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NAKASEC Policy Update [July 6, 2009]

By July 6, 2009No 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 Health and Human Services – On June 19, Howard Koh was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Koh will be responsible for overseeing the major health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). FDA, acting as the lead health advisor to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Most recently, Koh was the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and also the school’s Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, and Director of the Division of Public Health Practice.

Department of Education – On June 19, Martha J. Kanter was confirmed as Under Secretary of the Department of Education (DOE). Kanter will oversee policies, programs, and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education, and federal student aid. She currently serves as Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the country, and the National Chair of the Community College Advisory Panel for the College Board. Prior to that, she was Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at San Jose City College where she formerly worked as a teacher and created the school’s first program for students with learning disabilities. Kanter is the first community college official to reach such a high rank within DOE.

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.

Health Equity: On June 24, NAKASEC and affiliates mobilized a dozen people for an evening action and rally that integrated cultural heritage with political expression in support of health equity within health reform legislation in 2009.  Representatives from the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center of Chicago, staff from our national Los Angeles office and NAKASEC supporters from the DC metropolitan area were present to share the energizing beats of poongmul, express unity in fighting racial and ethnic health disparities, and promote culturally competent practices.  Hundreds of people participated in the event, in partnership with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and heard Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) speak from the podium on these issues.  NAKASEC Board member Je Yon Jung introduced executive director EunSook Lee, who linked the language needs of our communities to the need to ensure access to healthcare for immigrants.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) National Mobilization: NAKASEC’s energizing health policy advocate Joyce Yin helped kick-off a national rally attended by nearly 10,000 people in Washington, D.C. to pressure the Senate and House to provide access to quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans on June 25. Representative Xavier Becerra was one of many who spoke to the importance of the public option in any health reform; he also led HCAN’s health equity townhall later that day at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, where Korean Resource Center’s community health advocate Stella Kim spoke on the importance of immigrant inclusion. That same message was conveyed earlier by Sookyung Oh at the Rhode Island town hall. Together, NAKASEC and KRC met with the offices of Representatives Joe Baca (CA-43) and Doris Matsui (CA-5), and shared key information with Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35), Diane Watson (CA-33) and Loretta Sanchez (CA-47).

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

: 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.

Recent Developments: On June 25, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Department of Labor Hilda Solis, met with a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators to lay the groundwork for a legislative debate on immigration reform. Slated to begin this fall, the President stated that Secretary Napolitano will lead a Congressional leadership working group to outline legislation. A potential bill would move through regular order of the committees of jurisdiction (House and Senate Immigration Subcommittees housed within their respective Judiciary Committees) and can be expected to be introduced as early as Fall 2009.  “It’s going it require some heavy lifting,” Obama said. “It’s going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policy making over short-term politics. That’s what I’m committed to doing as President.” At that time, President Obama also reported that in three months time, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch an improved Web site that will allow applicants for the first time ever to get application status updates via online, e-mail and text messages. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already stated that immigration reform remains a top priority, after health care reform and climate change, and that there is enough time on the congressional calendar for debate.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: During a teleconference organized by the Rights Working Group, Department of Justice (DOJ) officials shared information about civil rights investigations generally and the status of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigation specifically.  The investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office involves allegations of police misconduct and illegal searches and seizures.

City of Los Angeles Supports Immigration Reform: The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously for a resolution calling for comprehensive immigration reform during the 2009-2010 federal legislative period on June 22.  Council President Eric Garcetti spoke of the need to work locally on urging Congress to find workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and moves America forward together.   During the meeting several community members provided moving testimonies about being torn apart from their families while immigrant rights groups, including the Korean Resource Center, spoke on the lasting damage our broken immigration system is causing to communities and the economy in Los Angeles. Click here for a copy of the resolution.

Name check backlog nearly cleared: On June 22, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and USCIS reported that a backlog that delayed citizenship, work authorization, and other applications to move forward because of name checks has been nearly eliminated. Prior to finalizing such applications, USCIS forwards information about applicants to the FBI to compare against the information in the FBI’s Universal Name Index (UNI). Known as the National Name Check Program or “name checks,” after 9/11, some applicants have had to endure an additional wait time – sometimes up to three years – for this process. The FBI credits the hiring of more workers and upgrading its technology as the factors enabling them to handle all requests within 30 days. This improved timeline brings USCIS and FBI back in line with federal law which requires USCIS to grant or deny citizenship within 120 days of an applicant’s examination. Muslim immigrants have in particular experienced the longest wait times, leading many community members to believe that they were being unfairly scrutinized and subjected to excessive delays.

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 23 co-sponsors in the Senate and 80 in the House for the respective bills.

National Day of Action for the DREAM Act: On June 23, thousands of undocumented students, community leaders, prominent business leaders, and political supporters participated in sixteen symbolic graduation ceremonies across the nation for policies that achieve equal access to higher education such as the DREAM Act. From coast to coast, these graduation ceremonies were organized by members of United We DREAM, a national grassroots network of student and immigrant rights organizations. Energy and passions were high as the ceremonies were an opportunity for young people to celebrate their accomplishments and stand united for a chance to achieve their dreams, and then communicate that message in the halls of Congress.

NAKASEC and its affiliates were central in organizing and participating in graduation ceremonies in Los Angeles, Orange County (California), Chicago, and Washington D.C.

In Washington, D.C. over 500 youth and community members from over 15 states congregated on the steps of the nation’s capitol. Representatives from the College Board, Microsoft, Service Employees International Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, along with several student speakers, gave memorable speeches. Their touching stories and testimonials demonstrated the urgent need for policies that give all students equal access to higher education and resulted in this favorable editorial in the New York Times. Yosub Jung, a Korean American student organizer with the Korean Resource Center was presented the Student Spirit Award by the College Board. Yosub shared his story and rallied the energetic audience:

“We must never give up…and let us never feel ashamed. I am like you who have been     waiting quietly till somebody     stood up. But I got tired of waiting. I just realized dying in a battlefield for possibilities of life and freedom is     more worthwhile than living in fear of bombs in a closet. Besides, we are not alone as you can see today. So let’s     not give up. Let’s imagine a day when people will look at us and say: Dreams really come true.”

Over 300 people and 100 students participated in the Los Angeles and Orange County graduation ceremonies. KRC and NAKASEC performed poongmul. Sally Kim participated in the Orange County ceremony and was recognized for her ambitions to attend medical school; she reminded the audience that immigration is also a Korean American issue.

In Chicago, FYSH (Fighting Youth Shouting Out for Humanity) of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center, in conjunction with DREAM ACTion and Latinos Progresando, hosted a rally at St. Ann’s Church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.  The crowd of about 80 supporters heard from students and organizers working to secure equal access to higher education for all.  An undocumented FYSH member J. Kim shared, “It’s difficult for me as an undocumented student to not have the same opportunities as others, especially when it comes to education.  I am an American.  I was raised in America. And I want to continue my education in America.”

For more information about the DREAM Act and the United We DREAM campaign, contact HyunJoo Lee, National Organizing Coordinator, at 323.937.3703 x 202 or at

Civil Rights

Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Section 5: On June 22, the Supreme Court voted 8-1 to uphold Section 5, a provision that requires specific areas with a history of racial discrimination in voting to seek preclearance from the Department of Justice before implementing changes to their voting policies. Jurisdictions that can apply for bailout meaning places that no longer will be obligated under Section 5 to pre-clear their voting changes, was expanded however to include all political subdivisions. Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter, stating that he would have resolved the case differently because Section 5 was unconstitutional. On March 25, 2009, NAKASEC joined other AAPI and civil rights organizations on an amicus brief in support of Section 5 because it protects the voting rights of minority, first time and limited English proficient voters and applauds the Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality and relevance of Section 5. Click here for more information.

The Right To Choose

On June 24, a divided federal appeals court upheld a 2003 law that bans a type of late-term abortion; the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 6-to-5 decision that the Virginia’s Partial Birth Infanticide Act makes clear the type of procedure that is banned and adequately protects the mother’s health. The decision reversed a ruling in 2008 that declared the law unconstitutional, further eroding protections long given to women’s health. The decision leaves 15 similar state laws blocked by courts, while 16 laws are in effect. In dissent, Judge M. Blane Michael argued that the Court’s decision “sanctions an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to choose.” Among other consequences, there are concerns that because of the potential criminal liability, doctors will stop performing regular standards that are critical for women to access.

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   www.

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