April 25, 2015

An Invitation To Houston

Momentarily taking off my AAA-Fund hat and putting on my OCA hat, I would like to invite you to the 2010 OCA National Convention, taking place in Houston from Thursday, June 17 to Sunday, June 20.

What is OCA?

Established in 1973, OCA is engaged in networking with its over 80 chapters and college affiliates across the nation to develop leadership and community involvement. As the first national Asian Pacific Americans (APA) organization to establish headquarters in Washington, D.C., OCA has been successful in building national support and working in coalition with other national groups around issues affecting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. OCA has been in the forefront of advancing social justice, civil rights and fair treatment of APAs since its founding in 1973.

What will happen at OCA National Convention?

Of particular note: Starry Night Market, Film Festival, and Gala. I haven’t even mentioned the NASA tour, ice skating, fashion show, or the fascinating discussions scheduled to take place in the tracks designed for students, youth leaders, community advocates, professionals, and entrepreneurs!

The free Starry Night Market will feature 11 different performing acts, brief speeches from local elected officials, games, and a variety of cuisines from local restaurants. While the performances are free, games and food will require tickets which can be purchased on site. Paid convention attendees will receive tickets and can purchase more as their appetites desire. This event will occur at the Chinese Community Center on Town Park starting at 6:30 PM on Friday, June 18. Everyone is welcome!

The free Film Festival will showcase five feature-length films:

9500 Liberty (1:45PM June 19 followed by immigration discussion with director Eric Byler):

Virginia adopts a law requiring police officers to question anyone who they suspect is an undocumented immigrant with “probable cause”. The ferocious fight to adopt and then reverse this policy unfolds inside government chambers, on the streets, and on the Internet.

A Village Called Versailles (2PM June 18 and at Starry Night Market):

Hurricane Katrina devastates the local Vietnamese American Community. The film beautifully shows how the community’s battle with the city government transcended barriers, and united people of different generations and races.

Transcending – The Wat Misaka Story (8PM June 17):

A movie documenting the journey of Wat Misaka, the first person of color ever drafted in the NBA, into the New York Knicks in 1947. Overcoming the national political climate during World War II, serving in the US Army, Wat stands testament to the unflappable Japanese American spirit.

Wo Ai Ni Mommy (1:45PM June 19):

From 2000-2008, China was the leading country for U.S. international adoptions. There are now approximately 70,000 Chinese children being raised in the United States. Wo Ai Ni Mommy explores what happens when an older Chinese girl is adopted into an American family. This film reveals the complicated gains and losses that are an inherent aspect of international, transracial adoption.

Searching for Asian America (1PM June 20):

Through intimate profiles of individuals and communities from across the country, this 90-minute program serves up a genuine taste of what it’s like to be Asian American in today’s ever-changing United States.

Directors Bruce Alan Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson of Transcending, S. Leo Chiang of A Village Called Versailles, and Eric Byler of 9500 Liberty will all be in attendance.

Who are this year’s Gala honorees?

The Gala will honor astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, Dr. Leroy Chiao, professional basketball trailblazer, Wat Misaka, and Executive Director of BPSOS and community leader, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang

How do I attend?

The last day for online registration is Monday, May 31. If you miss the deadline, don’t worry; you can register on site. When registering, please enter “aaaf” into the notes section. The Starry Night Market and Film Festival are free, but please register so we have an accurate head count!

Tuesday, June 1 is the last day to make hotel reservations in the convention’s hotel block at the convention hotel, Westin Galleria Houston, which is connected to the Houston Galleria, the fourth-largest shopping center in North America. For full reservation information, please see the convention Hotel and Travel page.

To learn more about the 2010 OCA National Convention, please visit the convention information pages or the convention’s Facebook page. If the mood strikes you to volunteer, you can sign up here.

See you in Houston!

– Justin Gillenwater

Breaking: Ed Case Drops Out

 Colleen Hanabusa

This is big.  It looks like Hawai’i Democrats will be united after all — especially since Congressional candidate Colleen Hanabusa’s main opponent just dropped out.

Only minutes ago, Hanabusa rival Ed Case announced he was withdrawing at the Hawai’i Democratic Party convention.  This means Hanabusa now has five full months to take on Republican Charles Djou for the honor of representing Hawai’i’s First Congressional District.

It’s time for all Democrats — and yes, that includes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the White House — to rally behind Colleen Hanabusa.

It’s high time to win back this Congressional seat — which voted heavily for Obama in 2008.  AAA-Fund looks forward to doing its part.

— Gautam Dutta

Question of the Weekend

Q: Which prolific medieval leader boasts more than 1.6 million descendants today?

A:  Click here (or, even better, visit the Tech Museum).

— Gautam Dutta

HuffPost Features AAAF Leader

Ed. Note:  Huffington Post just printed this piece from AAA-Fund Executive Director Gautam Dutta.

Top 2 Reasons to Reject the Top Two Primary

What if you opened up your November ballot – and discovered that your only two choices for Attorney General were both Republicans? Or that your two only choices for Lieutenant Governor were both Democrats?

If Proposition 14 were already in effect, there’s a real possibility that such an outlandish outcome could occur.

Here are the top two reasons to reject Prop 14, also called the “Top Two” Primary. First, Prop 14 will stifle political competition and debate. Second, Prop 14 will deprive voters of a full range of candidate choices.

At first blush, Prop 14’s lofty premise – its backers believe it will reduce political gridlock – sounds seductive. And who could blame them for being frustrated at our state government’s shameful political paralysis? However, Prop 14 would throw the baby out with the bathwater.

By doing away with party primaries, Prop 14 would allow voters to vote for any candidate from any party. Basically, every state and congressional candidate would be pitted against one other in a June primary election. Then, the top two finishers would advance to a November runoff election.

Yet before rushing to judgment, let’s consider four critical questions about Prop 14’s Top Two Primary:

1. Who votes in the all-important June primary? With Top Two, the June primary would restrict everyone’s choices in November. In 2008, only 22 percent of the electorate voted in the June primary; those voters were, on average, wealthier and less representative of California as a whole. In contrast, nearly 80 percent voted in the November general election. Is it good policy to allow a small minority to dictate the only two choices that voters will have in November?

2. Has the Top Two Primary worked anywhere else? In 2008, Washington State adopted Top Two. Instead of increasing competition, Top Two produced a litany of lopsided outcomes. In fact, only five of 98 state House races were decided by a competitive margin (defined as a 4-percentage-point difference between the top two candidates). What’s more, 65 races (66 percent) were won by runaway margins of 20 points or higher. Such one-sided outcomes do not bode well for California.

3. How will write-in and independent candidates fare under the Top Two Primary? In November 2004, a write-in candidate was almost elected San Diego Mayor in a Top Two runoff election. Nevertheless, Prop 14 takes the extreme step of banning all write-in candidates from the November ballot. What’s more, since third-party candidates rarely place first or second, Prop 14 will effectively shut out independent candidates from the November ballot.

4. Will Top Two increase voters’ choices? Let’s take the red-hot California Attorney General race, which features at least six Democrats and three Republicans. With the Top Two primary, it’s entirely possible that Democrats would be shut out from November’s Attorney General ballot. Indeed, in a six-way race, the Democratic vote could splinter six ways. As a result, only the top two Republican candidates – and no Democrats – would advance to the November general election.

To prevent such an undemocratic (pun intended) outcome, Democratic leaders would be forced to do something very undemocratic: they would “persuade” at least three of the six Democratic candidates to pull out of the June primary. That would hand even more power to party leaders and interest groups from business, labor, and other sectors. So much for giving voters more choice.

Before we adopt yet another misguided measure, let’s first take stock of all our options. In 2008, voters approved Proposition 11, which may make our state elections more competitive, starting with the 2012 election. It would be prudent to wait and see how Prop 11 works.

Moreover, we should take a closer look at other ways to resuscitate our state government: reforming our runaway initiative process, streamlining our elections with Instant Runoff Voting (endorsed by CA Attorney General candidate Ted Lieu and CA Governor candidate Tom Campbell), and reducing the power of lobbyists and special interests (by modifying term limits).

Haste makes waste. It makes no sense to give any party a monopoly in our elections, and thus silence the voices of millions of voters. It makes no sense to rashly embrace the latest political fad, especially one that hasn’t worked. It makes every sense for voters to reject Prop 14.

— Gautam Dutta

The Asian American Legacy in the Immigration Debate

“If Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie labor system shall develop slavery of the Mexican or Chinese race within our territory, this amendment may safely be trusted to make it void.”
— 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Having passed one of the nation’s harshest laws against immigration and a separate law targeting ethnic studies, Arizona state legislators could soon take up a new bill that would zero in on migrant children within the public schools.

Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in Arizona’s public school classrooms, but a new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer Tuesday makes it illegal for these students to learn about their heritage in school. HB 2281 prohibits schools from offering courses at any grade level that caters to specific ethnic groups. The new law also means Arizona students will lose access to African-American and Native-American studies.

In a separate bill, SB 1097 would compel teachers and administrators to determine the legal status of students and their families, along with an estimation of the costs associated with educating those children.

SB 1097 was passed by the Arizona state Senate on March 31 and is now pending before the House. Sponsoring the legislation is state senator Russell Pearce who previously tried to push for legislation denying citizenship status to children born to illegal immigrant parents. Arizona’s SB 1097 mirrors legislation currently before the Oklahoma state legislature that would require all public schools to verify the immigration status of their students.

Similarly, the Texas State Board of Education stunned America by suggesting that Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez be stripped from text books and replaced with a positive spin on Joseph McCarthy. Dentist Don McLeroy, of the Texas Board of Education, recently explained that his decision to edit ethnic minorities out of textbooks has something to do with freedom: “We have an obligation to Texas to make sure [students] understand the original principles upon which America was founded.” Much like Arizona’s new immigration law, this ethnic studies ban is political interest dressed up to look like education reform.

Asian Americans and other groups who have been singled out, interned, and excluded in the past have an investment in the immigration debate; it was through the historical struggles of Chinese Americans for their civil rights that led the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to abolish forced labor and the 14th Amendment to establish citizenship based on birthright and not on the legal status of their immigrant parents.

These aforementioned bills certainly face a constitutional challenge that was established over 125 years earlier through the heroic efforts of 19th century Chinese American civil rights activists like Wong Kim Ark and Yick Wo: in 1982, the Supreme Court cited United States vs. Wong Kim Ark that illegal immigrant students could not be barred from schools under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It was with the legal precedence of Wong Kim Ark that the Court ruled that the law discriminated against children who had no control over their legal status, adding, moreover, that eliminating them from schools would result in “the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries.”

And hopefully we may never forget that during the summer of 1885, many Chinese Americans in San Francisco violated a municipal laundry ordinance in protest of a law drafted with concern that immigration brought too many Chinese to California.

Yick Wo had lived in California since 1861 and had been in the laundry business for 22 years. After Yick Wo was denied his license, he resisted, was jailed, and ultimately Yick Wo appealed his case ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that the ordinance violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights because of the blatant discriminatory results of its implementation. The state argued that the Fourteenth Amendment could not infringe upon the police power granted to cities and states.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Yick Wo stating that although the laundry ordinances were seemingly race-neutral on its face, it was administered in a prejudicial manner and therefore an infringement of the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, i.e. based on what is currently called “reasonable suspicion.”

The slew of Anti-Chinese ordinances of that time, as enforced, conferred an authority broader than the state police’s power. This power was discriminatory and constituted class legislation prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to all persons, citizens and non-citizens alike. Is this in essence similar to the racial profiling that will result in the implementation of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070?

Let’s keep in mind that from the beginning, America has struggled with the very definition of what “We the people” and “to form a more perfect Union” truly mean. Let us always remember that our Asian pioneers rose from the shadows of exclusion and internment to be a voice in the immigration debate.

Let’s embrace our shared differences and common goals by celebrating a Day of Inclusion during the month of December.

For more information go to:

and download our guide at:

Write to your Senator and Representative in Congress.

Write to President Barack Obama

In all due respect,
— Steve Yee

Join the White House BP Oil Spill Conference Call

Ed. Note: The below is from the White House Office of Public Engagement.


Please join us today, May 28th, for a call with senior administration officials to discuss the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Administration-wide response. As you may know, the President is visiting the Gulf Region today and hosted a press conference yesterday focused on the spill and response.

The call-in information is below:

WHAT: Gulf Spill Update Call
WHEN: 05/28/10
CALL-IN NUMBER: (800) 230-1766 (please be sure to dial in 5 minutes early)

For the latest information on the spill and the Administration’s response, please see the links below:

Joint Information Center
Video and Transcript of 5/27 Press Conference
White House Website
Response Resources

Hope you are able to join.

Thank you,

Kalpen Modi
Associate Director
White House Office of Public Engagement

Statement by Manan Trivedi on the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the House of Representatives.

manan trivedi

Release Date: May 27, 2010
Press Contact: Ed Niles, Campaign Manager
Phone: 610-370-9489

Statement by Manan Trivedi on the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the House of Representatives.

READING, Pa – The following is a statement by former U.S. Navy Lt. Commander, Manan Trivedi following the passage of legislation to repeal the 1993 law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in the House of Representatives today.

“I applaud fellow Iraq War veteran, Congressman Patrick Murphy for the courage to push forward his amendment allowing for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today in the House of Representatives. This policy has cost our nation so much since it was enacted in 1994. Over 14,000 highly motivated and skilled servicemembers have been released from the military as a result of the policy, and a 2005 report by the GAO estimates that taxpayers have spent $1.2 billion in the process of investigation, termination, and the training of replacements as a result of this policy.

“When we crossed into Iraq in 2003, we never once looked to our left or right and worried about someone’s sexual orientation, their race, gender, religion or otherwise. The only thing that mattered to us was whether or not each of them were prepared and able to perform their duties and complete the mission.

“As we move into the Memorial Day weekend, I honor every single American who has stood up to serve and has paid the ultimate price out of one simple ideal; love for their country.”

Manan Trivedi served in the Iraq War as a Battalion Surgeon with the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment Marine Corps Infantry Battalion as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He is also the Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District.


Asian-American History: 10 Facts

Asian-American history doesn’t get taught much in schools (and probably even less so in Texas), but May is Asian-American Heritage Month (in case you didn’t already know). And Jenn Fang has compiled ten facts you may not know about Asian-American history. Here are the first five:

  1. The first Asians whose arrival in America was documented were Filipinos who escaped a Spanish galleon in 1763. They formed the first Asian-American settlement in U.S. history, in the swamps surrounding modern-day New Orleans.
  2. In the years between 1917 and 1965, Uncle Sam explicitly outlawed immigration to the U.S. of all Asian people. Immigration from China, for example, was banned as early as 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. It wasn’t until the Immigration Act of 1965 — which abolished national origins as a basis for immigration decisions — that nearly 50 years of race-based discrimination against Asian immigrants ended.
  3. Because of their race, Asians immigrants were denied the right to naturalize as U.S. citizens, until the 1943 Magnuson Act was passed. Consequently, for nearly a century of U.S. history, Asians were barred from owning land and testifying in court by laws that specifically targeted “aliens ineligible to citizenship.” Even after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, American-born children of Chinese immigrants were not regarded as American citizens until the landmark 1898 Supreme Court case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which established that the Fourteen Amendment also applied to people of Asian descent.
  4. Among the earliest Asian immigrants, virtually all ethnicities worked together as physical laborers, particularly on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations. On these plantations, a unique hybrid language — pidgin — developed that contained elements of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and English. Today, pidgin is one of the official languages of Hawaii, a state that is itself 40% Asian.
  5. Despite the Alien Land Law, which specifically prevented Asians from owning their own land, Japanese farmers were highly successful in the West Coast where they put into practice their knowledge of cultivating nutrient-poor soil to yield profitable harvests. By the 1920s, Japanese farmers (working their own land, or land held by white landowners that they managed) were the chief agricultural producers of many West Coast crops. In fact, the success of Japanese farmers is often cited as one of the reasons white landowners in California lobbied to support Japanese-American internment following the declaration of World War II.

You can find the rest here. And here’s a fuller timeline of Asian-American history.

Thanks to Angry Asian Man for the heads-up.

— Justin

Question of the Week

iPhone application development

Why can’t we register to vote from a mobile device?

— Gautam Dutta

DCCC: Doubling Down on Dissension?

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Look no further than the hidebound Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Last week, Colleen Hanabusa stunned the DC punditocracy when she won the most Democratic votes in Hawai’i’s special election for Congress.  In the weeks heading into the election, the DCCC openly disparaged Hanabusa’s political viability, and all but endorsed Democrat Ed Case.

The result?  In a dramatic finish, the Democrats won nearly 60 percent of the vote, which was unfortunately split between two candidates.  Just as important, Hanabusa won thousands of more votes than the DCCC-favored Ed Case — leaving no doubt which Democrat will be more “viable” in a one-on-one matchup against Republican Charles Djou.

But rather than admit it made a mistake, DCCC and its Chair Chris Van Hollen are reportedly doubling down on party dissension.  Even though Hanabusa has become the top Democrat heading into the fall Congressional election, the DCCC (“D-Trip”) is looking for yet another way to undermine  Hanabusa:

Chris Van Hollen and the D-Trip are reportedly scrambling for a “compromise candidate” who can bring together the factions of the party. I don’t think there are any factions. There are the politically aligned in Hawaii and there’s Ed Case, who got 27% of the vote in a high-turnout primary despite being a former Congressman and having the highest name ID. I don’t understand this rush to declare Hanabusa unelectable; despite practically all the mail flowing in one direction, Democrats took around 59% of the two-party vote. Nobody’s unelectable in that environment. Hanabusa can and will be the next House member from that district.

Van Hollen and the DCCC simply don’t “get” Hawai’i politics.  If they can’t right their wrong and endorse Colleen Hanabusa, it’s time for them to be voted off the island.

— Gautam Dutta