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NAKASEC Policy Update [5/20/2009]

By May 20, 20092 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 and Nominations
Department of CommerceWilliam A. Ramos was appointed Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commerce Department where he will be responsible for Census 2010 outreach efforts including building partnerships between the Census Bureau and state and local governments. He is currently the Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) D.C. office. For over twenty years, Mr. Ramos has worked to promote public policies that enhance Latino opportunities to participate in the American political process, particularly in the areas of naturalization, comprehensive immigration reform and the Census.

Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed on April 28 as Health and Human Services Secretary. The Kansas governor served as state insurance commissioner for eight years and has overseen the Medicaid program for the poor during her tenure as governor. Sebelius tried unsuccessfully to expand health coverage in the state through higher cigarette taxes. As HHS Secretary, she oversees a department of 65,000 employees responsible for public health, food safety, scientific research, and the administration of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which serve 90 million Americans.

Department of Homeland SecurityAlejandro Mayorkas was nominated on May 1 by President Obama to be director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As Director of USCIS, Mayorkas will address a broad range of immigration and naturalization issues and oversee international adoptions, asylum, refugee status and foreign student authorization. Born in Cuba, Mayorkas is a former U.S. attorney for the Central District of California and was involved in a controversial clemency case involving a drug dealer’s prison sentence during the Clinton administration. On May 12, John Morton was confirmed unanimously by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At ICE, Morton will guide a workforce of more than 17,000 in an international mission to enforce immigration laws, strengthen the nation’s immigration systems and conduct investigations related to cross-border and financial crimes. Morton worked for the U.S. Department of Justice where he was responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases and development of DOJ policy as Acting Chief of the Domestic Security Section and Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.

Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentRonald Sims has been nominated to be Deputy Secretary of HUD. If confirmed, Mr. Sims, who is currently the county executive in King County, Washington, would be the Obama administration’s point person on housing assistance and affordable housing programs. John Trasviña has been nominated Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Most recently, Mr. Trasviña was president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF). During the Clinton administration, he was special counsel for immigration-related unfair employment practices at the Justice Department.

Retirement of Supreme Court Justice David SouterJustice David Souter will retire at the end of the current court term, giving President Obama his first chance at nominating a member of the Supreme Court. Souter is known as a moderate-to-liberal member. This is the first vacancy in the Supreme Court and all eyes are on who will be President Obama’s choice. In particular, will the next increase representation of women and/or minorities in the Supreme Court?

Just & Humane 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: Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee in the Senate, held the first hearing on immigration reform on April 30. Titled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How,” the diverse panel presented economic, social, and moral perspectives on the urgent need to fix the immigration system.

Panelists included J. Thomas Manger (Chief of Police, Montgomery County, MD and Director, Major Cities Chiefs Association), Alan Greenspan (Economist and Former Chairman, Federal Reserve of the United States), Dr. Joel Hunter (Senior Pastor, Northland Church and Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships), Jeff Moseley (President and CEO Greater Houston Partnership), Doris Meissner (Senior Fellow, Migration Policy Institute and Former Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service), Eliseo Medina (Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union), Wade Henderson (President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights), and Kris Kobach (Professor of Law, University of Missouri). Click to read NAKASEC’s submitted testimony and to read the panelists’ testimonies.

May Day rallies: Over 25 states organized rallies for immigration reform, the DREAM Act, and/or workers’ rights on May 1st. NAKASEC affiliates – the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles – actively participated in major May Day events. Click here for photos.

New Guidelines for DHS Workplace Enforcement: On April 30th, DHS announced new guidelines on worksite raids issued to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that target employers’ unlawful hiring practices. Several provisions outlined in the DHS Worksite Enforcement Strategy Fact Sheet indicate a focus on targeting unscrupulous employers before detaining any workers. The new guidelines reduce the threshold from 150 to 25 employees to activate existing humanitarian guidelines to quickly identify persons arrested who are sole caregivers or who should be released for other humanitarian reasons.

Limiting identity theft law: In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on May 4, that only people who knowingly steal someone’s Social Security number can be convicted of aggravated identity theft. Under the Bush administration, many undocumented workers were arrested on aggravated identity theft charges, rather than a misdemeanor, and deported for using false Social Security numbers. The decision in Flores-Figueroa v. U.S. is considered a major victory for immigrant communities as it restrains an exceptionally harsh punishment and limits the unfair application of the aggravated identity theft charge. Had this been in effect, for example during a worksite raid of a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, many workers may not have been persuaded to plead guilty to the lesser immigration charge, which carries a prison term of five months, but also led to automatic deportation.

Immigrant Student Access to Education
Background: Each year, 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools unable to realize their full potential. These immigrant students were raised in the United States and 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 as H.R. 1751.

The youth-driven national DREAM Act campaign will collect 12,500 postcards, continue to organize legislative visits with key Congressmembers and launch an interactive website this summer. To take action, contact HyunJoo Lee at Click here to download bilingual fact sheets about the DREAM Act.

Health Reform
Background: Korean Americans are underserved by the broken health system. In 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. Lack of health coverage, combined with culturally incompetent care, force many Korean Americans to delay medically necessary care while those with coverage are unable to receive quality health services. Meanwhile, racial and ethnic disparities in health constitute a national crisis. When health services are only available in one or two languages, or when people are excluded from coverage options based on immigration status alone, it results in disproportionate and discriminatory treatment of groups based on their race or national origin. Korean Americans patients, in particular, face language barriers that limit their ability to communicate effectively with health care providers, sometimes leading to life-threatening misdiagnoses.

Quality, affordable health care for all will not happen if we exclude one in five Korean Americans who live, work and build communities in the United States but do not have a path towards legal citizenship status. That is, currently NAKASEC is working to see that health reform legislation being drafted in the House and Senate is inclusive of all immigrants regardless of status. Thousands of people across the country called Congress to ensure universal children’s coverage, and saw the resulting passage of provisions to repeal the federal five-year bar for immigrant children and pregnant women in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. What’s happening now?

  • National Immigration Law Center has put out an FAQ for advocates about next steps.
  • NAKASEC and affiliates are leading visits to members of Congress that have jurisdiction and/or potential to stand for the inclusion of all immigrant adults and children in health reform legislation. Click here for our latest community education material.
  • Congress is drafting health reform legislation. The Senate Finance Committee conducted the second of its three-roundtable series on May 5, 2009. Other committees of jurisdiction include the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, the House Ways & Means Committee, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and the House Education & Labor Committee.

Announcement of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Health Reform – On May 11, Secretary Sebelius of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Health Reform. This Office will spearhead the Department’s efforts to pass urgently needed health reform this year and coordinate closely with the White House Office of Health Reform. Both offices were created by an April 8 Executive Order to deliver on one of President Obama’s top policy priorities. Staff members include: Dr. Jeanne Lambrew, Director of the HHS Office of Health Reform; Michael Hash, Senior Advisor; Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor; and Caya B. Lewis, MPH, Director of Outreach and Public Health Policy.

Voting Rights
Defending the Voting Rights Act – On April 29, the Supreme Court heard arguments related to the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder case in which the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is in question. Renewed in 2006, Section 5 requires jurisdictions with histories of discrimination in voting to receive federal preclearance of new voting practices or procedures. As minority and immigrant communities continue to grow in the U.S., laws like Section 5 are critical in protecting their voting rights and ensuring their full civic participation in the democratic process. The Supreme Court is expected to release their decision in a few weeks.

Civil Rights
States Take the Lead in Marriage Equality – On April 29, the New Hampshire Senate voted to legalize gay marriage. Unless vetoed by the Governor, the legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2010. New Hampshire joins four other states whose legislatures have passed same-sex marriage laws; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont currently permit same-sex marriages. In Vermont, the state legislature overrode Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of legislation legalizing same-sex marriage on April 7, approving legislation that will take effect on January 1, 2010.

House Passes Hate Crimes Bill – On April 29, the House passed H.R. 1913 or the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would classify “hate crimes” as attacks based on one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability. The current law, which was enacted four decades ago, excludes sexual orientation from its definition of a hate crime. The bill would also lift a requirement that a victim had to be attacked while engaged in a federally protected activity, like attending school, for it to be a federal hate crime and allow the federal government to help state and local authorities investigate hate crimes. NAKASEC applauds the House passage and are working with organizations leading the effort, such as the Leadership Council of Civil Rights and Human Rights Campaign, to advocate for its passage in the Senate as well as developing educational materials for the Korean American community.

What you can do
1. Demand health reform legislation that guarantees quality, affordable health care for all, including immigrants regardless of status. Call your Congress member in the House and Senate at (202)224-3121, and tell them to support health reform in your state by making sure that all immigrants are included in any new health proposal. For more information, contact Hemi Kim at or 202-339-9318, or Carol Kim at / 323-937-9703.

2. 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. Reduced rates are available for students and low-income community members.

About NAKASEC – National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) was founded in 1994 by local community centers to project a national progressive voice and promote the full participation of Korean Americans as a part of a greater goal of building a national movement for social change. NAKASEC maintains its national office in Los Angeles and an office in Washington, D.C. NAKASEC also has affiliates in Los Angeles (The Korean Resource Center) and Chicago (The Korean American Resource & Cultural Center). NAKASEC is a member of the APIA Vote, Campaign for Community Values, Detention Watch Network, Fair Immigration Reform Movement/Immigrant Organizing Committee, Health Care for America Now, Health Rights Organizing Project, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Gender and Equity Campaign, Reform Immigration for America Campaign, Rights Working Group, and the We Are America Alliance.

For more information and resources, visit or call 323.937.3703 / 202.339.9318.

900 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: 323.937.3703
Fax: 323.937.3753

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

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