In our AP(eye) on the Hill newsletter, we share recent events impacting Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) women and girls.
March on Washington
Saturday commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, famous for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech. Thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate this historic event, and to continue the fight for civil rights and social justice. NAPAWF and 30 other API organizations took part in the march, and NAPAWF sister and president of the Asians Advancing Justice Center (AACJ), Mee Moua, addressed the crowd about the struggles of APIs.
BeiBei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant living in Indiana, is finally free after two and a half years spent battling unjust charges of feticide and murder for attempting suicide while she was pregnant. During Shuai’s pregnancy, she ingested rat poison. She was rushed to the hospital by friends and survived, but the fetus she was carrying did not. Since then, Indiana has relentlessly pursued criminal and murder charges against Shuai. NAPAWF has spoken out against these charges and reproductive justice advocates have worked tirelessly to support BeiBei and fight laws that criminalize pregnant women.
Unfortunately, Congress went to recess early this month without passing an immigration policy reform bill. As a co-lead of the We Belong Together (WBT) campaign, which mobilizes women in support of commonsense immigration reform, NAPAWF is conducting “House United” activities this month, designed to push the House of Representatives to take action on immigration reform that treats women fairly. To take part, you can share our online Oath for a House United, helping us gather online commitments to fight for immigration reform that treats women fairly; hold echo events in solidarity in your communities; or lift up our policy priorities for immigration reform at local townhalls. You can find our echo event toolkit here. The login is any email address, and the password is “2together.”
At one of our August recess townhall actions, Josie, an 11 year old girl, confronted Tennessee Rep. Scott Desjarlais about her undocumented father. The Representative’s defensive response was caught on video which went viral and has 50,000 hits!
On Aug. 19, Attorney General Eric Holder called for “sweeping, systemic changes” to the American judicial system that will deliver justice to people like Lundy Khoy, a Cambodian refugee who is being deported to a country she has never seen because of a small drug offense.
Because the current system automatically imposes excessive sentences that are disproportionate to crimes committed, Holder recommended that judges should have more discretion to consider individual circumstances of cases. Under current immigration laws, judges often have no power to stop mandatory deportations and must automatically rubberstamp their exile from the U.S. without considering individual circumstances.
Lundy Khoy was born in a Thai refugee camp after her parents fled the genocide in Cambodia. When she was one year old, she and her family came to the U.S. as refugees. In 2000, when Lundy was in college, she was stopped by a police officer and asked if she had any drugs. She truthfully told the officer that she had tabs of ecstasy. Lundy served three months and was released for good behavior.
However, she was turned over to immigration authorities by the probation department at a regular check-in. She was then taken into immigration detention where she was imprisoned for almost nine months. Now, because she has an “aggravated felony” under immigration laws, the federal government is recommending her immediate and automatic deportation to Cambodia, where she knows no one.
On August 12, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will protect the rights of transgender students, a move many LGBTQ activists hope will spur the passage of similar legislation in other states across the nation. AB 1266 requires “that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.” 58% of API transgender and gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide due to discrimination.
Sixteen to twenty thousand rape-evidence kits that have sat untested for years in Texas, the state with the third largest API population in the country, will finally be analyzed to verify the testimony of rape victims. Senate Bill 1636, filed by Senator Wendy Davis, requires that testing be done and that the results be kept and compared with DNA information in state custody. The state estimates that at least half the kits will yield evidence that could be used to solve crimes.
On a grimmer note, Texas women are getting significantly less health care services through the state’s Women’s Health Program thanks to a successful push to defund Planned Parenthood. After a year-long quest, led by Rick Perry’s anti-Planned Parenthood vendetta, Texas officials managed to block off federal funding for the Women’s Health Program and close many of the state’s reproductive health clinics. As many as 200,000 low-income women in Texas have already lost or are expected to lose access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other critical preventative care due to the cuts.
A federal judge has ruled that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, home to the highest percentage of APIs of any city outside of Asia.
In the class-action case filed in 2004 by four minority men, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the NYPD had “adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling” that targeted young minority men for stops. The plaintiffs argued that stop-and-frisk resulted in the NYPD systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.
Stop-and-frisks have increased dramatically under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration to an all-time high in 2011 of nearly 700,000 recorded stops. Of these stops, 88 percent were Black and Hispanic men. Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest. This is an issue of concern for the API community in New York, especially since the rise in racial profiling of South Asian and Muslim communities post-9/11.
On a related note, after actor and former Associate Director at the White House’s Office of Public Engagement Kal Penn tweeted his support of stop-and-frisk, the South Asian advocacy community was up in arms and issued this statement to keep him accountable.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has become increasingly unpopular as he and the North Carolina legislature have passed a slew of bills that significantly harm women and people of color. While McCrory had initially promised not to sign any abortion-related legislation during his campaign, he signed SB 353, an omnibus anti-choice bill, on July 30th.
The bill includes a sex-selective abortion ban, a deceptive measure that exploits stereotypes about API women to deny us adequate health care. It also restricts access to medication-based abortions, bans insurance coverage of the procedure, and will likely force all but one clinic in the state to close.
Then, in another drastic move, McCrory signed into law a measure that would require a host of new restrictive requirements for voting, including government-issued ID, shortening the period for early voting, and ending same-day voter registration. Unsurprisingly, this law comes only weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a vital section of the Voting Rights Act. The requirements in the North Carolina law severely disadvantage people of color, poor people, and students. North Carolina has the third fastest growing API population in the country.
As a result of North Carolina’s draconian measures, thousands of North Carolinia residents have come out to Raleigh every Monday in protests dubbed “Moral Mondays.” Over 930 people have been arrested at these protests, including a young API woman named Kaori Sueyoshi who wrote a blog post for NAPAWF about her experience. But instead of meeting with protesters, McCrory has added to his unpopularity by insultingly passing out cookies.