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Top 2017 Stories Affecting Asian Americans


By Jennie L. Ilustre


Asian American women joining the Women’s March, running for public office and posting historic wins, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and immigration issues in general, and the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Filipino and Filipino American World War II Veterans – these were among the top news in 2017 affecting Asian Americans, according to advocates and journalists.


Director of Strategic Communication Michelle Boykins emailed Advancing Justice|AAJC’s Top 10 Stories in 2017 affecting Americans of Asian heritage, seen below, with DACA or DREAMers as No. 1 in the list. “Advancing Justice|AAJC has been on the front lines of fighting for a legislative solution for DACA,” she stressed.


The fate of the undocumented young adults, brought to the U.S. as children or minors without authorization, is currently the subject of negotiations between Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Republican leaders, led by President Trump, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers.


President Obama’s 2012 DACA executive order granted work permit and relief from deportation. The day after his inauguration, President Trump said he would “show great heart” to DACA recipients or DREAMers (from past DREAM legislation). He discontinued DACA last year, challenging Congress to pass legislation instead.


Asian Pacific American women motivated to run for public office as a result of the Women’s March, in which they participated – “and posting historic wins” was in the list of top news by advocate and Manila Mail columnist Jonathan Melegrito.


Melegrito stepped down last year as Communications Director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), but he continues to engage in Asian American advocacies.


President Donald Trump’s election and first year in office topped Melegrito’s list of news affecting Asian Americans. Others included the Congressional Gold Medal, DACA and immigration issues in general.


Rodney Jaleco, editor of Manila Mail, circulated in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, and other states nationwide, said in an interview: “Top story for me would be the historic Congressional Gold Medal.”


Rounding up his list, he cited the following: The election of Filipino American Kelly Fowler and Vietnamese American Kathy Tran as the first Asian American women in the Virginia House of Delegates; the protest against President Trump’s first travel ban at Dulles and other U.S. airports; and the Senate confirmation of Noel Francisco, who made history as the first Filipino American Solicitor General, and as the highest-ranking Filipino American in the Trump cabinet.


From the Asian Americans Advancing Justice|AAJC, Director of Strategic Communication Boykins enumerated the Top 10 Stories in 2017 affecting Americans of Asian heritage as follows:


  1. DREAMers – Director of Strategic Communication Boykins said, “Advancing Justice|AAJC has been on the front lines of fighting for a legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Maslenjak case was a big win in the immigration area, but the RAISE Act has the potential to decimate the family immigration system.”


(Note: Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or the RAISE Act, was introduced in February last year by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. It is unlikely to pass, according to a news report. However, it could be the basis of any future immigration bill, with the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress favoring employment-based instead of family-based immigration.

If re-filed in Congress this year in the same form, the Cotton- Perdue bill would reduce current levels of legal immigration of 1 million to the United States by half. How? By limiting family sponsorship to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders), and also reducing the age limit for minor children from 21 to 18. The bill, as proposed last year, would also limit refugee admissions to 50,000.)


  1. Muslim Travel Ban 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 – Asian Americans Advancing Justice|AAJC leaders and lawyers were at the airports protecting the rights of returning Muslim Americans and green card holders (legal permanent residents), as well as Muslim new arrivals when the first ban imploded. They also held rallies opposing each new iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban.


Director of Strategic Communication Boykins pointed out: “One interesting and uplifting note is that the circulate court judges who decided the bans were illegal and the lead attorney who argued the case before the Supreme Court were all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).”


  1. Hate Crimes – Advancing Justice|AAJC saw a rise in hate crimes, particularly among South Asians, and several violent shootings and Mosque burnings in the wake of the election, “where so many white supremacists feel emboldened to act in a hateful and violent manner.”


  1. Affirmative Action – “Asian Americans were being used as a wedge to challenge affirmative action in 2017 and there is a growing number of conservative Asian Americans who are for dismantling affirmative action in colleges and universities. Advancing Justice|AAJC is in support of affirmative action (like the majority of AAPIs) because we believe it helps, not harms Asian Americans.”


  1. Women’s March – “Advancing Justice|AAJC was proud to honor Linda Sarsour at the 2017 American Courage Awards event for co-organizing the global Women’s March for women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights.”


  1. Census 2020 – “Advancing Justice|AAJC has seen a decrease in funding for the Census and a delayed timeline that is putting the Census at risk of not counting every person. In addition, we are concerned that fears over the current climate, being an undocumented immigrant, and vacancies in the top two positions at the U.S. Census Bureau will only further hamper the process of a fair and accurate count.”


  1. Litigation – “Asian Americans plaintiffs were involved in two of the biggest U.S. Supreme Court cases in 2017. Simon Tam won his landmark free speech case in Matal v. Tam and Jae Lee’s court decision in Lee v. U.S. saves legal permanent residents in criminal proceedings from deportation. In both cases, Advancing Justice|AAJC submitted amicus curiae briefs.”


(Note: An amicus curiae –Latin for friend of the court – brief, as defined in the Cornell University law website, is one that brings to the attention of the Court relevant information or argument not brought to its attention by the parties in the case. Such material, which may be of considerable help to the Court, is offered by person or persons not involved in the case.)


  1. North Korea’s nuclear threat against the U.S. – “Everyone is on edge about North Korea’s threat, and how the tense relations will play out on the political stage. Another concern is the potential negative reaction toward Korean Americans in the U.S. and Koreans abroad.”


  1. Diversity in Hollywood and on TV. “Increasingly, Asian American film and TV actors are raising their voices regarding more and better roles and behind-the-camera representation in Hollywood and on TV. Obviously, more needs to be done, as evidenced by the unceremonious booting out of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park’s from Hawaii 5-0. Encouraging developments, however, include Hari Kondabolu’s documentary, “The Trouble With Apu,” and the original white actor cast in the “Hellboy” reboot backing out, amid AAPI backlash to Hollywood whitewashing of a crucial character to the story.”


  1. Congressional Gold Medal awarded on October 25, 2017 to Filipino and Filipino American World War II Veterans. Remarked Asian Americans Advancing Justice|AAJC Director of Strategic Communication Boykins: “Over two years ago, Advancing Justice|AAJC raised its voice in concern for the visa backlog plaguing the families of Filipino WWII veterans, resulting in government action in the form of the fast-tracked parole program for veterans’ families.”


She added: “We were further delighted when it was announced that the veterans would receive the Congressional Gold Medal, an award that was long overdue.”