April 16, 2014

Slaughter in Egypt

Q: How do you make people more sympathetic to religious fundamentalists?

A: Make martyrs of the religious fundamentalists by slaughtering them in broad daylight.

Question of the Day: Supreme Asian Am Candidates

If a US Supreme Court retires in President Obama’s second term, which Asian American leaders could be among the leading contenders for the seat? (Hint: two of them live in California.)

– Gautam Dutta

Rep. Takano slams GOP Congressmembers’ Faulty Logic, in Red Ink

Takano edits to GOP immig

Like the veteran high school teacher that he is, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), decided to take out his red pen and apply it to a letter on immigration that fellow Congressmembers from the other party were circulating. Politico gave him some ink for exposing the shoddy reasoning.

He dishes out kindly but exacting critique, pointing out where the letter has logical and factual flaws. For example, the Republican letter claims that the Senate-passed bill is over 1,000 pages, so Rep. Takano circles this and points out that it’s exactly 286 pages. (Note to Congressmembers and staff: please do your research.)

Rep. Takano repeatedly points out “tawdry accusations” and Republican claims that are lacking in evidence. No, seriously, he points it out no more than four times in the short letter. What assertions does he specifically call out?

-”reportedly not all the Senators have read [the bill]”
-”We are disturbed by the secret and under-handed way that the immigration bill moved through the Senate…”
-”To attempt to do everything at once ensures that little will be done right”
-”will prevent the last minute secret deal-making and vote-buying”

One of Rep. Takano’s best closing lines is, “If you don’t understand the bill, come by my office and I’ll explain it. Weak draft, re-do.”

That’s called taking your colleagues to the toolshed. and why I love teachers as elected officials! (Full disclosure, AAA Fund enthusiastically endorsed Rep. Takano early in his campaign.)

-Caroline

In Mike We Trust

Ed. note This Op-Ed by Kal Penn appeared in the May 10 edition of India Abroad

I first worked with Congressman Mike Honda when I was a White House aide to President Obama, working on issues related to young Americans and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a sea of chaos that is Congress, it was always refreshing to see Mike go to bat for his constituents, and to join the President in standing up for young people and community members in a way that most members of Congress did not.

Having worked alongside Mike in both policy and politics, I am proud to endorse him for his re-election to Congress in 2014. Washington, DC, can be sort of a crazy place. To many of us, it’s unfathomable that there is opposition to commonsense issues like access to health care, comprehensive immigration reform, and education. And we often look to our leaders to see how they intend to engage on those issues we care about.

As the Congressman representing the innovative spirit and drive of Silicon Valley, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for an unprecedented seven years, and now as chair emeritus; as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, it’s rare and refreshing that Mike really moves and lives by the conviction that every one of us deserve an opportunity and a voice.

As a young person, that kind of leadership was refreshing to see.

On health care, Mike and CAPAC worked with the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses to include critical provisions that tackled health disparities in the President’s final historic health- care reform legislation of 2009.

On immigration, over the previous three Congresses as chair, and now as chair of CAPAC’s Immigration Task Force, Mike has led the constant drumbeat to pass a comprehensive immigration reform that leaves no one behind. He believes in an immigration system that is inclusive, family- based and humane, and invests in America’s future.

On education, he worked to dispel the model minority myth, and to push for greater resources flowing to colleges and universities that serve underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

Mike’s record speaks volumes to his character. He has continued to push for issues that are critical, regardless of whether there is existing political appetite for it amongst his peers in Congress; essentially, he has helped to create the tenable space for much of the action we have seen.

His advocacy for social justice and serving communities that do not have a voice is unparalleled. Mike grew up behind barbed wire in a Japanese-American internment camp, even as his father served in the United States Military Intelligence Service during World War II.

As a young boy, he learned that being Japanese carried a negative connotation in America. But he knows that the reason Japanese Americans were unjustly and illtreated was because no one in Washington said no.

Today, Mike continues to be an unwavering opponent of hate speech and bullying perpetrated against all communities, regardless of creed, race, gender, sexuality, disability, country of origin, and immigration status.

Mike has been a friend and mentor to many young leaders, artists, business folks, and innovators. I know that he will continue to deliver that which is just and best for his constituents and for this nation.

- Kal Penn

Should Immigrants Have the Right to Vote?

Should you have to be a US citizen to be able to vote?

NYC is now considering allowing any resident to vote if he or she”s been living in the US legally for over 6 months.

What do you think?   My view:  because they have established ties to the community, it makes sense to allow committed, long-term immigrants (i.e., greencard holders) to vote in local elections, but we should be careful about going further than that.

– Gautam Dutta

It Takes A Village To Blow One Up

West, Texas was best known as a place to grab something from the Czech Bakery while driving between Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Now, West is best known as the latest in a long line of American industrial disasters reprehensible for their utter preventability.

The explosion at the fertilizer plant comes from failure of the local, state, and federals governments and the plant owners and operators to satisfy the needs of worker safety, community safety, and national security. OSHA has not inspected the plant since 1985. Schools and homes were allowed to be built very near the plant. The plant had 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate at which Department of Homeland Security regulation is triggered. We know the plant had so much ammonium nitrate, because paperwork indicating such was filed with with a Texas regulatory entity. The mishmash of regulators is not required to share information. Unlike the inability of first responders to communicate with each other because of technical incompatibilities, government regulators don’t interact with each other. Given the large variety of regulating agencies, better intercommunication is needed.

A tangle of agencies regulates plants like the one in West. Different agencies were assigned oversight for different chemicals there. Among the federal agencies responsible were the E.P.A., Homeland Security, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. State agencies include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state chemist’s office and the state health services department.

Ammonium nitrate is a national security concern because in nefarious hands it can cause this:

Murrah_Building_-_Aerial

Terrorism isn’t the only reason for concern about the large amount of such an explosive chemical:

The explosion was so powerful it leveled homes and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Judging by the size of the crater and the extent of the damage — pieces of twisted metal landed in distant pastures, and ceiling tiles and lights shook loose in buildings two miles away — the explosion was more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, experts said.

Texas markets its lax regulations as a reason for businesses to relocate:

Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities.

The marvelous economic tales spun about Texas even beguile those who should know better like a writer for Texas Monthly. Jack Ohman and the editors of the Sacramento Bee, however, were not beguiled:

RTSHf.St.4

The owners and operators of the plant seem to have long thought they could pick and choose what few regulations with which they were supposed to comply would apply to them. Among other problems, the company received a citation for construction of 6,000 gallon ammonia tanks without a permit, did not have a sufficient risk management plan, and had no signs or illegible signs on many storage tanks, many of which did not meet safety standards.

The Czech connection in West remains strong; the Czech Republic may provide nearly $200,000 to aid recovery. That’s very helpful and kind; it’s greatly appreciated. I wonder, though, if Bangladesh provides something even better, a guide on how to handle preventable disasters — arrest the owners.

How many other extremely dangerous plants and chemical storage facilities continue to operate in similar fashion with such disregard for the workers, the community, and national security?

- Justin Gillenwater

For Rent: Cooking with Curry Not Allowed

Editor’s Note: Welcome K.J. Bagchi to our blogteam! Read his excellent & informative first post “Fisher v. Texas: Exposing a Divided Community” yesterday.

STONEBRIDGE AT BEAR CREEK

Apparently not everyone is a fan of the smell of curry. The Department of Justice has filed suit against a property owner in Texas who is accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by denying housing opportunities to people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent because she found their odor offensive. According to the suit, the property owner gave instructions to her leasing offices to deny leases to South Asians for many reasons, one of which was the claim that they “left the walls smelling of curry after they moved out…”.

AAA-Fund Endorses Mike Honda for Congress

AAAF logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gautam Dutta, Esq. (415) 236-2048; Dutta@BusinessandElectionLaw.com

WASHINGTON, DC, April 9, 2013—Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) endorsed the re-election campaign of California Congressmember Mike Honda.

Mike Honda currently represents California’s 17th Congressional District (North San Jose, Fremont, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Newark), and has served in Congress since 2001. In addition to sitting on the House Committee on Appropriations, Congressman Honda spearheaded the Wireless Task Force and co-chairs the Democratic Caucus New Media Working Group.

Gautam Dutta, AAA-Fund’s Executive Director, praised Congressmember Honda’s strong record of leadership:  “We’re thrilled to endorse Congressman Honda.  For the past 12 years, Congressman Honda has united the entire Asian American community, and given a powerful voice to Asian Americans, Silicon Valley, and the community-at-large.”

Former Sunnyvale Mayor and AAA-Fund Board member Otto Lee added:  “Throughout his career, Congressman Honda has selflessly mentored many of our community’s rising leaders, including newly elected Congressmember Ami Bera, the third South Asian to serve in Congress.”

Congressman Honda’s commitment to public service is unwavering.  He joined the Peace Corps when he was 24 years old and, thereafter, was an educator in the public school system for about 30 years.  His lifelong dedication to social justice, fighting racism and expanding equal opportunity for all stems from his experiences in internment camp as a Japanese American during his early childhood.

“Today, as Congress debates immigration reform, Congressman Honda leads his colleagues on the issue of reuniting families – one of the greatest concerns for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Dutta added.

Congressman Honda shares his leadership on issues affecting today’s latest technologies with his longstanding leadership of the Asian American community on immigration, civil rights, and education. He now serves as Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

AAA-Fund is a Democratic political action committee whose goal is to increase the voice of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) on every level of local, state and federal government in America. To achieve this goal, we address the chronic under-representation of AAPIs as campaign volunteers, campaign contributors, and candidates for political office. AAA-Fund has endorsed candidates across the country.

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Question of the Week: Hillary

Can Hillary Clinton become the first woman to be elected President?

– Gautam Dutta

It’s All Up To What You Value

One week later and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the intense burst of awesomeness from Asian American Justice Center President and former Asian American Action Fund endorsee Mee Moua when she schooled Senator Sessions. Haven’t seen it? Take a look:

SESSIONS: Ms. Moua, maybe you can comment. Do you think that a nation that decides that they can admit an individual somehow has no right to say that that person’s brother would have to qualify independently, rather than being given a guaranteed entry in the country? Do you think a country can legitimately make that decision?

MOUA: Senator Sessions, coming from the Asian American community when in the 1880s we were the first people to be excluded explicitly by the United States immigration policy I’m well aware that this country has never hesitated in the way that it chooses to exercise its authority to permit people to either enter or depart its borders. And we know that the Asian American community in particular didn’t get to enjoy the benefit of immigration to this country until the 1960s when those restrictive policies were lifted. So I know very well and very aware that…

SESSIONS: Well let me just say, it seems to me. It’s perfectly logical to think there are two individuals, let’s say in a good friendly country like Honduras. One is a valedictorian of his class, has two years of college, learned English and very much has a vision to come to the United States and the other one has dropped out of high school, has minimum skills. Both are 20 years of age and that latter person has a brother here. What would be in the interest of the United States? …

MOUA: Senator I think that under your scenario people can conclude about which is in the best interest of the United States. I think the more realistic scenario is that in the second situation that individual will be female, would not have been permitted to get an education and if we would create a system where there would be some kind of preference given to say education, or some other kind of metrics, I think that it would truly disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country

SESSIONS: Well that certainly is a problem around the world, and I would think that the primary problem with education and the fact that women have been discriminated against should be focused on the countries that are doing that primarily .

As you can see, Sessions essentially asked a rhetorical question of Moua without care for her answer. My guess is Sessions asked his rhetorical question so he could answer it. What astounds me — and where the awesomeness comes in — is Sessions was almost certainly asking another rhetorical question and yet Moua’s response was so profound that Sessions actually listened and responded to Moua instead of responding to his rhetorical question with more of his talking points. Sessions didn’t alter his position, but he did essentially say “you’re right” to Moua.

Notice Sessions didn’t slow down when Moua was schooling Sessions on Asian Americans. No, it was once she started schooling Sessions on women that he finally snapped out of his rhetoric and — if ever so briefly — into reality. Perhaps the Republican attempts to no longer appear to be “angry white men” party is making slightly more progress on the gender front? With our immigration system facing such incredible gender imbalances, such schooling is needed even for far more well-meaning politicians! Pramila Jayapal over at ColorLines has some great ideas on fixing those imbalances.

While Sessions isn’t Ted Cruz-level crazy, he’s not exactly the firebrand of positive policy. Sessions has blocked a child sex trafficking bill, suggested helping feed the hungry is immoral, and apparently delights in the suffering of illegal immigrant families. Yet somehow in 2003 Jeff Sessions received a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition for his stances on issues relation to families and children. Clearly Sessions values families. Unfortunately, it appears he and his ilk only value certain kinds of families.

What families do you value? I agree with more of Mee Moua’s wise words

Children will always be our children whether they’re over the age of 21 or not. For us to start thinking about which members of our family we’re going to trade away is a dramatic and drastic departure from the core values of what has been driving this country since the founding days.

Senators Boxer, Brown, Franken, Harkin, Hirono, Schatz, and Warren seem to agree too, having urged prioritization of family reunification and a clearing of family visa backlogs. I would go a step further urging a clearing of all backlogs; there’s up to a more than ten year backlog for employment-based immigrant visas too. While that pales in comparison to the backlog for immigrant visas for siblings from the Phillippinnes, a category with a backlog so embarrassing there are still priority dates from the 1980s which have yet to become current.

There’s more you can do than merely marvel at Mee Moua’s awesomeness. Add your name to the to the 18 Million Rising petition to tell Congress you stand for fair and just comprehensive immigration reform and they should too!

- Justin Gillenwater