Community leaders issue call to action: Be more engaged
NEW YORK — More than 250 Asian American community leaders, students, advocates and activists gathered at the San Damiano Hall of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Manhattan to talk about the community’s needs and how the Trump administration policies will impact social services in the Asian community.
According to the Asian American Federation, a New York-based nonprofit organization, the Asian American community, like many immigrant communities, is faced with an uncertain and potentially threatened future under the Trump administration, which has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deport undocumented immigrants, and create a Muslim registry, to name a few. The Associated Press reported last week that President Trump is “mulling fate of young immigrants protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)”. Trump and Republican leaders are said to be working on a plan that will address the status of the 750,000 immigrants currently protected by the DACA program.
AAF gathered a panel made up of community leaders from various fields addressed topics that will impact the community and discussed ways in which social work students, activists, and community members can protect the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community. The panel was united in asking the community to elevate their level of civic engagement and go beyond participating in protests.
“We know that there will be White House policies that will directly impact our community and we need to be prepared. It is going to be a prolonged battle so we need all of you to engage, act thoughtfully and I am sure we will prevail,” said Marjorie Hsu, AAF’s board chair.
On January 25th, President Trump signed an executive order that stripped federal funding from sanctuary cities. Two days later, on January 27th, he signed another executive order that effectively blocked immigration from a number of Muslim-majority countries as well as refugee resettlement in the U.S. Under his latest order, the U.S. will no longer issue visas to people traveling from Muslim-majority countries or allow the admission of any refugees until further notice.
These measures have unleashed harsh criticism from a number of leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Mayor has vowed to protect all New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, promising that New York City will pursue legal action if the executive orders are enforced in a way that violates the civil liberties of New Yorkers. Similarly, the Governor has pledged to commit state resources to help and protect anyone detained at New York airports.
“President Trump’s latest measures are extreme and perpetuate a false, disproven narrative that tie undocumented immigrants, Muslims, and refugees to higher crime rates and terrorism,” AAF said in an earlier statement issued to the media. “Like all immigrant communities, pan-Asian New Yorkers will be impacted by these measures, which give wide latitude to immigration officials to target all undocumented immigrants and individuals from the seven Muslim-majority countries included in the order for detainment and deportation.”
Father Julian Jagudilla, director of The Migrant Center at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, a resource and referral center for newly arrived immigrants, welcomed the audience to the center and explained why they are involved, even as clergymen.
“We get involved in the conversation around immigration when human rights are compromised and because we believe that immigration is a human right,” Fr. Jagudilla said. “When a Filipino-American second grader was bullied by a classmate who yelled ‘Go back to your country!’ as a Filipino-American, I find that disturbing. We have a lot of work to do in the community and we can do it together in solidarity.”
“Asian Americans comprise almost 17% of the city’s entire population, yet despite our numbers, we are still invisible to many and I think that is one of our biggest challenges as a community. I see all those New York Times or CNN polls that say white, Latino, black and I always wait for them to say Asian, but there’s never any Asian,” lamented Jo-Ann Yoo, AAF’s executive director.
Beyond invisibility, Yoo also shared other challenges that the Asian American community faces, including language diversity, the model minority myth, some of the poorest New Yorkers come from the Asian community, fastest-growing yet poorest senior population and the community receiving only 1.4% of the city contract dollars despite the rising population.
Among the panelists were Noilyn Abesamis-Mendoza, director of policy at Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF) and Glenn Magpantay, executive director of National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).
During the campaign period, Trump said that among his first acts as president would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“If this were to move forward, it is going to impact a lot of people in our community. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 2.7 million New Yorkers stand to lose their health care coverage and there will be a tremendous financial impact where there’s $3.7 billion that could be lost,” Abesamis-Mendoza said.
Before the ACA was implemented, 1 out of 8 Asian Americans did not have health insurance. These were individuals who owned small businesses, folks who were working in industries such as domestic workers, cab drivers, restaurant workers, where insurance was not offered. ACA helped these individuals to get health insurance.
As the panel concluded, noted community leader Suki Terada-Ports stood up and challenged everyone in the room.
“This is just the start. I am so happy to see so many young ones here tonight. You are the new generation of activists and we should all turn it up way more,” she said. (Momar G. Visaya/AJPress)