LEADING Asian American law and civil rights organizations will offer pro bono legal services and resources for victims of anti-Asian hate.
The Alliance for Asian American Justice (The Alliance) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) announced their services amid the rise in incidents since the start of the pandemic.
The Alliance will launch the national pro bono legal initiative by providing legal consultations, advice and representation in multiple Asian languages, primarily Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai.
Advancing Justice – LA will provide monthly clinics and workshops on housing, citizenship, and immigration rights and free bystander intervention training.
“I have spoken to community members who are scared to leave the house, to go on their walks, to go to the grocery store,” Connie Chung Joe, chief executive officer of Advancing Justice – LA, said in a press conference on Tuesday, May 18. “Asian Americans are more afraid of the hate against them than the pandemic.”
Joe said the organization received multiple reports from Asian immigrants whose families have been assaulted over the past few months and their issues with receiving appropriate assistance due to language and cultural barriers. Interpreter services have been proven to significantly improve services for non-English speakers, but some public service organizations such as the DMV which tried to eliminate 25 language options from drivers license tests. Lack of language access prevents non-English speakers from not only educating themselves on policy and law, but also from reporting incidents, according to Joe.
Buena Park Mayor Pro Tem Sunny Park also highlighted the importance of language accessibility in services for those with limited English proficiency, particularly with education awareness. Hospitals are a place where interpreters are critical, as those with limited English proficiency struggle to understand medical jargon and instructions that are not in their first language.
“We have victims who have to face medical and legal procedures on their own,” Park said.
Some partners of the initiative will also provide financial support in addition to pro bono legal resources, such as DLA Piper. The financial support will be provided to the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) who are two of the organizations who will directly provide the legal services to victims.
In order to see to know the steps that are to be taken if someone has been a victim of an anti-Asian hate crime and would like to seek pro bono legal counsel, NAPABA has a page of resources on what to do and how to report a hate crime to the organization. Advancing Justice-LA has a page to report a hate incident or hate crime and a calendar page of training webinars on topics such as bystander intervention, conflict de-escalation, and how to respond to harassment.
Underreporting of anti-Asian hate incidents and hate crimes hinders public and law officials from seeing the scale of the problem, according to The Alliance Board Member Brian Sun.
“You have to speak up. Because if you don’t speak up, we can’t do anything about it.”
Officials behind the initiative are aware it will not solve the problem if AAPI hate, but are invested in providing assistance where they can.
“This is not a nine to five kind of work,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas said at the press conference. “It not only affects the Asian American community, but each and every one of us.”
Those of Asian descent have been discriminated against for centuries, with the first recorded act of xenophobia in American history being The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, a 10-year prohibition on Chinese labor immigration. Asian Americans have also always been conditioned as “perpetually foreign,” causing them to be seen as threats to the country.
“It’s not going to take overnight, but we will get through it,” Sun said. (Caroline Giovanie/AJPress)