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NAKASEC Policy Update [June 15, 2009]

By June 16, 2009 One Comment

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 Justice – On June 4, 2009, Tom Perez was appointed Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division. Perez’s main responsibilities will be to ensure that all Americans receive equal treatment and justice under the law in regards to areas such as education, housing, and employment. Perez is currently a civil rights attorney and consumer advocate who serves as Secretary for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR). Prior to this position, Perez also worked as a prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division and was on the board of directors of Casa de Maryland, a non-profit immigrant assistance organization.

Department of Health and Human Services – On May 29, 2009, Cindy Mann was appointed Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations (CMSO), which is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). As Director of CMSO, Mann will help oversee Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at the federal level. Mann is currently a research professor at Georgetown University, Health Policy Institute and executive director of the Center for Children and Families at the Institute.

United States Supreme Court – On June 9, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will begin on July 13. President Obama had announced his designation of Sotomayor to succeed retiring Justice David Souter on May 26. Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney in New York City and in private practice before being nominated by President George H.W. Bush and confirmed to the federal district court in 1992.  In 1998, she was confirmed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. President Obama emphasized Sotomayor’s “extraordinary journey” from modest beginnings to the Ivy League and now the pinnacle of the judicial system. She would be the first Latina justice in the court’s history and its third woman. The President has touched off a confirmation battle that he hopes will focus on her legal experience. Sotomayor has served on the federal judicial bench for 17 years and brings more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Nonetheless, her public record has been subject to scrutiny by conservatives as Republicans have threatened to slow down the nomination process because they were not informed of the start date prior to Leahy’s announcement.  Leahy dismissed Republican attacks arguing that it took the current Chief Justice John Roberts only 72 days to be confirmed from the time he was nominated and that Sotomayor’s confirmation should be on a similar timeline.


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 and 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.

Immigration Reform Meeting Delayed: President Obama was expected to meet with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress on June 17 to begin discussions on immigration reform. Originally scheduled for June 8 and later re-scheduled for June 17, this meeting has now been postponed twice. While there has been notable actions taken by the White House on the administrative end, the introduction of legislation addressing key components of immigration reform, and leadership exercised by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Obama Administration and Congress has yet to begin working in concert to address comprehensive immigration reform.

Reform Immigration FOR America campaign launch: Communities launched the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, a nationally coordinated effort that brings together multiple sectors under one tent to promote comprehensive immigration policies on June 1 in 40 cities. Later that week, an energizing summit united nearly 800 community organizers from 40 states, including NAKASEC and its affiliates, to discuss political strategy, listen to and share testimonies, and walk the halls of Congress. In the coming months, NAKASEC and its affiliates will be rallying Korean Americans, AAPIs and the wider community to get educated and take action with their feet and fingers to fix the broken immigration system. For more information, contact NAKASEC at 202-339-9349 or soh@nakasec.org

Restoration of Right-To-Counsel Decision – On June 3, Attorney General Eric Holder withdrew a decision issued by outgoing Attorney General Michael Mukasey that purported to unravel decades of legal precedent on the important role of and right to competent counsel in immigration proceedings. Mukasey’s decision, Matter of Compean, 24 I&N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009), held that immigrants in removal proceedings had no right to counsel under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. It further held that the immigrant had to provide extensive evidence of this prejudice that was not required in the past, creating new burdens for thousands of immigrants who face significant, life-changing decisions. Holder’s withdrawal of Mukasey’s decision improved the integrity of immigration court decisions and underscored the importance of protecting our fundamental principles of due process within our justice system.

Family Immigration Bill Introduced in the House
– The “Reuniting Families Act” or H.R. 2709 was introduced on June 4 by Representatives Mike Honda (D, CA-15), Linda Sanchez (D, CA-39), and Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-7). Currently there are 59 co-sponsors. Similar to the Senate version introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) on May 20, 2009, this legislation recognizes the contributions of immigrants and the importance of families in strengthening our country. By reducing the unbearably long periods of families being separated and improving the outdated family immigration system, countless families will not be forced to wait years – often decades – to reunify with loved ones. Other provisions of note include The House version contains an additional provision that would allow same-sex binational permanent partners to obtain lawful permanent resident status. Click here for a summary of the provisions.

Administrative Relief for Widows and Widowers – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a directive on June 9 to grant deferred action for two years to widows and widowers of U.S. citizens – as well as their unmarried children under 18 years old – who reside in the United States and who were married for less than two years prior to their spouse’s death. Previously, widows and widowers of U.S. citizens would have had their visa applications interrupted upon death of the main petitioner. This action provides an opportunity for some families to stay in the country and apply for work authorization for at least two years while their legal status is resolved. Additionally, DHS will soon issue guidance on how widows and widowers can apply for humanitarian reinstatement in the case that their petition was previously rejected. Secretary Napolitano noted that this is temporary and that a legislative fix is needed, such as the recently introduced House family immigration bill.

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 American patients, in particular, face language barriers that limit their ability to communicate effectively with health care providers, sometimes leading to life-threatening misdiagnoses.

Recent developments: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee (one of two committees of jurisdiction in the Senate) released its draft legislation for review so that it may be introduced as a bill soon.  NAKASEC is in the process of reviewing its summary and relevant sections to determine to what extent NAKASEC’s policy priorities – public plan option, immigrant inclusion, and health equity – are incorporated. To date, NAKASEC has signed onto a letter that was sent to Senator Edward Kennedy (HELP Committee Chair) that detailed specific policy fixes addressing immigrant inclusion in health reform. Meetings have also been held with the HELP committee, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. In the weeks to come, NAKASEC intends to meet with the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others to bolster Congressional support for immigrant inclusion.

Health Disparity Bill To Be Introduced: On June 9, the Congressional TriCaucus – comprised of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus – unveiled a draft of the “Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009.” Seeking to address causes of health disparity across race, ethnicity, gender, and geography, this legislation supports efforts to ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate health care, improve workforce diversity, and strengthen and coordinate data collection and analysis.

Immigrant Student Access to Education

Background: Each year, 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduating from U.S. high schools are 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 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 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. Currently there are 22 co-sponsors in the Senate and 70 in the House for the respective bills.

Building Momentum for the DREAM Act – Since March 2009, youth leaders and activists organized by NAKASEC and its affiliates have collected over 1,000 post cards in Chicago and Los Angeles and have visited 30 members of Congress to urge their leadership on the DREAM Act. Youth members have also been fundraising for the national DREAM Scholarship Fund which was launched 2 years ago by Korean American youths who first mobilized around the DREAM Act campaign. To get involved, please contact.

Civil Rights

New Hampshire Becomes the 6th State to Pass Marriage Equity
– On June 3, the New Hampshire legislature approved a revised same-sex marriage bill and signed into law by Gov. John Lynch. The law will take effect January 1, 2010. The revised bill includes a clause that will protect religious organizations and clergy members from having to perform same-sex weddings. As more states legalize same-sex marriages, some are increasingly pushing for “conscience protections” language that protects certain organizations, including religious organizations and even businesses (such as photographers or florists). Despite the negotiations, it is clear that states are taking the lead in standing for marriage equality. NAKASEC is inspired by the recent victory in New Hampshire and are committed to educating and organizing the Korean American community so that together we build a society where all community members, regardless of their sexual orientation, have full and equal rights to justice and happiness. To get involved, please contact hlee@nakasec.org.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1. Join NAKASEC to support quality health care for all.

o Rally and Candlelight Vigil for Healthcare Equity: Wednesday, June 24 from 7 – 9 p.m. at Freedom Plaza (14th & Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20004, near the Metro Center Metro stop)
o Health Care Can’t Wait Mobilization: Thursday, June 25 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. in Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Hemi Kim at hkim@nakasec.org or 202.339.9318.

Storm the Hill and Act for DREAM! United We Dream Coalition invites you to join the National Day of Action on June 23 in Washington, D.C. Register at www.dreamactivist.org. For more information, contact HyunJoo Lee at hlee@nakasec.org or 323.937.3703, x202.

2. Forward this email to your friends and encourage them to sign up on our listserv.
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. 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 www.nakasec.org or call 323.937.3703 / 202.339.9318.

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

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