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NAKASEC Legislative Update [April 6, 2009]

By April 7, 2009 No Comments

If you should have any questions, feel free to contact NAKASEC at 323.937.3703 or 202.339.9318.

The Obama Administration-New Appointments & Nominations

Department of Commerce: Gary Locke was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce on March 25th. Locke is the first Chinese American governor and began his political career in the Washington State House of Representatives, where he served for a decade starting in 1982. After three years as county executive in Seattle’s King County in the mid-1990s, Locke was elected governor in 1996. On April 2, President Barack Obama nominated Robert M. Groves to become Director of the Census Bureau. Groves served as associate director of the Census from 1990-1992 and is a research professor at the University of Maryland with expertise on survey methodology and statistics. His nomination received prompt opposition from Republicans because Groves had recommended that statistical sampling be used to adjust an undercount of 5 million people, many of them minorities in dense urban areas, during the 1990 Census.

Department of Justice: Tom Perez, previously nominated to head the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has been tapped to be the Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Perez is a former staff attorney in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under the Clinton administration, before serving as head of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Department of Health & Human Services: Howard Koh was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health & Human Services. Koh is the Director of the Division of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He previously served as commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

State Department: Harold Koh was nominated to be the legal advisor of the State Department. Koh is one of the country’s leading experts on public and private international law, national security law and human rights. A Marshall scholar, Koh graduated from Harvard, Oxford and Harvard Law School, worked for the Clinton administration, and has received 11 honorary degrees and more than 30 awards for his human rights work. Critics are calling Koh a “transnational progressive” for comments he made regarding the importance of following international law and “global norms.” The White House are defending their nomination, stating that Koh “earned bipartisan praise as assistant secretary of state and is universally respected by legal scholars.”

Economy

On April 2, 2009 the House and Senate passed their respective budget resolutions, which establishes various budget totals, divides spending totals into functional categories (e.g., transportation), and may include “reconciliation instructions” to designated House and/or Senate committees.

A temporary ad hoc panel composed of House and Senate conferees will be formed for the purpose of reconciling differences in the House and Senate respective budget resolution. Conference committee meetings are expected to begin soon. Although both budgets provide less for discretionary spending, which funds programs like childcare and Head Start, than President Obama’s version for the budget, both will provide reserve funds for healthcare that will serve as a guide on healthcare reform legislation.

Budget Resources:

On March 24, 2009, NAKASEC volunteer Kyeong Kim was one of about 80 participants who attended President Obama’s townhall on the economy, which was held in the White House’s East Room. Among other topics, the President addressed questions related to achieve universal healthcare, the needs of small businesses, and concerns from teachers and nurses. The event was broadcast online and was historic in advancing the White House’s use of web-based communications. Kyeong was a behind-the-scenes volunteer in NAKASEC’s exit polling efforts in Northern Virginia, as well as the America’s Future Starts with Healthy Children campaign.

Employee Free Choice Act: Given rising unemployment rates, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is a timely piece of legislation that aims to support the protection of people – including immigrants and AAPIs –who are trying to form unions for better conditions at the workplace. Key components of EFCA include:

  • Strengthen penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in an effort to prevent them from forming a union;
  • Establish majority sign-up: if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board, a company must recognize the union; and
  • Bring in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months.

    • (Source: The Employee Free Choice Act: Frequently Asked Questions. Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, 2009).

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Background: The broken immigration system affects the Korean American community: 1 in 5 Korean Americans are undocumented, thousands of bright youth cannot fulfill their dreams, countless others are separated because of the immigration backlogs, and there are those languishing and dying in detention centers. In recent years, attempts to pass legislative reform have been stymied by a vocal minority. Instead, families have been torn apart and communities have been devastated by the ramping up of raids and other enforcement activities by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). State and local governments also took matters into their own hands and passed anti-immigrant measures.

Solution: For more than a decade, Korean American communities have been engaged in national efforts to realize long-term systemic change. In doing so, we have reached a level of consensus that any legislative proposal must contain the following components:

1) Bring millions of hard working undocumented immigrants and their children out of the shadows and provide them a path to citizenship.

2) Keep families together by preserving the family immigration system, eliminating the immigration backlogs, stopping mandatory & indefinite detentions and cruel deportations for minor infractions

3) Protect all workers regardless of their immigration status.

4) Allow students to reach their full potential through access to college.

5) Protect and restore basic rights and liberties, including allowing every person to have their day in court.

6) Promote the social, economic, and political integration of immigrants.

Building Momentum for Immigration Reform in 2009: The Familias Unidas Tour, organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus tour continues in full force. Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated at the San Francisco event: Who in our country would not want to change a policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families? It must be stopped.

Congressional recess activities: During the first two weeks of April, community members across the country will take the case for comprehensive immigration reform, DREAM, due process, and health care reform to members of Congress in legislative visits and other organized events. Dubbed “Spring Into Action,” NAKASEC and its affiliates will be organizing a number of legislative visits. Contact Sookyung Oh at soh@nakasec.org or 323.937.3703, ext. 206 for more information on organizing or joining a legislative visit.

Anti-immigrant initiative at the state level: A state bill that would mandate taking driver’s license exams only in English has failed to pass in the Georgia state legislature. 57% of adult Korean Americans are limited English proficient and Georgia is home to one of the fastest growing Korean American populations. Between 2000 and 2007, the Korean American population rose from 28,745 to 42,760, representing a significant 49% increase. NAKASEC and its affiliates supported the position of Asian American and Pacific Islander and immigrant organizations in Georgia in rejecting SB67 due to grave concerns for the safety and rights of all Georgians. This discriminatory and divisive legislation targeted immigrant community, who without driver’s licenses, would have been severely hindered in continuing their ability to fully contribute and participate.

Student Legalization

Background: Each year, 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools unable to realize their full potential. These students are U.S.-raised children of immigrants who are denied the opportunity to build a future in America, the country that they call home. As undocumented students, they face difficulty pursuing higher education because they are denied financial aid, scholarships, loans, and in-state tuition rates in most states. Those that have the resources to graduate are unlikely to work in the field of their choice or study. And more tragically, they live daily with the fear of being deported to a country that they barely know.

DREAM Act: On March 26, 2009, the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Lieberman (I- CT), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Harry Reid (D-NV) in the Senate as S. 729 and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Joseph Cao (R-LA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in the House of Representatives as H.R. 1751. This bipartisan legislation would provide undocumented students a chance to pursue higher education and obtain legal status. KRC and KRCC student groups are planning a series of actions to educate and mobilize the Korean American community in support of the DREAM Act. 12,500 postcards will be collected, legislative visits with key Congressmembers will be organized, and an interactive website will be launched this summer. To take action, please see the “What you can do” section. Click here to download bilingual fact sheets about the DREAM Act.

Health Care

Background: Korean Americans are underserved by the current health care system. Across the United States, roughly 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 Korean Americans are uninsured. Nationwide, healthcare is an unaffordable human need for many Korean Americans who are more than twice as likely as whites to go without health insurance. Moreover, racial disparities in health constitute a national crisis. When health care services are only available in one or two languages, it results in disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of groups based on their race or national origin. Korean Americans in particular face language barriers that limit their ability to communicate effectively with their health care provider, sometimes leading to life-threatening misdiagnoses. In addition, numerous health care facilities fail to deliver culturally competent care where a high percentage of the patient population is Korean American. The lack of health coverage forces many Korean Americans to delay medically necessary care while those with coverage are unable to receive quality health care services.

Addressing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: NAKASEC, KRC and members of KRC’s Community Health Promoters participated in the launch of the Healthcare Equality Project, a national campaign to address race-based health disparities that persist in America’s healthcare system. Launched on March 24, 2009, in Washington, D.C., the campaign brought together Members of Congress with community members to work towards providing fair access to quality healthcare for everyone in the national health reform movement.

On April 1, 2009, NAKASEC joined 850 other organizations across the country in the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) campaign. HCAN is based on the principle that everyone should have access to quality affordable health care. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and nearly 200 members of Congress support HCAN’s principles. Recently, President Obama’s budget proposal made a $634 billion down payment to fix our health care system that signals his commitment to quality, affordable health care for all.

What you can do

1. While DREAM Act has been introduced, our work is just beginning. We must make sure our elected officials make DREAM Act a priority and cosponsor the bill. If your Representatives and Senators are currently not cosponsors, call them today and them to co-sponsor DREAM Act. To see the current sponsors in the House and Senate, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR01751: and http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN00729: respectively. To find out who your Representatives and Senators are, check out www.congress.org or call the switchboard operator at 202-224-3121.

Suggested message to urge co-sponsorship:

My name is _____ and I am calling from _____ (city, zip code) to urge your support for the DREAM Act. Each year, the hopes and dreams of 65,000 of nation’s future leaders are lost. Cosponsor the DREAM Act and ensure that every child has the chance to contribute and be full participants in our society.

Suggested message to thank them if already a co-sponsor:

My name is _____ and I am calling from _____ (city, zip code) to thank you for supporting DREAM Act. Each year, the hopes and dreams of 65,000 of nation’s future leaders are lost. Please let your peers know about your support. Again, thank you for co-sponsoring legislation that ensures that every child has the chance to contribute and be full participants in our society.

To learn how you can become more involved, contact HyunJoo Lee at hlee@nakasec.org.

2. Invite NAKASEC or one of our affiliates to your classroom, place of worship, workplace, or community organization. We have experience organizing workshops and presenting on a range of issues, particularly as it impacts the Korean American and AAPI communities, including access to public education for undocumented students, civic engagement / voter empowerment, community organizing, immigrant rights (immigration reform & DREAM Act), and health care access.

3. Become a member in 2009. Your membership dollars support NAKASEC’s mission to project a national progressive voice on major civil rights and immigrant rights issues and promote the full participation of Korean Americans.

About NAKASEC – National Korean American Service & Education Consortium

NAKASEC was founded in 1994 by local community centers to build a national movement for social justice within the Korean American community. They include the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. NAKASEC and its affiliates represent a strong and unique organizing network forwarding a new empowerment model that is relevant to today’s immigrant communities. Our affiliates also play a key role in determining the policy direction and programs of NAKASEC.

Headquarters
900 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: 323.937.3703 Fax: 323.937.3753 www. nakasec.org

D. C. Office
1536 U Street NW
, Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-339-9318 Fax: 202-387-4893

Korean Resource Center (founded in 1983)
900 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: 323.937.3718 Fax: 323.937.3526 www.krcla.org

Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (founded in 1995)
6146 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659
Tel: 773.588.9158 Fax: 773.588.9159 www.chicagokrcc.org