April 25, 2014

Christopher P. Lu Confirmed Deputy Secretary of Labor

Editor’s Note: The below is a reposting of “Statement by US Secretary of Labor Perez on the confirmation of Christopher P. Lu as deputy secretary of labor“. President Obama earlier this year nominated Chris Lu, who was formerly Obama’s Legislative Director, and has now become his Chief of Staff, to Deputy Secretary, Department of Labor. We followup that announcement with the below news. Both AAGEN & CAPACD emailed similar congratulatory statements (but no website postings).

Department of Labor seal logo

U.S. Department of Labor
For Immediate Release
April 1, 2014
Office of Public Affairs
Contact: Jesse Lawder
Washington, D.C.
Phone: 202-693-4659
Release Number: 14-556-NAT
Email: lawder.jesse@dol.gov

Statement by US Secretary of Labor Perez on the confirmation of Christopher P. Lu as deputy secretary of labor

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement commending the Senate’s confirmation of Christopher P. Lu as deputy secretary of labor:

“I commend the Senate on its confirmation of Chris Lu to be the new deputy secretary of labor. Chris is an enormously capable manager and a devoted public servant, whose commitment to President Obama’s opportunity agenda is second to none. He will continue to be a tenacious advocate for American workers, and I look forward to working with him on all of our priorities – from job training to wage protection to worker safety to benefits security. Welcome aboard, Deputy Secretary Lu.”



Editor’s Note: The below is a re-posting of “BIPARTISAN PHILIPPINES CHARITABLE GIVING ASSISTANCE ACT ON THE WAY TO PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR SIGNATURE from our friends at Mazie Hirono‘s office.

Mazie Hirono, a voice for Hawaii in the US Senate

March 24, 2014

David Miyashiro (Hirono), (202) 224-9813
Chandler Smith (Heller), (202) 224-6244
Kristen Orthman (Reid), (202) 224-2939
Juan Pachon (Menendez), (202) 224-4130
Allison Bormel (Swalwell), (202) 225-5065
Austin Vevurka (Thompson), (202) 225-3311

This evening, the House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Dean Heller (R-NV), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that provides expedited tax relief for Americans making charitable donations in support of Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts in the Philippines. The bill was sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA). The bipartisan Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act is intended to spur donations to charitable organizations by allowing taxpayers who donate to the relief efforts now to receive tax benefits on their 2013 tax returns.

“I am pleased that this bill is on its way for the President’s signature. Given the great deal of help still needed, the Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act will help spur another round of new contributions when charitable giving has tapered off and help American families get more back from their tax returns this year,” said Senator Hirono.

“Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, leaving many in need of a home and a steady supply of food, clean water and medical supplies. This bill will allow for relief work to continue in the aftermath of this terrible storm,” said Senator Dean Heller, the bill’s Republican sponsor. “I am grateful for the hard work that Senator Hirono has put into this legislation, and for the advocacy of Representatives Joe Heck, Eric Swalwell, Mike Thompson and others in the House of Representatives.”

“I am so pleased this important bill is on the way to the President’s desk for his signature,” said Senator Reid. “We must do everything we can to help the Philippines after the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. The stories I have heard from the thousands of Filipino-American families in Nevada are heartbreaking and this soon-to-be law will help spur donations and giving to continue in the relief efforts.”

“I am very glad that we are taking this significant step forward to help incentivize and facilitate charitable donations as the Philippines continues its long path to recovery from Typhoon Haiyan,” said Senator Menendez. “I sincerely hope this commonsense, bipartisan legislation helps spur a new wave of contributions from taxpayers looking to make a difference in the relief efforts.”

“Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, affecting 16 million people. Recovery has only just begun and resources are badly needed for humanitarian assistance and rebuilding efforts,” said Rep. Swalwell. “I am privileged to represent a vibrant and dynamic Filipino population in the East Bay, many of whom have expressed their concerns about friends and family displaced by the storm. I take pride that the first bill I passed in the House of Representatives will speed recovery in an area that desperately needs support.”

“I am proud that this bill has passed the House. Now we need to get it onto the President’s desk so that people are encouraged to donate to the relief efforts,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5). “A lot of people in our communities have family and friends who were impacted by the typhoon. Passing this bill will help make sure aid keeps coming during these early stages of a long-term rebuilding effort.”

The Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act is supported by groups such as the Consuelo Foundation and Filipino Community Center.

“It has been truly heartbreaking to witness the death and destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Many families are still struggling to rebuild their lives, facing displacement and hunger. Everybody can make a difference, even if it’s donating just a little bit. Mahalo to Senator Hirono and her colleagues for encouraging Americans to contribute,” said Edmund Aczon, Chairman of the Filipino Community Center Board of Directors

While there was an immediate outpouring of donations and other assistance following the immense destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan this November, the length of the rebuilding process means contributions are still needed now and in the months ahead. The tax code provides a delayed incentive for making charitable contributions. Taxpayers can claim a tax deduction for contributions they make to charities, but they receive the tax incentive many months later after they file their tax returns the following year. The Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act eliminates this delay. The bill would allow taxpayers who donate to the relief efforts in the Philippines after the President’s signature and before April 15, 2014 to take the charitable deduction when they file their 2013 tax returns. Taxpayers who donate in this timeframe but have already filed their taxes can amend their tax returns to receive these benefits this year.

Hirono, Heller, Menendez and Reid have also worked to support Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts by calling on the Obama Administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Filipino nationals currently residing in the United States. Designed as an emergency measure for nations facing extreme hardships, TPS would allow Filipino nationals without permanent resident status to continue to stay in the US and provide working authorization temporarily until TPS status ends. Hirono also recently penned an op-ed in The Hill to drum up support for TPS and the Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act.

Phung Jefferson for Judge

Editor’s Note: As our mission here is to support AAPIs in any & every way, we feature Phung Jefferson, a private attorney running for Clark County District Court Judge for Department 2. Filing for candidacy begins an often long road of many steps for all in US politics and we want you to publicize & support all AAPIs in this work. Note her June 10 primary election and Nov 4 general election dates so read, volunteer & publicize! Below is her biography which we share with you.

Phung Jefferson

My name is Phung Jefferson and I am running for Nevada Clark County District Court Judge in a nonpartisan race. I have a strong commitment to upholding the principles of equality and justice. There is no greater honor than being allowed the opportunity to serve our local community.

I was born in Nha Trang, S. Vietnam in 1970. My Vietnamese mother, American father and brothers arrived in the United States in 1976. I became a U.S. citizen at the age of 9 in 1979. I earned my Bachelor of Science from UNLV and Juris Doctor at Western State College of Law, in Fullerton, California. I opened my own private law practice in 2003 and argued an appeal for the Nevada Supreme Court shortly thereafter. This appeal resulted in a Court opinion which became controlling legal authority in Nevada [Hudson v. Jones, 138 P.3d 429 (Nev. 2006)].

Throughout my career, I have represented clients in jury trials, bench trials, arbitrations, and hearings. I have served as legal council in many different areas, including criminal proceedings, family law matters, civil defense cases, and personal injury claims. I work hard to ensure that all clients I represent are provided with a deep understanding of the intricacies of their case, feel their interests have been presented accurately, and are able to fully communicate their needs.

In my spare time, I try to do my part to help to enrich our local community by providing free seminars regarding important topics such as domestic violence and how to plan for a career in law.

My heritage and my life experience have given me a unique perspective and a great deal of understanding. I am grateful to my family for providing me with a strong work ethic and a firm dedication to upholding that which is right. Please feel free to visit my webpage at www.phungjefferson.com.

Editor’s Note: We’ve also featured another AAPI in running for Clark County Judge, Judge Cheryl Moss.

Colleen Hanabusa (1/2)

I’m tracking the election’s kabillion developments in 1 big post, Election 2014, but wanted to give 1 attention because of the many issues it raises for many people.

Hanabusa builds her lead in the Primary per today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser (subscription required) poll by Ward Research. Despite some polls like Honolulu Civil Beat‘s show a tie, but polls are fickle things so here’s some meat on the bone: Hanabusa’s a long-time proven leader who has given direct political and organizational support to us here in the AAPI community about the topics which we need neither reminder nor condescending lecture. Enough cannot be said about steady constant support in the effort to fix causes we AAPIs care about most, whether here at the AAA-Fund, as individuals with AAPI family & friends or as a societal whole. It’s demoralizing & detestable to have minor political calculations ruin the long & steady advancement of AAPIs concerns. Representing a people must rise above inane polls, carefully doctored numbers, derisive political ads (which have effect when negative) & other fruitless political industry antics.

Update: I follow up this post here.

The ‘go for broke’ generation

What does Veterans Day mean to you? For some Americans, it’s a work holiday, and for others, it means a trip to the church or the cemetery to pay respect to relatives. However for the vast majority, I hope this is a special day to reflect back on all the contributions veterans have made and the sacrifices many overcame to be recognized and respected.

For my family, this day is also a remembrance of my grandpa who died last year. He served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. My grandpa and his fellow comrades fought not only for their country, but also for the respect and dignity of their families and fellow Asian-Americans facing discrimination at a time when many Japanese were seen as “enemy aliens.”

As Japanese-Americans during World War II, my grandparents were forced to choose between the country of their parent’s birth (their parents were Japanese citizens living in the U.S.) and the country they were born in and citizens of, the U.S.

“It’s kind of hard when you think about it now,” said my great uncle who was 12 at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing. “We were against them [Japan], but we were in a way the same because we were Japanese.”

My grandpa volunteered for the army, even though he was the eldest son in a fatherless family. He was placed in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of Japanese-American men who became the most decorated unit in American military history for their size and time in combat, earning more than 18,000 individual decorations, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

I remember my grandpa telling me he volunteered because he wanted a better job and money to support his family. His father died when he was a teenager, so as the eldest son, he took on the role as the man of the house, helping his mother support his five younger siblings. He also volunteered because he wanted to show his country that Japanese-Americans were loyal to the U.S.

In January 2012, my grandpa was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress, after President Obama signed a 2010 bill that collectively granted the Medal to the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.

What strikes me is how my grandpa and other Japanese-American men could respond to a terrorist attack on their country by going off to war and then coming back to silently endure the traumas they faced. In Japanese, it is called “ganbatte.”

The men of the 442nd and 100th Battalion also lived and fought by their motto “Go for Broke,” which means something along the lines of giving it your all for a big win and risking everything to succeed.

“It meant ‘the hell with it’ whether you make it or die,” my great-uncle said. “That’s when you are facing the enemy. Give it all you got.”


When we experience discrimination, are we moved to help others who experience the same feeling? Are we better able to empathize and understand what battles they face?

A speaker at an Asian-American awards ceremony I attended said something along these lines, and I mentioned it in my first blog post.

There are many forms and shapes discrimination takes. There are the more obvious ones like gender, race and sexuality. And then there are the more hidden ones, like those with disabilities, physical and mental.

This past week, I covered a disabilities employment conference and found that those with disabilities are paid 10 percent less than other workers in similar jobs. Although these findings were based on a survey of full-time male workers only, researchers still discussed the importance of this wage gap and the way people perceive disabled people.

Another story I worked on this week dealt with the link between crime and immigration and growing ethnic diversity. Although there is hard evidence to disprove this connection, a new poll by the Center for American Progress found that almost half of those surveyed said they are concerned that crime and problems in neighborhoods will increase with rising ethnic diversity.

Many of the immigration experts I spoke to said these misconceptions and this fear of the “other” could negatively impact diversity-related policies like immigration reform.

Researchers at the disabilities conference also expressed concern about how employers’ misconceptions about people with disabilities could negatively impact the hiring of disabled people. They also found that management training and accommodation programs for disabled people did not ensure workplace satisfaction. Some disabled workers felt their managers saw them for their disability and not as an employee.

One of the researchers also said employers need to be as conscious about disability wage gaps as they are of gender and racial pay disparities. There was also a comment that disabled people are becoming the “new diversity.”

I remember one of my professors asking the class how often they felt like the “other.” One person said she felt like the “other” at a party where she was the only Caucasian person there. But she said when she felt uncomfortable, she left the party.

But what about those who can’t leave? What about those who feel like the “other” all the time?

My diversity stories:
“Study: Workers with disabilities paid 10 percent less”

“Poll: Many Americans link crime with growing ethnic diversity”

‘Lazy people do not immigrate’

The below is a guest blog by writer Jayna Omaye. – The Editors

I first came to D.C. in 2005 as a tourist; the second time last year as an intern for Sen. Daniel Inouye; and now, I am here as a journalism graduate student and a reporter. All three times offered different experiences and opportunities, but I have to say being here as a journalist has been the most challenging but probably the most rewarding.

Last Tuesday, I covered a huge immigration rally at the National Mall. Thousands of immigrants, immigration advocates and organizations, and members of Congress rallied to push for Hill action on stalled immigration legislation. Some members of Congress participated in acts of civil disobedience and were arrested for this cause.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived. Even though I am a fourth-generation Japanese-American, I honestly didn’t understand the whole scale and scope of immigration reform and the importance it held to families who were separated because of deportation and visa laws.

As a member of the press, I was allowed to stand in front of the stage where thousands were waving signs that read, “Keep families together” and “Respect.” People were pushing up against the gate chanting “si se puede” (yes we can) and roaring in agreement as the speakers preached the need for immigration reform.

It didn’t matter that these people were of different nationalities, ethnicities or economic status, they all came together to push for an issue they knew was important.

This experience reminded me of a reception I had covered earlier that honored Sen. Inouye and two awardees who fought for civil rights and equality for the Asian-American community. I remember one of the speakers saying that when we experience discrimination, we are moved to help others who experience the same feeling. It doesn’t matter if they are the same ethnicity or experiencing the same type of discrimination. But something about knowing what it feels like to be different and to be wrongfully discriminated against helps us understand what battles others face.

As a journalist, you’re always toggling between standing up for what you believe in and trying to stay as objective as possible. This tearing of your beliefs and your purpose as a journalist is extremely difficult sometimes.

Being objective is presenting multiple sides of the story, and that especially means putting aside your personal feelings and values and talking to people you disagree with. This is why covering immigration is my most challenging yet most rewarding experience in D.C. so far. As a journalist, the way you see the world is different than others. Although you formulate your own opinions, you also learn to be compassionate and open-minded and understand others’ views, even though they might be unpopular.

But I will say this – out of all the messages and statements presented at the Asian-American awards reception, I think the most telling was this one, by Rep. Barney Frank: “Lazy people do not immigrate.”

Links to my stories:
Immigration reform: Rally on Mall pushes for Hill action” (includes photo slideshow)

Asian-American community honors Sen. Daniel Inouye

Living vs dead Chinatowns, gentrification & elections

AALDEF, the NYC based Asian American civil rights organization, has a new report out about the rate of gentrification in Chinatowns in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. (I guess DC was just a lost cause.) In conjunction with the discussion of this article, I want to propose the idea of “living” (these three cities, Chicago, San Francisco) versus “dead” Chinatowns (DC.) In my mind, when I walk the streets of a given Chinatown, “living” connotes active engagement and residency by the Chinese American community versus the slick, big box retail feel of Washington, DC Chinatown, which most Chinese Americans fled decades ago for Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax, VA. The shops in DC Chinatown are adorned in bright signs with Chinese characters, but have very little daily relevance to Chinese or Chinese American culture, such as the skateboard shop, the Ann Taylor, and the Legal Seafood.

It’s a very read-worthy report, and I’ve gone on the walking tour of Boston Chinatown where you can see how highway I-93 literally cuts through the enclave, with a half-sheared building standing mute but providing powerful testimony to interesting municipal planning. The report illuminated that the AAPI population in Boston Chinatown went from 70% in 1990 to 46% in 2010. Philadelphia Chinatown has been encroached upon by developers, and was under threat from a proposed casino for a significant period. NYC Chinatown was at one point overtaking Little Italy, but now with the New Museum and the gentrification of the Bowery, is being pressed upon by towering luxury apartment buildings. Not to mention, Park Row, a residential community adjacent to South Chinatown, and nearby commercial buildings (shops and restaurants) have been under the shadow of 9/11 for 12 years, with limited access for a substantial period of time (9/11 cleanup), depressing retail sales. To this day, there are armed police stations that guard the entrance path to Park Row.

San Francisco Chinatown has managed to thrive due to a high intra-ethnicity turnover rate, and Chicago Chinatown (of which, really, there are 3 – historic Chinatown, “new” Argyle (largely Vietnamese-Chinese American) Chinatown, and “new new” Chinatown, which is across the street from historic Chinatown, and includes a number of residential properties that have lured second and third generation Chinese Americans back to the city center. (There is some small degree of this happening in other cities as well, but in my mind, Chicago has done a better job than most.)

The reason that I keep rotating back to this issue of whether Chinese Americans who have “made it” come back is because it is also a large part of why “living” Chinatowns become essentially “dead” Chinatowns. Moving out of Chinatown and to the suburbs is intrinsically seen as one of the markers of success for first, second, and third generation Chinese Americans. This is antithetical to keeping Chinatowns vibrant. This is separate from biased and discriminatory urban planning decisions hatched in concert with the stereotypically greedy developers. And it absolutely doesn’t discount folks who want to stay but get pushed out – I’m just bringing this up because it’s also a real thing.

Don’t get me wrong – DC Chinatown/Verizon Center is more bustling and lively than a decade ago, and is now an economic engine and one of the hearts of the city, but the business owners by and large do not live there. Although the DC AAPI population has risen 60% since 2000, according to the 2010 Census.

In NYC, the press of developers on the boundaries of Chinatown has caused friends who have lived, breathed, and worked in Chinatown for decades to move to Harlem, where elected officials like City Councilor Melissa Mark-Vivitero have noticed the increase of AAPIs. This follows on a previous out-migration to Queens (Flushing, Woodside, etc.), Brooklyn (where there is another Chinatown), New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, and Connecticut.

So how do we keep the living nature of Chinatowns across the country? The report proposes several solutions: reinforcing and constructing more low-income housing, subsidizing local small businesses, prioritizing green spaces, strengthening the links between satellite Asian Am enclaves in the suburbs to the Chinatown cores, and engaging in dialogue with traditional community land owners like the family associations. All of these are great, and I’m going to a step further.

What I’m fundamentally saying is that keeping Chinatown affordable and full of vitality is partially dependent upon the people in elected office. They hold hearings and have influence over city planning to varying degrees. Former At-Large Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon came out of the fight to keep one Boston Chinatown. Michelle Wu and Suzanne Lee are running for city council in Boston (different seats.) Philadelphia has yet to elect a progressive AAPI city councilmember, whereas SF has a plethora of AAPI electeds (and folks in the pipelines to run when the inevitable term limits hit.) AAAF Greater Chicago helped get Alderman Ameya Pawar, the first AAPI alderman ever in Chicago, elected in 2011. Progress is slow, but steady.

Not that AAPI candidates are necessarily going to be informed about the community’s issues, or even live in the Chinatown district. It is incumbent upon the community and those who work to keep living, breathing Chinatowns to educate candidates and elected officials, regardless of their ethnicity. Because we all need allies and champions in this effort, and sometimes people surprise you.


AAPIs running today, 9/10/13 edition

Quick rundown of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are on the ballots today (Sept 10.) Please note, these are not endorsements from AAA Fund or myself.

New York City (Polls open until 9pm)

Pollsite locator: http://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/Search.aspx

John Liu – running for NYC Mayor.
The current NYC Comptroller, Liu has been careful to point out that he was never a career politician. After serving 2 terms as the first AAPI NYC Councilmember, and head of the Transportation Committee, he ran for and won a citywide election for Comptroller in 2009. He’s running against a wide field of candidates including current frontrunner NYC Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Notable endorsements include AFSCME DC 37, Sierra Club

Reshma Saujani – running for NYC Public Advocate.
Saujani first ran for office in 2010 against incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a liberal lion. At that time, she was a Wall Street lawyer, and since then, Saujani served as Deputy Public Advocate under Bill Di Blasio and founded the nonprofit Girls Who Code. She’s running in the only citywide election that hasn’t gotten that much press (lacking a Weiner or Spitzer), against State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Tish James, educator Cathy Guerriero, and NYPD community liaison Siddique Wai. Notable endorsements: Queens Democratic machine, Brooklyn-Queens NOW, a ton of celeb endorsements.

NYC City Council
Margaret Chin v Jenifer Rajkumar (District 1 – Chinatown/ Financial District)
One-term Councilmember Margaret Chin faces a primary challenge from Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar in an AAPI v AAPI showdown. Chin, a former tenant rights organizer and nonprofit exec, represents the AAPI-heavy district, but has come under fire for being too closely aligned with the developers that she began her career by fighting. Rajkumar, a civil rights attorney, is trying to capitalize on some of that disenchantment. Here’s a closer look.


William Tong – running for Stanford Mayor
Tong, a former State Rep, was the first AAPI elected to the Connecticut legislature. And he picked up a seat against an entrenched Republican incumbent. After running in the CT US Senate primary last year, he hopes to repeat his previous campaign victories by winning a Democratic primary for Stamford mayor. As a state rep, Tong passed anti-gun legislation and was an ardent and vocal supporter of immigrant rights. He recently scored a coup in getting Gov. Dan Malloy’s endorsement, but the local Dems are with a primary opponent. Here’s a recent interview with Tong.

Will update more later as election returns come in.

Update (9/11/13)
Primary day was not the greatest for most of these candidates, as only incumbent CM Margaret Chin won her race, with 58%.


AAPIs a Crucial Vote

Asian American vote for Democratic President

Although pundits and commentators have attributed Barack Obama’s victory in 2012 to support from the Hispanic and African American communities, many have overlooked the critical role that Asian Americans played in that election. That year, President Obama won 73 percent of the Asian American vote, up from 62 percent in 2008. Asian Americans supported Obama in greater margins than any voter group except African Americans.

While Asian Americans currently only comprise 5 percent of the U.S. population, their numbers are predicted to swell to 9 percent by 2050. Furthermore, in swing states like Nevada and Virginia, Asian Americans already wield significant voting strength. As of the 2010 Census, Asian Americans form approximately 7 percent of Nevada’s population and 6 percent of Virginia’s. In other swing states, like North Carolina and Florida, the growth of the Asian American community outpaces the national average.

Even in non-swing states with high Asian American populations, their votes can be very influential in primary elections. For example, Hillary Clinton’s victory over President Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries in California, where Asian Americans comprise 8 percent of the Democratic electorate, was largely due to the 3-1 margin of support she garnered from that bloc.

As the 2016 presidential race begins to heat up, Republican and Democratic strategists will undoubtedly focus more attention on this crucial voting bloc.

– Michael Dee