May 1, 2016

Save the Date: June 15, 16th Annual Celebration

Editor’s Note: See our 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 & 2010 (alternate) and 2009 reception posts.

Marybelle Ang * Irene Bueno * Koustubh “K.J.” Bagchi * Richard Chen
Gautam Dutta * Caroline Fan * Tom Goldstein * Melissa Unemori Hampe * Bel Leong-Hong
Ken Inouye * Otto Lee * Mona Mohib * Howard Moon * Shekar Narasimhan
Monisha Santamaria * Paul Tiao * Yeni Wong

Invites you to
Our 16th annual celebration

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1301 K St NW
Washington, DC 20005
6:00 to 8:00 pm

Suggested Donations
Host: $2,000
Sponsor: $1,000
Friend: $500
Guest: $125 ($100 online by 5/13)
Non-Profit/Public Sector: $100 ($75 online by 5/13)
Student/Young Professional: $55 ($40 online by 5/13)

PAC Donations:
Platinum: $5,000 – GOLD: $4,000 – SILVER: $3,000

Donations go to the AAA-Fund to support its continuing efforts to unite and activate our community.

Buy tickets online or contact Lida Peterson at or 703-622-1381.

Paid for by AAA Fund. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Theresa Ma’s Campaign in Chicago

Editor’s Note: The below is a repost of Hyphen Magazine author Marianne Chan‘s article “Theresa Ma’s Campaign Makes History in Chicago“, the 10th in our collaboration with Hyphen Magazine and part of their excellent politics coverage. See past entries from this collaboration. Theresa Mah is a Democratic candidate for the Illinois House, 2nd District. We Tweeted and Facebooked it.

Theresa Mah (center) rallies with supporters in Chicago's Chinatown. Photo credit: Friends of Theresa Mah.

The night before the Illinois primaries, Theresa Mah’s staff is busy in her campaign office, preparing boxes, making phone calls, and clicking away at their keyboards. Meanwhile, Mah and I take a ride to Chinatown. She is on her way to speak at a family association spring banquet. Chinatown is in the district for which, if elected, Mah would serve as state representative, along with other nearby Chicago neighborhoods.

“This is very, very exciting because it’s a historic race,” says Mah, a sharply dressed woman in her mid-forties with a soft voice and a bright, easy smile. “There’s never been an Asian American in the Illinois State Legislature. So, there’s that. And then, the fact that there’s never been a campaign with so much participation from the Asian American community. Already, we’ve broken records.”

Mah’s campaign has already exceeded expectations, particularly in terms of the numbers of Chinese American voters who have turned out. In the past, only 500 of Chicago’s Chinese Americans voted in primary elections on average. This year, according to Mah’s campaign manager, approximately 1,100 came out for early voting alone.

We park on a side street in Chinatown, and at the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association Lunar New Year Festival, Mah is immediately greeted with hugs and handshakes from the guests. Loud upbeat music plays as one of her supporters, Ivy Lam, guides her around the room to shake hands and take selfies with potential voters. “In Chinatown, we have so many organizations — or associations,” Ivy explains, “And we are all coming out to support her.”

I ask a man sitting at one of the tables if he plans to vote for Mah on Tuesday, and he says that he does not live in her district, but that all of his friends in Chinatown support her. “I hope she can make it,” he says cheerfully. Finally, after taking photographs and shaking hands around the room, she stands at the podium and speaks to the crowd as the guests listen and subsequently applaud.

Mah grew up in San Francisco. She is a second-generation Asian American, a child of Chinese immigrants. She started her career as an Asian Studies professor working in Ohio and Illinois. Mah tells me that while teaching, she found that many Asian Americans didn’t know about their own history, so she enjoyed teaching them some of that history in her classes.

Mah explains: “I was inspired to become a historian and teach Asian American studies because I grew up with the story of my grandfather, who came to the United States in the ’20s as a paper son. He was separated from his family like a lot of immigrants at the time. They lived in all-male environments because usually the men came as immigrants. Being a paper son meant that he came in with papers that he purchased, and so he was technically here illegally, and the laws didn’t change until the 1940s and ’50s to allow them to become naturalized citizens.”

Mah’s immigrant background resonates with Chicago’s 2nd district, which contains a large population of Asian and Latino immigrants. She feels this helps her relate to not only Asian Americans, but to Latino Americans as well. “If I understand the experience of growing up with parents who were brand new immigrants or small business owners, had to translate for my mom when I was a kid, write my own notes to the teacher, that’s something that’s pretty universal in the immigrant experience, and a lot of my Latino supporters relate to that.”

While Mah has the support of Latino politicians and community members, there are some voters who feel differently. During a press conference in February, when Congressman Luis Gutierrez had planned to endorse Mah, the supporters of her opponent, Alex Acevedo, allegedly intimidated her Chinese supporters, shoving and using racial slurs. I asked her how this affected her campaign. “It really galvanized a lot of my supporters and caused a lot of community leaders to come out in support of me,” says Mah. “Congressman Gutierrez doubled down on his support and so did the alderman who were there to support me and endorse me that day. And in some ways I think that it helped to build more momentum in that moment in the campaign because it made them look really bad to resort to that kind of tactic.”

After teaching at the college level for fifteen years, Mah moved on to work for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), a community-based organization focused on empowerment for the migrant community. A year later, she came to Chinatown to work for a Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, and she fought to change the district boundaries to include the Chinese population in a single state representative district.

“The population was scattered among four different state rep districts, and they had no voting power,” Mah explains. “They could never hold an elected official accountable or threaten to vote them out or put any pressure on them because they were just a tiny portion of the constituency. So, I thought it was really important to work on this redistricting project.” Mah also worked to open a bigger library in Chinatown, and if elected, she tells me that one of her most basic goals is to give the Chinese American community a voice.

The following night, during the Illinois primaries, Theresa declared victory in the 2nd state representative district, beating her opponent Alex Acevedo by approximately 500 votes. Still, the night before, she told me that whether or not she ends up as the state representative of this district, she felt that her campaign already had a tremendous impact on the Chinese American community in Chicago.

She said it better herself: “We have a Chinese American — or Asian American — outreach effort that’s unparalleled. It’s never been done before. It’s never been seen before. To have folks who have an active hand in developing that and making it successful, that’s already historic…It means that we’ll have more participation in the future and more engagement. Whether I win or not, people are out there, and they’re going to do their thing, and it’s going to be a new day for the Asian American community.”

Should you be allowed to take a ballot selfie? Yes.

So in the era of all selfies all the time, a new issue of freedom of expression has arisen – should you be allowed to take a selfie in the voting booth?

The line of reasoning against is that the voting booth has always been sacrosanct and that voting is a very private act. And that no one should be able to manipulate someone for cash or other bribes to guarantee another’s vote. Or as the New Hampshire Secretary of State who is named in a lawsuit as opposing ballot selfies says:

 If voters are free to take photos, outsiders could also compel voters to take photos, Mr. Gardner said. Corrupt forces that would seek to buy votes could demand evidence that the bought votes were actually cast. By not allowing voters to record that proof, he said, no one would be foolish enough to try to manipulate anyone else’s vote. (NYT)

Our social media obsessed culture is so prevalent, people #Ferguson their bathroom duckfaces. Seriously not cool, folks.

But on the other hand, selfies are increasingly an important form of expression, and even validation. And plenty of people do choose to announce to the world who they plan to vote for, and for whom they cast a ballot. So it’s not substantially different to let people take voting booth selfies. Social media company Snapchat recently filed an amicus curaie in support of ballot selfies. It’s also possible that ballot selfies increase young voter turnout in much the way that studies show “I VOTED” stickers subliminally pressure peers and remind them to go vote.

Also, sometimes ballots have errors. Sometimes substantial errors, translations or not. It can be really helpful for people to bring it to popular attention. In this show me or it never happened world, pollsite selfies can serve as a means of correcting government error.

PS: I accidentally thought balut selfies further up. And why not?


I cannot vote in the 2016 Elections

Editor’s note: reprinted with permission by author from Medium post. – Caroline

By Tony Choi @tonykchoi

For those of you who don’t know me, I am undocumented.

But in an alternate universe, I am a registered voter in my home state of New Jersey, and I have until the 13th to change my party affiliation from “independent” to “Democratic.”

In that alternate universe, the DREAM Act would have passed in 2008 when it was first introduced. In that world, the Democrats would have made a reasonable argument and would have convinced enough Republicans to see that this was a humanitarian issue instead of using it as a hostage to try to win over Latino voters. I would have put in my volunteer hours (one of the provisions that were given up) to put myself on the pathway to citizenship.

I know that in that universe, I wouldn’t have held back my tears on a car ride to Michigan to hear that the DREAM Act failed in the lame vote sessions. I choked up but, I held my head up knowing that it failed by a margin of five votes necessary to prevent a Republican filibuster.

December 18, 2010 was a cold day in Washington, D.C. Undocumented but afraid, I changed my profile picture and repeatedly called Kay Hagan and Jim Bunning from my dorm room in Kentucky.

Our hopes for change were riding high. They had just passed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The numbers added up if all the Democrats sided together and if one or two Republicans voted with the Democrats.

The DREAM Act had passed the House, and it needed a filibuster-proof majority of sixty votes for it to become law.

One by one, ayes had it. We thought that this was a possibility! We had even turned three Republican senators to vote aye for our future.

Then like a blade, we ended up only with 55 ayes and 41 nays. The dream had died.

I still remember their names sometimes when I go to sleep at night. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Max Baucus of Montana. Jon Tester of Montana. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who did not attend the vote, issued a statement that he would have said no even if he were there.

We’re now back to this reality where I can’t vote. In fact, I still don’t have a pathway to citizenship. While I no longer truly stand for the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill, I still remember vividly the exasperation. Five Democrats turned away from their parties to vote against me.

Three years ago today, I received my Employment Authorization Card along with my Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which began my borrowed time as someone with legal presence but without a legal status in this country. While people talk of restoring civility in this election, this election represents my entire life here in this country. I live on a borrowed time — two years at a time.

While I don’t think it’s feasible that a President Trump or Cruz will revoke it immediately, they will almost certainly end the administrative relief. My legal presence has an expiration date: 2017. What you do at the ballot box affects me and millions of others like me directly, and it indirectly impacts everyone around me.

Folks from Washington, D.C. are taken somewhat aback when they find out the so-called DREAMers like me don’t support Hillary Clinton. She is the great white hope for the Democratic Party, after all. And they cite that Bernie Sanders hadn’t been “with the party” through the times as an independent.

For many in our community, we lost the faith in the party that promised us changes and reneged on them. The Democratic Party hadn’t been with us. Deportations escalated through the Obama years, 2 million and counting. Our communities were offered as sacrificial lambs to empower the ever-so emboldened conservatives. If there was one issue that the Republicans and the Democrats agreed on ACA, it was that undocumented people like my family would not be allowed the basic right to healthcare.

Even when the President began to take action, more people were deported and self-deporting as they couldn’t wait any longer. But we were told to wait until the elections; the Democratic Party did not want to stand with the immigrant community. It was evident in 2014 when candidates like Kentucky Attorney General Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke up against Obama’s immigration policies. It’s ludicrous that the party expects us to blindly support the candidate of their choice when the track record stands against them.

This is what I ask of communities that will be heading to the polls soon. Please think of us who were left behind by the Democratic Party establishment.

Please stand on the side of the communities that were hurt by the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994, when it was decided that a generation of Black men and women would be behind bars.

Think of the communities hurt by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1997. The ten-year ban on reentry meant that I would have to sever my connections to my homeland and miss events like my sister’s graduation, her wedding, and my grandparents’ funerals.

Remember the seniors and the working class left behind by Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. The Korean American seniors whose benefits had been cut.

Think of me crying in the streets of Ann Arbor knowing that the dream was dead.

These are all snapshots in my lifetime of the Democratic failure to stand with us.

Who do you trust? Do you trust the choice that the party establishment is asking you to trust? Or do you trust us?

NYC Asian American Democratic Club

Asians in office

A friend asked which orgs duplicate or tightly relate to the new Brooklyn-based NYC Asian American Democratic Club (more in media and at Google) which I thought was a great question, so I share that research.

  1. APA Voice – NYC AAPI political empowerment; this 1 seems like a near duplicate
  2. Adhikaar – Nepalese advocacy
  3. AALDEF (Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund) – AAPI legal services
  4. Asian Americans for Equality – NYC AAPI housing advocacy
  5. Chhaya CDC – NYC South-Asian housing services
  6. CPC (Chinese American Planning Council) – NYC (Bk) AAPI kids empowerment
  7. Chinese Progressive Association – NYC immigrant politics, equivalent of AALEAD
  8. Coalition for Asian American Children and Families – NYC AAPI kids empowerment
  9. ICA (Indo-Caribbean Alliance) – NYC (Qns) South-Asian advocacy
  10. KCS (Korean Community Services) of Metro NY – NYC Korean services
  11. MinKwon Center for Community Action – [same]
  12. OCA NY – NYC AAPI advocacy
  13. Asian American Federation – NYC AAPI services coordination by many related orgs
  14. South Asian Council for Social Services – NYC AAPI services
  15. UCA (United Chinese Association) of Brooklyn – NYC (Bk) services, equivalent of CMMA
  16. NAL (New Asian Leaders) – AAPI political engagement
  17. CAAV – NYC advocacy & empowerment & engagement, equivalent of AAU
  18. Families United for Racial and Economic Equality – NYC (Bk) of-color advocacy
  19. Community Voices Heard – low-income advocacy
  20. Audre Lorde Project – NYC gender-variant of-color advocacy
  21. Chinese for Affirmative Action – AAPI politics (single-issue)
  22. and many others less directly related
    1. South-Asian orgs and ever more specific ones
    2. AWIB’s list
    3. lists galore
    4. orgs of orgs like NCSO

My hope is this list makes it into Wikipedia, but not all these orgs are in there so I can’t add them to the categories Non-profit organizations based in New York, etc.

Should we and how should we coordinate with so many similar orgs to further our mission to increase AAPI political involvement (which if you recall is the same as NAL)? Comment.

Asians in office


  1. My category definitions:
    1. services – actually delivering services
    2. empowerment – a catch-all default
    3. politics – anything political
    4. engagement – organizing, back-office coordination
  2. default geography is national
  3. abbreviation given only if popularly used

How to Get People Politically Involved

Cruz proudly said his first campaign donation was to Jesse Helmes who was famed for his objection to tolerance and anything but white supremacy. That fact got me asking: why does 1 get politically involved? I’ve no personal accounting records or memory of precisely my first political donation of money (now I give time), but I’m sure it wasn’t to a campaign as my values have always for the underdog which are organizations like this organization here. They forward monies to the needed campaigns anyways so the same end result but with the impact that their name and vetting adds. Campaigns are good, too, but you should be critical in your donations.

Every email from a campaign is merely a forgettable fundraising email as they seek only money and not engagement so donation fatigue or avoidance are totally understandable. How to get people involved? Things that don’t work:

  1. making fun of them – it merely antagonizes them as research shows, better to take the empathetic route but that’s very individual
  2. intelligently showing the harms of non-participation- The list of harms to AAPIs is long, it’s out there, and it never works. Make no jokes about how only impacting an Asian’s checking account matters, it’s a dark truth. Most say it just doesn’t impact their daily lives.
  3. showing the benefits of political involvement – Like how NASA’s famous list of inventions to say why it’s not ok to stop spending on space just to redistribute money on earth, it’s preaching to the choir, so to say. Doesn’t work.
  4. educating them on the step-by-step’s – that’s why GOTV (get out the vote) is still needed, we literally have to hand-hold people to the polls, but they’re not enabled

So what’ll work? Our 2 new Mike Honda Writing Fellows will expand on this comment bait (yes, it’s in the UrbanDictionary) in future posts, but comment here to talk to them.

The Government George Washington Built

Editor’s Note: This week, we welcome this piece by Kumar Jayasuriya. Kumar has over 25 years of experience practicing law and working in legal education. He practiced maritime and admiralty law in San Francisco and later taught legal research and writing classes at Boston University School of Law, the University of Texas School of Law, and Georgetown Law. He published several articles on various topics of law and legal education and has served as the chair of the nation’s largest organization of academic law librarians.

During my first year, I will fight to abolish the IRS, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.“– Sen. Ted Cruz, Five for Freedom

“When any of our citizens are unable to fulfill their potential due to factors that have nothing to do with their talent, character, or work ethic, then I believe there’s a role for our government to play.”- Pres. Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at AAPI Initiative Executive Order Signing an Diwali Event

The Current Political Divide

The role of the federal government is still the central question of US politics. Each of the GOP presidential candidates wants to dissolve federal agencies. In doing so, they reject the historic role of the federal government in supporting the development of the nation, including the development of the Asian-American community.

The Clinton and the Obama administrations established the President’s Advisory Commission and White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. In its February 2015 report, the White House explained how 24 federal departments and agencies “made measurable progress to improving the quality of life and opportunities for AAPIs across the country.” (Building a Legacy for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community)

To address historic high dropout rates and low college enrollment in the AAPI community, the Department of Education has created educational opportunities, including services for individuals with limited English proficiency.

The other agencies on Senator Cruz’s list are also working to support the AAPI community. For example the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have all established initiatives which have removed barriers to AAPI employment and business development.

Here are just a few examples

  • In 2014 the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resolved a complaint against the Orleans Parish School Board. Before that time Vietnamese parents could not read important school documents and notices. The OCR agreement with the school board helped arrange for a system of Vietnamese translators to work with the schools of New Orleans.
  • In 2013, the Department of Education and the Department of Labor awarded over $30 million for educational and training opportunities for the greater AAPI community. (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program (TAACCCT) and the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program (AANAPISI)).
  • In 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)announced agreements to provide housing assistance after Hurricane Sandy. $240 million was spent for translation services, interpreters, and direct housing cost for low-income households, many of them Asian-Americans with limited English proficiency.
  • In 2015 HUD revised its data collection to expand the “Asian” category. As a result the biennial American Housing Survey (AHS) now includes a collection of Asian subgroup data.
  • Through a collective effort, the federal government has updated its data collection systems to better reflect the diversity within the AAPI community. Rather than lump the Asian experience into one category, the federal system now collects information that identifies the challenges of individual AAPI communities.

Asian American Pacific Islanders and the Affordable Care Act

Historic Role of the Government

We can look to President George Washington to uncover the founding fathers’ thoughts on the role of the federal government.

At the end of the Revolutionary War the former colonies lived under the Articles of Confederation, which loosely connected 13 independent sovereign American states. However there was no system for the states to work together to promote trade.

While under the Articles of Confederation, the Washington administration wanted to stimulate commerce up and down the Potomac River. The problem was that the river was not safe for commercial ships. Yet under the Articles of Confederation, Virginia and Maryland had no way to formally collaborate on a project to turn the river into a commercial waterway.

In March 1785, President Washington invited delegates from Virginia and Maryland to join him at his home in Mount Vernon and negotiate a treaty to improve the navigability of the Potomac River and establish a maritime link to commercial markets west of the Appalachian Mountains. Founding fathers such as Samuel Chase of Maryland and George Mason of Virginia attended the meeting known as the Mount Vernon Conference. On March 12, 1785 the delegates signed the Compact of 1785. (1786 Md. Laws c. 1).

HOWEVER, the Compact of 1785 was illegal. Under Article 6 of the Articles of Confederation no state could enter into a commercial agreement with another state without the approval of Congress. In 1785 that approval was not politically possible.

Need for a Strong Central Government

Maryland and Virginia sought to break the gridlock when they invited representatives from every state to a convention in Annapolis “to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest.” (Resolution of the General Assembly of Virginia, Jan. 21, 1786).

The Annapolis Convention of 1786 was formally called “A Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government.”However it did not accomplish Washington’s goal of designing a system for states to work together. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the other delegates concluded that the problem was worse than they initially thought and they begged for a future convention where each state could participate. (Proceedings of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government: 1786)

In May of 1787, President Washington invited representatives to again discuss the Articles of Confederation. This Constitutional Convention rejected the Articles altogether and designed a strong central government embodied in the current Constitution of the United States.

Vote For The President that Would Support the One Washington Built

As an Asian-American I urge you to vote on the Democratic ticket. A progressive / liberal president will continue to use the power of government to help everyone succeed. America is the greatest nation in the world because the founding fathers used governmental agencies to build an economy and an infrastructure. George Washington built a nation in which everyone could better his or her status in the world. We should continue the endeavor.

Constitutional Convention of 1787

Vote for MI State Rep Stephanie Chang for Rising Star

Editor’s Note: We endorsed Stephanie Chang in her 2014 run to represent Michigan’s 6th Assembly District as State Representative. Go Stephanie!

AAA Fund friend MI State Rep Stephanie Chang was nominated for an Emily’s List Rising Star award. As an organization that is committed to AAPI political empowerment, we think it’s great to see more AAPI women recognized for their leadership in office. Plus I’ve known Steph for 10+ years and she has put in her time as a community organizer, educator, and bridge builder. From the release:

Stephanie Chang is the Michigan state representative for the Sixth District, including Ecorse, River Rouge, and Detroit. Elected in 2014 and the first Asian American woman in the Michigan legislature, she co-founded the Asian Pacific American Legislative Caucus. Stephanie co-organized a bipartisan workgroup to address water affordability and quality issues and is working to advance environmental justice and earned paid sick leave bills. She also started a fellowship for high school girls of color and is a new mom.

So go vote for Stephanie Chang as a Rising Star!