Kal Penn: The administration’s latest actions on immigration

From an email today by Kal Penn and Organizing for Action:

The White House just issued a new version of their earlier travel ban targeting Muslims and refugees. Remember the one that was halted by the courts because it’s almost certainly unconstitutional? Well today, they released an executive order that’s essentially the same dangerous, discriminatory ban as the first one.

The senior policy adviser who helped write the original executive order even said so himself — he promised last week the new ban would have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first one, with only “minor technical differences.”

First, let’s be clear: These bans make our country less safe, not more so. No refugee since 9/11 — when we implemented a new vetting system — has been convicted of domestic terrorism. Neither has any immigrant from the countries that the ban targets. The problems with the first travel ban were neither minor nor technical — the problem was that it fundamentally violated everything we stand for.

That’s exactly what I was thinking when I received a text message from my buddy whose friend’s father had just been turned away from boarding a flight to L.A. because of his Iraqi background. He was traveling to visit his son, a refugee. Unfortunately, my friend’s story was not an isolated incident; it was precisely what our president promised. The thing is, this doesn’t represent who we are.

We all love our incredible country. The opportunities we’ve had as the sons and daughters of immigrants speak to just how great America is. In the days and weeks following the new administration’s un-American executive order, millions of people rallied around the country to turn something awful into something positive. We got together, created fundraisers, offered legal and translation services to refugees, immigrants, and visitors who were stuck in detention limbo, and really showed the world some of the best of who we are. These too, were not isolated incidents. Faith groups got together with each other, student groups rallied, people donated small amounts here and there to crowd-fund massive donations. All of this reaffirmed everything we believe about who we really are as a people. Something special was happening.

We don’t slam the door shut on people because of where they were born or how they worship. We stand up for each other. We want to help.

These bans, walls, and discriminatory, predatory policies are going to require a bigger, more organized response if we hope for a better path forward. We’re going to have to commit ourselves to the effort. But if these first experiences are anything to go by, I know we’re up for it.

OFA is building the fight to protect our core values and our vulnerable communities. If you’re like me and you think the administration’s new version of this ban is yet another kind of unacceptable, then let’s not accept it — join me in this fight.



Kal Penn

As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, We Will Resist

Asian Pacific Americans for Progress is proud to join more than 100 AAPI organizations in a statement authored by the the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.

We stand at a critical juncture in world history. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States represents a direct threat to millions of people’s safety and to the health of the planet. As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) committed to equality, inclusion, and justice, we pledge to resist any efforts by President-Elect Trump’s administration to target and exploit communities, to strip people of their fundamental rights and access to essential services, and to use rhetoric and policies that divide the American people and endanger the world.

Mr. Trump’s campaign used explicit racial appeals to win the support of disaffected white voters, promising to restore their economic and social standing by deporting millions of immigrants, building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, creating a Muslim registry, banning Muslim immigration, and punishing Black dissent. He also engaged in deeply misogynistic language and behavior throughout his campaign. He insulted all people of color; people with disabilities; and women – all of whom amount to the majority of America. In the global arena, he has signaled at a new nuclear arms race, promised to expand the use of torture, and disparaged the United Nations.

Since his election, Mr. Trump has chosen known white nationalists, corporate moguls, religious zealots, climate deniers, hawkish ex-generals, anti-Islam spokespersons, and anti-government crusaders to serve in his Administration. Right-wing extremists now dominate his party, which will control all three branches of the federal government and the majority of state legislatures, and are positioned to jeopardize the future of the Supreme Court for the next generation and beyond. Together this new realignment of forces seeks to turn back the clock on civil rights and environmental protections, to maximize corporate profits by privatizing the public sector, and to create a racially and culturally exclusive America.

This is not business as usual, and we will not engage in business-as-usual tactics and strategies.

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Advancing Justice Applauds Dismantling of Special Registration, Urges Continued Vigilance on ‘Muslim Registry’

Asian Americans Advancing Justice today relayed a U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcement that it will publish a regulation to rescind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice applauds advocates and the Administration for taking this critical step to protect Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities who President-elect Trump has vowed to place on a “registry” based on the false and biased assumption that people of a particular religion or nationality pose a greater national security risk and should be subject to racial and religious profiling.

Enacted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush-era program called NSEERS has been roundly criticized, even by internal federal government watchdogs, as being ineffective as an anti-terrorism tool.

As a result of NSEERS, over 83,000 boys and men who held non-immigrant visas from 25 Muslim-majority countries were required to register and 13,000 were placed into removal proceedings.  Yet not a single known terrorist conviction resulted from this blanket policy, which detained immigrants, tore families apart, and cut short educational opportunities.

Among the advocacy efforts in support of the NSEERS rescission was a letter to President Obama signed on November 22, 2016 by nearly 200 human rights, civil liberties, education, social justice, and inter-faith organizations; a letter by Members of Congress on the same topic and a petition by DRUM and Moveon.org with over 135,000 signatures.

“The NSEERS program has been rightly compared by both supporters and opponents to the racially hostile Executive Order 9066, which led to Japanese American internment during World War II, where innocent people including mostly U.S citizens were incarcerated solely on the basis of their national origin,” said Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

“We are encouraged that the Obama administration exercised leadership in taking steps to prevent this dark period of our history from repeating, and we will take the baton and do the same in the coming days.”

“We stand ready to oppose any policies that target or profile AMEMSA communities, which the new Administration may put in place of NSEERS. Regardless of how such policies are packaged, their discriminatory anti-Muslim intent has been well-established by the President-elect’s campaign rhetoric, that was intended to undermine our bedrock Constitutional commitment to religious pluralism and divide us as a nation,” said Elica Vafaie, Staff Attorney for National Security and Civil Rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – ALC.

“The strong and effective advocacy efforts of AMEMSA communities, civil rights organizations and our allies in the past month illustrates how much stronger and more organized we are today than we were 14 years ago when NSEERS was initiated,” said Megan Essaheb, Assistant Director of Immigration and Immigrants’ Rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC.

Advancing Justice AAJC and APIAVote Provide In-Language Hotline for Asian American Voters


The 2016 election season is coming down to the wire on both national and local elections.  Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC (Advancing Justice | AAJC) and Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), two organizations that are committed to the cause of voter protection and education, are hosting an in-language hotline for Asian American voters.

From now until Election Day on November 8th, volunteers will be available in eight languages – English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, and Tagalog – to help those with questions about voting, how to find a polling place, or to learn about any ID requirements.

Voters can seek answers to their questions through the Advancing Justice | AAJC and APIAVote hotline, 1-888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683). Learn more at http://www.apiavote.org/hotline.

“Every eligible voter in the United States should be able to cast a ballot and participate in our democracy,” said Mee Moua, executive director and president of Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Ensuring that all voters know their rights at the polls is critical to their participation this November. As Asian Americans continue to grow in population, and turn out to vote, we must do everything we can to support their participation and make visible their political impact.”

Although officials in numerous states have proposed measures that would increase the efficiency and inclusiveness of voting procedures, introducing measures such as automatic voter registration, others have regressed in the voting process. New voting restrictions in 14 states have had a significant impact on minority voters. Courts have successfully struck down some of these regulations, but the threat to equal access to the ballot box remains.

Given that this year’s election will be the first without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, it’s essential that voters who have historically faced discrimination at the polls can fulfill their civic duty with in-language assistance or help at the polls and without fear of intimidation.

“As we head into to the first presidential election since 1965 without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, the 888-API-VOTE hotline is even more critical to protect and serve our electorate,” said Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). “This election hotline not only provides AAPI voters essential in-language assistance, but it also ensures that all voters, regardless of proficiency in English, will have equitable access to the ballot box.”

APIAVote has also launched in-language resources, including in-language voting information online in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese and other resources. Five voting rights videos have been also created in these languages, as well as English to highlight various scenarios voters may face at the polls—and their rights in these situations.

Based on polling information the groups cited that turnout of limited English proficient voters in 2012 was 9 percent lower than English proficient voters.  Asian Americans can face a number of barriers contributing to lower levels of civic engagement in our community.  These challenges include lack of access to voter resources, discriminatory voting laws and practices, language barriers, and unfamiliarity with the voting process and political candidates.

The groups’ voter education and protection efforts across the country are helping to amplify this hotline and to ensure equity for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at the ballot box.

130+ AAPI Groups Demand More Following Fox News Racist Segment

Representatives of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations met with Fox News executives today to present a community letter signed by 134 national, state and local AAPI organizations and allies, as well as a petition with nearly 24,000 signatures, in response to the racist “Watters World: Chinatown Edition” segment that aired on The O’Reilly Factor earlier this month.

The 134 organizations expressed their continued outrage over the perpetuation of racist stereotypes and pushed for more representation of AAPIs in Fox News coverage. The letter asks for a written apology, a commitment to diversity and sensitivity training, and news programming that will educate viewers on the AAPI electorate. Additionally, it urges Fox News to increase its number of AAPI guests and for Fox News senior executives to continue this important dialogue through regular meetings with AAPI leaders.

“We are pleased to have had the opportunity to present our letter directly to Fox News executives in a productive meeting today,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “The outpouring of support for this call to action–from across the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including many student organizations, and beyond–is a powerful demonstration of the widespread outrage and hurt this racist segment has caused.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with Fox News today,” said Karin Wang, Vice-President of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.  “The segment clearly struck a nerve with Asian Americans of all ethnic backgrounds and reached far beyond New York City.  We have conveyed this widespread and national anger and frustration to Fox News executives and we look forward to their response.”

“Many Asian Americans and our allies were hurt and angered by Watters’ segment,” said Jenn Fang of Reappropriate. “It was deeply humbling to be able to provide a platform by which those thousands–perhaps even millions–of voices could directly reach representatives of Fox News. I sincerely hope that today’s events lay the groundwork for a fruitful and lasting conversation between Fox News and the AAPI community on issues of inclusion and diversity.”

Read the letter here.

Today’s meeting was facilitated by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and hosted by the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). New York Assemblymember Ron Kim (District 40) and representatives from OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates and its New York chapter also attended.

Disney Supports Asian and Pacific Islander Young Leaders with $500,000 Scholarship Commitment

The Walt Disney Company this week made a $500,000 commitment to establish a new scholarship program with the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) in support of high-achieving Asian and Pacific Islander college students.

The Walt Disney Company/APIASF Scholarship program will provide 150 scholarships over a three-year period and will be available to eligible students with Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity in the U.S. beginning fall 2017. This scholarship commitment is one part of Disney’s ongoing efforts to strengthen diverse communities and support higher education.

“Disney is proud to support young Asian and Pacific Islander leaders in achieving their dreams of a higher education,” said Paul Richardson, chief diversity officer, The Walt Disney Company. “By giving these promising students the resources and tools they need to earn a college degree, we enable them to create a better, brighter future for us all.”

Auli‘i Cravalho, the Native Hawaiian star of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana, and the film’s producer Osnat Shurer announced the scholarship program at APIASF’s gala on Oct.20, along with APIASF President and Executive Director Neil Horikoshi.

“Speaking on behalf of Auli‘i and all of us at Disney Animation, we are extremely honored to be part of this important scholarship commitment,” Shurer said. “We thank APIASF for their extraordinary work and Disney for its support of these initiatives.”

“The Walt Disney Company’s generous support will make a significant difference for some of the nation’s most underserved students,” Horikoshi said. “With many Asian American and Pacific Islander families facing financial barriers, The Walt Disney Company/APIASF Scholarship has the potential to be life-changing for students.”

In addition to the scholarships, Disney’s commitment will support the fund’s SMART program, which will provide students with mentoring and access to training and resources.

The Walt Disney Company/APIASF Scholarship will be available for the 2017-2018 school year. In order to be eligible, applicants must:

  • Be of Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity, as defined by the U.S. Census;
  • Be a citizen, national or legal permanent resident of the United States (citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau are also eligible to apply);
  • Be enrolling in a U.S.-accredited college or university as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student in the 2017-2018 academic year;
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7 on a 4.0 scale (unweighted) or have earned a GED; and
  • Apply for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 1, 2017.

Based in Washington, D.C., APIASF is the nation’s largest non-profit organization devoted to providing college scholarships for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). For details about APIASF and the new scholarship, visit APIASF’s website at www.apiasf.org.

Hate Crime Charges Filed in Brutal Assault on Sikh Man

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office today filed hate crime charges against the attackers of Sikh American, Mr. Maan Singh Khalsa. Mr. Khalsa was brutally assaulted and his Sikh articles of faith were violently desecrated on September 25, 2016.

“The assailants violently targeted my Sikh faith. I am thankful to the Richmond Police Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson for taking the right legal action in charging my attackers with hate crimes,” said Mr. Khalsa. “The charges are the first step to addressing violence and bigotry, which plague communities across the United States.”

Mr. Khalsa, a father, IT specialist and caregiver for the elderly, was driving on the night of September 25th when a man in a truck threw a beer can at his car wholly unprovoked. At an intersection further up the road, the assailants got out of the truck and assaulted Mr. Khalsa through his open car window, knocking off his Sikh turban and hitting his face repeatedly. They shouted, “Cut his fu***g hair,” pulled his head out of the window, and cut a fistful of his religiously-mandated unshorn hair with a knife. Mr. Khalsa sustained injuries to his fingers, hands, eye and teeth.

“I trusted the District Attorney’s office to do the right thing and they came through,” said Richmond Mayor, Tom Butt. “We do not condone this in Richmond and we don’t condone it in America.”

Prior to the charges, the Sikh Coalition, community leaders, and a coalition of civil rights organizations, advocated vigorously on behalf of Mr. Khalsa, urging for a hate crime investigation and prosecution.

In the 15 years that have followed 9/11, Sikhs remain hundreds of times more likely to be targeted in cases of profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American. Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world, has been an integral part of the American fabric for over 125 years.

“These hate crime charges ensure that the bias-based nature of the assault on Mr. Khalsa will be addressed during the prosecution,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “The purpose of prosecuting bias-motivated assaults as hate crimes is not to impose harsher penalties. Instead, the purpose is to mitigate hatred in our society and ensure that we are all free to safely pursue the American dream regardless of our race, ethnicity, or religion.”

The Sikh Coalition has represented hate crime clients throughout the United States for the past 15 years and is representing Maan Singh Khalsa in this case. For all media inquires, please contact Jagmeet Singh or Mark Reading-Smith, who can provide more info, send photos and facilitate interviews. Mr. Khalsa is not available for interviews, but Jagmeet or Mark can facilitate interviews with legal counsel and/or a member of the local Sikh community.

Source: Sikh Coalition

Judge Denny Chin to help Hawai’i law school students reenact trial of Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee

U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin, based in New York City, will guest lecture at the UH Law School on Tuesday, October 18, and will help student actors perform a reenactment based on trials after resistance by Heart Mountain internees.  Judge Chin and his wife, attorney Kathy Hirata Chin, created the reenactment based on trial transcripts.

In addition to teaching and speaking at a faculty workshop, Judge Chin will lead a public presentation about the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, one of 10 concentration camps used to intern Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Heart Mountain is known for the active resistance offered by many of the young men incarcerated there, protesting loss of their civil rights. The short performance, featuring law student actors, will be free and open to the public in Classroom 2 at the Law School at 2515 Dole Street beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Judge Chin and Hirata Chin have been deeply involved in research about the camp, and co-wrote a script that reenacts two of the trials of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. The committee was a group of young resisters who challenged the draft of young Nisei men, and who argued that they would not follow draft orders until the rights of internees were reinstated.

Today Heart Mountain is the internment camp with the most structures still intact.  It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

Judge Chin is well known as the trial judge who, in 2009, sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison for the Ponzi scheme that impoverished investors who had entrusted Madoff with their life savings. In sentencing Madoff, Judge Chin said, “The message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil.”  He added that they had taken “a staggering human toll” and there was a need for “retribution.”

Dean Avi Soifer called Judge Chin’s visit an important event for the Law School, in particular because of its deep involvement in addressing and healing civil rights abuses.

Said Soifer, “It is hardly surprising that there is so much interest among our students and staff in these very important matters, in addition to the scholarly focus of a number of our faculty members.”

Professor Eric Yamamoto, the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice, for example, has spent a scholarly lifetime researching, and writing and lecturing about, civil injustice, including the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans by their own government.  Yamamoto helped challenge the imprisonment of Fred Korematsu for defying the order to report for incarceration, winning a decisive victory in the 1980s that helped set the stage for reparations for those interned and their descendants, and a formal apology from the American government.

During their visit, Judge Chin and Hirata Chin will also meet with Law School faculty members as well as federal judges and members of the Federal Bar Association.

Judge Chin graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude in 1975, and earned his JD from Fordham Law School in 1978. Judge Chin is the only Asian American who serves as a currently active judge in the federal appellate court system. In 1994, he was the first Asian American appointed as a U.S. District Judge outside the Ninth Circuit. Hirata Chin is a leading corporate lawyer in New York City who also has led and served on multiple public interest task forces and committees.

Source: University of Hawai’i press release

Photo: Densho Digital Repository