September 17, 2014

Sen. Hirono: To Chair Judiciary Subcommittee

Editor’s Note: The below is a re-posting of ” from our friends at Mazie Hirono‘s office.

Mazie Hirono, a voice for Hawaii in the US Senate

March 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday announced that Senator Mazie K. Hirono will become chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action.

The subcommittee was created at the beginning of the 113th Congress to provide oversight and review of agency rulemaking and agency action. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who currently chairs the subcommittee, is stepping down to take over a gavel on another committee. Hirono, who joined the Judiciary Committee at the beginning of the 113th Congress and has been a leader on a range of issues including immigration and sentencing reform, will assume the gavel April 1.

“I look forward to chairing the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Actions and thank Chairman Leahy for this opportunity to help make sure that the voices of everyday citizens are heard,” Hirono said. “I plan to work so that the unique needs of Hawaii are represented as we review agency actions and Executive Branch initiatives. I will also look for ways to improve oversight of government waste and abuse and strengthen consumer protections for all Americans.”

“The Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action plays an important role in the Judiciary Committee’s larger mission to provide rigorous oversight and ensure a timely and fair approach to administrative rulemaking that impacts millions of Americans,” Leahy said. “I am confident Senator Hirono will provide meaningful leadership on these important issues. I congratulate her on her new role, and I thank Senator Blumenthal for his continued service to this committee.”

“Senator Hirono has a record of ensuring that federal agencies follow and enforce the law, and I know this subcommittee will continue to flourish under her leadership,” said Blumenthal, who presided over his final subcommittee hearing as chairman this week. “It was an honor to serve as the first chairman of the subcommittee. I appreciate Chairman Leahy’s confidence and the opportunity he gave me to lead this subcommittee.”

A complete description of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action’s jurisdiction can be read online. Additional information about all the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittees is also available online.

AAA-Fund Endorses Swati Dandekar to Make History in Iowa

Editor’s Note: Stay atop Election 2014 here at our blog, at our Facebook & at our Twitter.

AAAF logo

For Immediate Release March 14, 2014

Contact: Gautam Dutta

AAA-Fund Endorses Swati Dandekar to Make History in Iowa

Dandekar would be First Iowa Woman to Win Federal Office and First South Asian Woman Ever in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, the Asian American Action (AAA) Fund announced their endorsement of Democrat Swati Dandekar for U.S. House of Representatives in Iowa’s First Congressional District. Dandekar is running in an open race to fill the seat of congressman and current Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

“It’s high time Iowa finally elected a woman to Congress. We are honored to support such a dedicated public servant,” said Gautam Dutta, Executive Director of the AAA-Fund. “Swati Dandekar has a proven record of success advocating for Iowans. Her experience fighting for greater educational access and science research to spur economic competitiveness make her an ideal candidate for Iowa. Her unique life story as a first-generation immigrant from the heartland would break new barriers if she were to become the first South Asian female elected to Congress.”

Dandekar holds a bachelor’s in biology and chemistry from Nagpur University and a graduate degree in dietetics from Bombay University in India. She lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband and two sons.


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

The Historical Connection Between U S Immigration Policy and Civil Rights in America

Editor’s Note: We welcome Charles Cheng-Kung Wang, an immigration attorney at law in Cincinnati, Ohio, back as guest blogger with the below piece. His last piece “Why Asian Americans Confuse Affirmation Action with the Very Real Plight of being Capped Out from Universities of Their Choice“, aggressively touched on this topic critical to all of us and our community and families.

The Whole Truth about US Immigration Detention

2013 has been dubbed the year of hope for passing immigration reform. There is less than two months of the year left to do this, and given the dysfunctional state of the U.S. Congress, it is unlikely that anything substantive will pass.

This said, I would like to explore the historical connection between U S Immigration Policy and Civil Rights in America. One reason is that an appreciation of this connection will also help explain why immigration reform is so hard to achieve today.

I will make the bold assertion that, historically, immigration policy is racially based, and even at this moment there are those who oppose immigration reform also for the reason of race. Let us look at the key milestones in U.S. Immigration legislation.

All immigration lawyers will agree that the single most important piece of immigration legislation in modern times is the Immigration & Naturalization Act (Hart-Celler Act) of 1965. The key progress achieved in 1965 is the writing over of the then notorious Immigration Act of 1924. Notorious because the 1924 Act is totally race based – it contained two racially obnoxious parts calculated to ban the entry of “undesirable” immigrants: the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act. The Asian Exclusion Act is blatantly obvious on its face – it barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific Triangle. The National Origins Act is more subtle – it sought to preserve the racial mix of the USA to that which existed in the year 1890. Up to 1920, about 90% of immigrants were from Europe. The Immigration Act of 1924 is also remembered as the Eugenics Act, eugenics being the pseudo-science of genetic engineering based on perceived traits of superiority started the 1860s but discredited along with the defeat of Nazism at the end of World War II in 1945.

The hand-waving of the National Origins Act was necessitated partly by the advocacy and efforts of African American activitists and supporters. In 1890, at the height of Jim Crow laws in the South which arose after the end of Reconstruction in 1877, the discriminatory situation was a rallying cry for segregationists seeking to preserve white supremacy in America. In 1883, the U S. Supreme Court in various Civil Rights cases declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Acts passed by Congress during Reconstruction Era reasoning that the 14th Amendment did not authorize legislation against individual conduct, but only against official state action. Are you surprised, then, that given the racial attitudes gripping America during that period, that in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which barred immigration from China? This brings me to the crux of my discussion – the impact of civil rights on immigration.

The year 1965 is also significant because Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. A year earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also became federal law. These 2 Acts are the culmination of the civil rights movement to eliminate segregation historically against freed slaves and their children, that is, to end Jim Crow. The pinnacle of the legalization of discrimination is the approval of the “separate but equal” doctrine by the U. S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 which upheld segregation of public transportation by reason of color. Lesser known is the case of Giles v. Harris decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1903 forbidding the federal courts from hearing complaints against state officials of voter suppression against African Americans.

With Brown v. Board of Education, the Court in 1954 signaled a cardinal reversal of national policy towards institutional segregation. In response to the modern civil rights movement, Congress got into the act in 1964-1965 with the modern Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Is it a mere coincidence that in 1965, Congress also passed the Immigration & Naturalization Act which removed the color bar and equalized immigration from the “Eastern and Western Hemispheres” of the world? Is there a connection with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965? I think there is a direct connection – the Congress could not in good faith continue the racially discriminatory immigration policy in the face of the progress made in civil rights at home.

I view slavery as involuntary immigration where people from Africa were forced against their wills to leave their homes and were transported in chains to these shores. Those enslaved are nonetheless immigrants just like the people who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to find political and religious freedom and economic opportunity for themselves and their children (economics and race are hand in hand in making immigration policy). After the baptism by fire and steel of the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, can immigration be restricted to only from across the Atlantic? In fact this is exactly what happened – immigration policy continued to be race and color based until 1965, the year Jim Crow was officially struck dead by the U. S. Congress, but after a hundred years from the end of the Civil War.

After the comprehensive overhaul of immigration law in 1965, immigration from Europe dropped to around 15%. After 1965, subsequent amendments in immigration in 1980, 1986, 1990, and 2001 (Patriot Act passed a month after 9/11) all show a tendency towards restricting immigration. What kind of immigration amendment will come in 2013-2014?

Earlier this year, the U. S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Shelby County v. Holder, signaled that the Voter Rights Act may have outlived its purpose, striking down the core Section 4(b) because Congress had renewed it using stale 1975 data, suggesting that states and local government previously subject to strict federal oversight of voting procedures are no longer engaged in voter suppression. Has American totally freed herself from racial animus and perceptions of color supremacy that gave rise to slavery, Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Asian Exclusion Act?

Will this emerging rationale epitomized by Shelby County have an impact on immigration reform in light of the historical relationship between civil rights and immigration policy? I close with the current census projection based on current trends that by 2043, the population demographics in the United States will shift to no racial majority but only a plurality of races. How can American have a relevant & useful immigration policy given such rapid shifts with a useless Congress?

– Charleston C. K. Wang

Rep Duckworth Shames Faux Veteran For Receiving Benefits

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), the former Assistant Secretary of the federal VA and head of the Illinois VA, has a lot of experience with serving in our nation’s military, and in taking care of the soldiers who return. It’s no small wonder that she ripped into Braulio Castillo, a federal contractor, for his egregious abuse of the veterans’ preference system – he claimed a veterans’ injury that he sustained while playing football at a military high school. His company claimed $500 million of government contracts, and his application lists his “sacrifices to this country.”

Duckworth, on the other hand, lost both her legs and part of her right arm as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.

“Does your foot hurt,” Duckworth asked Castillo. “My feet hurt too. In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there’s a nail being hammered into my heel right now. So I can understand pain and suffering, and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain.”

“So I’m sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful, if also opportune, way for you to gain this status for your business as you were trying to compete for contracts.”

Duckworth’s public shaming of Castillo is one of the most thorough and justified takedowns that I have seen during Congressional testimony.


(Full disclosure: AAA Fund and AAA Fund Greater Chicago endorsed Rep. Duckworth in her first Congressional campaign and in 2012.)

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.)


July 12: CAPAC Twitter Town Hall on Immigration

Editor’s Note: The below is a reposting of “CAPAC Twitter Town Hall” from our friends at CAPAC (Facebook, Twitter).

CAPAC Twitter Town Hall

CONTACT: Dan Lindner
July 10, 2013

CAPAC to Host Twitter Town Hall on Immigration Reform

Washington, DC – The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) will host a Twitter Town Hall this Friday, July 12th from 2:00-2:30 p.m. focused on comprehensive immigration reform. Members of the press and public are encouraged to join the conversation by using #AskCAPAC.

WHO: Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI), CAPAC Executive Board Member
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Co-Chair
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Whip
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), CAPAC Health Taskforce Co-Chair
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08), CAPAC Executive Board Member
Additional Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

WHAT: CAPAC Twitter Town Hall on Immigration Reform
WHEN: Friday, July 12th at 2:00 p.m. EST
WHERE: Live on Twitter


The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently Chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.

Question of the Week: Return of the Tea Party?

Will the IRS’s “Tea Party” scandal help the Tea Party regain some of its lost influence?  Here’s what Fox News has to say.

— Gautam Dutta

Sen. Hirono pushes tuition aid for DREAMers

Editor’s note: a message from Senator Mazie Hirono, who will be honored at the AAA-Fund Gala in June. Hirono has voted for this amendment.

The Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill is a great start. But it’s not perfect — and I intend to do something about it.

Last week, I introduced several amendments to the bill, but as an immigrant who came to this country as a young student, one of these amendments is particularly close to my heart: It would make DREAM Act students eligible for federal financial aid.

Right now, students who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own (“DREAMers”) can’t get access to any federal aid. No work-study. No government-backed student loans. Nothing.

My amendment would fix this, and give these students the same options to pay for their education as every other studious young American.

We’re going to face stiff opposition from some of my Senate colleagues who want to make it harder for DREAM Act students to succeed.

Please click here to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of my amendment, and give DREAM Act students access to the same federal assistance as every other student.

DREAM Act students have grown up in our schools, pledging allegiance to our flag everyday.

Now they want to earn college degrees here, to help them give back to their communities, start businesses, create jobs, and pay taxes. Federal aid will make higher education, before a distant hope, possible for so many of them.

To give these DREAMers access to a little bit more of the American Dream — a chance to pay for college education — I need your help.

Over the next few weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss my amendment — along with 300 others. Help this one make it through.

Please click here to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of my amendment to give DREAM Act students a better shot at college.

As someone who immigrated to Hawaii from Japan as a young child, I know firsthand the determination it takes to thrive in a new school, a new language, and a new country. I was able to succeed because of all the opportunities I had.

I want to ensure DREAMers have the same opportunities to succeed in the only country they call home as I did — and the same access to federal assistance as their American-born peers.

Please, help me make that happen.


Mazie Hirono
U.S. Senator

AAA-Fund Endorses Mike Honda for Congress

AAAF logo

Contact: Gautam Dutta, Esq. (415) 236-2048;

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.


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