by an ocean. I didn’t know why it took nine years for us to be together as a family under one roof.
Fast forward to the immigration debates in the last few years. It has been largely focused on Latinos, but where were the stories of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs)? Out of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, 1.3 million are AAPIs. Currently, 1.6 million are in the visa backlogs that have families waiting over 20 years to be reunited. Although AAPIs are nearly invisible in the media coverage on immigration, my family’s immigration story is not unique to the AAPI community.
As director of programming for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) Twin Cities Chapter, I knew I wanted to take action on this issue.
Fasting for families
In December 2013, NAPAWF organized the Fast for Families, where members volunteered to fast for one day during the month. It was more challenging than I thought it would be. I signed up right around the Christmas holidays, and it took a tremendous amount of willpower to get through that day. I thought about why I was fasting, which helped me stay grounded. I wanted to fast in solidarity with all the families who are being separated by our outdated immigration policies. It’s something I knew from personal experience.
In March, NAPAWF launched another Fast for Families campaign. This time, instead of 30 women, more than 1,500 women in 36 states across the United States, in Washington, D.C., and in Mexico City fasted with the We Belong Together campaign. This action culminated in a two-day fast on Capitol Hill, where 100 women fed courage to our elected officials to stop deportations and pass immigration reform.
I participated in that important fast, along with two other leaders from the NAPAWF Twin Cities Chapter. Although we were physically in Minnesota, I definitely felt a connection to the others who were fasting all over the country. I remained informed about how the efforts were going on Capitol Hill; it was uplifting to see photos of members of Congress visiting the women doing the two-day fast at their tent across from the Hill.
Keep the pressure on
Fast for Families amplified our message to stop tearing families apart, but we are still waiting for action from our elected officials. President Obama made promises and I trusted him to follow through with comprehensive immigration reform while he was in office. His inaction has deeply disappointed me as a citizen, as an immigrant and as a woman of color.
It also keeps me motivated to keep working with community organizations such as NAPAWF to make sure our AAPI voices are heard and recognized. Asian-Americans make up 27.7 percent of our country’s immigrant population and over half of us are women. We are critical decision-makers in our families and we were part of a deciding vote in the last presidential election.
As AAPI women, our voices matter, and I remain hungry for comprehensive immigration reform.
May Esperanza Losloso is the director of programming for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) Twin Cities Chapter.]]>