Immigrant Rights in Limbo

By Jaya Padmanabhan, Ethnic Media Services

Thousands of immigrants who are asylum seekers, avail of certain government assistance programs, on temporary protective status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients find that there’s been no significant change in long-term legislative action to protect their rights to live and work in the United States.

Between the Muslim ban, the separation of families, terminating DACA, public charge and ending temporary protections for many, the immigrant community has had to face serious challenges since President Trump assumed office.

DACA

Nearly 800,000 have registered for the DACA program in the almost seven years since its inception in 2012. Allison Davenport, an attorney at Immigration Legal Resource Center, said at a national telebriefing on the status of key immigrant rights issues, organized by Immigration Legal Resource Attorneys and Ethnic Media Services on February 28, that “it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for DACA recipients because the future of the program has been on the chopping block over the last year and a half.”

The Pew Research reported in July 2018 that 73% of Americans favor granting legal status to children brought to the U.S. illegally (DACA recipients). Despite this overwhelming support the federal administration has not moved to re-instate the DACA program after rescinding it in the fall of 2017.

It is due to three lawsuits filed in federal courts that nationwide injunctions were issued requiring the USCIS to continue processing DACA renewals. The injunction will be valid until the DACA situation is fully decided.

The Trump administration has petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a judgement on the decision to terminate DACA, but it is not clear whether the Supreme Court will hear the case in its current term.

Whether the Supreme Court takes up the case or doesn’t, the injunctions will continue in place until fall 2019, which means that DACA renewals will continue to be processed until that time.

The big takeaway, according to Davenport, is that those who have DACA status or have had DACA status in the past are eligible to submit applications for renewal in order to get a new two-year period of DACA status as well as a work permit. Davenport advised DACA holders to pursue the renewal process six months in advance of the expiration date.

When it comes to new applications, “unfortunately, the orders from the federal court do not allow for new DACA applications,” Davenport said. In other words, those who’ve never had DACA status are not eligible to apply.

Urging immigrants to get legal help to figure out other options, with or without DACA, Davenport said that “there have been some studies of people who’ve applied for DACA and when they’ve gone for consultation, between 15% and 25% of them have been eligible for some other form of immigration status or protection and they just didn’t know it.”

TPS

About 300,000 TPS holders are in the same holding pattern as DACA holders. Temporary protected status is assigned to nationals from designated countries for humanitarian considerations. A majority of TPS holders have been living in the United States for close to two decades.

Julie Mitchell from CARECEN, the Central American resource center, explained that the Trump administration has taken steps to terminate TPS for all designated countries “except those with ongoing wars.”

Multiple lawsuits have been filed across the country to protect the rights and privileges of TPS holders affected by the termination. On October 2018, one of the lawsuits, Ramos v. Nielsen enjoined the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the termination of TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. Mitchell said that another case filed this month is taking on the case of TPS holders from Nepal and Honduras.

“Parents once protected by TPS are wondering whether to leave their children behind or take them to countries reeling from disaster,” said Mayra Alvarez, president of the Children’s Partnership, a California advocacy organization.

Asylum Seekers

In an effort to dissuade those from Central America to seek refuge in the United States, several steps have been taken by the administration to limit the numbers making their asylum case at the borders.

There was a major attack on private actor persecution policy, that is threats from private individuals, making asylum virtually impossible for those trying to evade domestic violence or gang violence situations. This, in effect, was “rewriting 38 years of asylum law,” remarked Mitchell.

Turning away asylum seekers, including minors, at border checkpoints has been common as is “metering of asylum applicants.” Metering is a policy designed to limit the number of asylum applicants entering the United States each day. The applicants are required to wait at makeshift migrant shelters, often bursting beyond capacity. Handwritten lists of people are alleged to be recording and preserving places of people waiting in line to be seen and heard by a US immigrations officer.

The Remain in Mexico rule, was put into place a few weeks ago, according to Mitchell. This policy requires that asylum seekers remain in Mexico while their cases are processed in US immigration courts. The Mexican government has agreed to go along with this policy and it is being implemented at the San Ysidro border with the expectation that it will be expanded to other border sites.

Furthermore, according to Mitchell, US attorneys and journalists are being denied admission to Mexico to cover or help the human rights cases of migrants in central America. In essence, the government is severely handicapping asylum seekers by forcing them to stay in Mexico and at the same time limiting access to attorneys while their cases are being adjudicated.

Public Charge

A public charge determination examines whether an immigrant is or is likely to be dependent on the government for support. On Oct 10, 2018, there was a proposal to change the public charge rule. The changes would affect non-US citizens who apply for a visa to enter the country or lawful permanent status — a green card. At both these process junctures, a determination will be made as to the likelihood of whether the person is or is likely to be a “public charge,” based on the person’s age, health, family and financial status and educational skills.

The change in the public charge substantial broadens the definition of public charge to include previously excluded housing, health and nutrition programs, including California’s Medi-Cal and food stamps program (SNAP).

This is just a proposal to change the public charge policy, at the moment, “however the damage is already done,” warns Alvarez. “Too many families are living in fear and confused about what policies have or have not changed and they’re reacting in response,” she said.

If the proposed public charge policy moves forward, many immigrant parents “may dis-enroll their children from health insurance, food stamps and other federally subsidized programs.”

Alvarez said that based on analysis with kidsdata.org, it was estimated that between 113,000 and 300,000 children in California could be withdrawn from food stamps and between 269,000 and 628,000 children could be withdrawn from healthcare programs. “We run the risk of increasing our uninsured children from 3% up above 88%,” she added.

The public charge policy proposed is likely to affect far more than its intended recipients, and stoke widespread panic among immigrants.

In a gratifying move, thousands of people recognized the harmful effects of the proposed public charge change and came forward to make their voices heard. “Before the Trump administration can finalize the proposed rule, the government must review more than 266,000 comments submitted on the proposal. Thus far about 64,000 comments have been reviewed,” Alvarez summarized. So it will take a few months, at the very least, before anything on the proposed public charge is decided.

And as such, Alvarez urged immigrants to continue using health, housing and nutrition programs as they did before.

Even with the concerted efforts of the Trump administration to limit, prevent and pursue immigrant rights, experts at the telebriefing said that nothing has really changed. With the courts in play, many of the harmful policies are still to be implemented. Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to set the right tone and follow through on long-lasting policies that recognize the positive impact of immigrants in our communities.

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya writes an immigration column for the SF Examiner and contributes to Bay Area publications on race, politics, immigration and mental health. She was the editor of India Currents, an Indian American monthly magazine started in 1987, from 2012 to 2016.

Could Congress Ban Citizenship Question from 2020 Census?

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Congress may hold the key to stopping the Census Bureau from adding the highly controversial question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census, civil rights advocates told a recent telebriefing with ethnic news media.

“It’s one of the most urgent civil rights issues facing the country,” said Beth Lynk, Census Counts Campaign director for the Leadership Conference Education Fund, who joined representatives from Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Urban League and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in the telebriefing.

On Feb. 6, Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, of Hawai’i, introduced the Census IDEA (Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy) Act, which would require three years’ advance notice and careful vetting of material changes to any upcoming census questionnaire. Eighteen other senators co-sponsored the bill, including California’s Kamala Harris. To override a presidential veto of the measure will require 67 Senate votes.

The House of Representatives’ Government Oversight and Reform Committee was already considering its own version of the bill, brought Jan. 23 by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and 41 co-sponsors, including California Reps Judy Chu, Jimmy Gomez, Ro Khanna, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, Ted Lieu, Salud Carabajal and Zoe Lofgren.

Schatz and Maloney also sponsored Census IDEA legislation in 2017, only to have the measures die in committee.
Meanwhile, there are seven lawsuits across the country challenging the proposal first made a year ago by Wilbur Ross, Secretary of the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.

In a scathing, 277-page decision in a case, brought by the state of New York and 17 other states, along with the cities of Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Judge Jesse M. Furman opined that “hundreds of thousands – if not million – of people will go uncounted” if there is a question about citizenship.

The Trump administration is both appealing Judge Furman’s ruling, and asking the U.S. Supreme Court to leapfrog the appeal process and take up the case immediately to expedite a final decision. But in a sudden change, the Census Bureau is also saying that it can extend its June deadline for printing the 2020 Census questionnaire to October.

“The census clock is really unrelenting,” Lynk said.

In the meantime, Congress could simply step up and pass legislation prohibiting the question, the telebriefing speakers said.
“Congress has a role to play and they should play it,” Angela Manso of NALEO said in the telebriefing. “They should step up and pass legislation that once and for all will give the Census Bureau that certainty it needs, and not leave it up to the Supreme Court.”

Word that the Census Bureau might push back its printing deadlines to October to allow the courts to resolve the citizenship question raised new concerns among advocates.

“How disrespectful is that to the people of this country?” asked Jeri Green of the National Urban League. Outreach to encourage maximum participation takes time, she noted. Although Young & Rubicam already has a $500 million contract to work with subcontractors to reach the many communities, she said, “that work is off to a very slow start. The American taxpayer has expectations that that contract will be used to get the best snapshot of America, but that contract is going to have to wait.”

When word of Ross’ intention got out in March 2018, California was among the first to file suit to stop it. The seven cases are generally based on the Census Bureau’s own research showing that including such a question would make it much harder to get accurate data on who’s living in the United States. That data determine everything from how many Electoral College votes and members of Congress a state gets to how and where the federal government will spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars every year for the following 10 years and more.

Collecting census data every 10 years “is the largest peacetime mobilization undertaken by the Federal Government,” the IDEA measure states.

Congress shouldn’t wait for the courts, the speakers said, to pass legislation that renders the lawsuits unnecessary and allow the Census Bureau to get on with its work.

Forty-five members of Congress wrote Ross and Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Jan. 24 urging them to drop their planned appeal of the New York court’s Jan. 15 ruling.

“We believe, as a matter of both legality and timing, that it is neither in the nation’s nor the American people’s interest to continue the appellate process,” they wrote. “We believe that the administration should devote its resources to preparing for the 2020 Census without the cloud of the citizenship question hanging over the process.”

But in the meantime, “We’re calling on Congress to take action, because they have a constitutional responsibility and ability, and perfect opportunity to do so,” Lynk said. “This is not a partisan issue. Everyone needs to be counted. We do not get a do-over on this,” she said, in a comment echoed by other speakers.

“Traditionally, these have been bipartisan efforts,” the AAJC’s John Yang said. “Republicans have an interest in ensuring that we do get a fair and accurate count. It’s a once-in-a-decade opportunity.”

Mark Hedin

Mark Hedin

Reporter

Mark Hedin is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services. He has spent a lifetime in the newspaper business, with extensive experience at the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Times, Central City Extra, and SF State’s Golden Gater, as well as other papers.

Citizenship Question: Still a Challenge to an Accurate 2020 Census

By Khalil Abdullah, Ethnic Media Services

The Constitution requires that America’s decennial census count all persons residing in the United States, not just citizens, a clearly stated objective now at risk.

In a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs including states, cities, and civil rights organizations, New York Southern District Judge Jesse Furman ruled on Jan. 15 in their favor against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ directing the Census Bureau to ask census respondents whether they and everyone else in their household are U.S. citizens.

At issue is not only whether the question’s inclusion is legal, given administrative timelines that were missed, but whether it would depress participation, particularly among ethnic populations, thus resulting in an inaccurate count.

Jeri Green, Senior Advisor on the 2020 Census at the National Urban League, termed Ross’s action “a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage and affect congressional and Electoral College representation by deliberately undercounting vulnerable populations and erasing them from the census count.”

Green participated as a panelist in a media conference call co-sponsored Jan. 30 by the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Ethnic Media Services.

Census data determine congressional reapportionment and are the basis for how hundreds of billions in federal money is distributed every year to states, counties and cities for a variety of programmatic and infrastructure needs. From schools and hospitals to social services, there is virtually no civic arena that is left unaffected by census apportioned revenue.

However, today’s political environment is often inflamed by debates over immigration and related issues such as a proposed expansion of a wall along the border with Mexico or a recently published story in the Washington Post on non-citizen voting in North Carolina — votes sometimes cast due to ignorance of, or misunderstandings about citizenship status.

Green noted that “out of roughly 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in America, about 620,00 are black, according to the most recent statistics by the Migration Policy Institute. But equally at risk, she pointed out, are the 4.2 million documented black immigrants who comprise a rising share of the black population in the United States.”

Like the National Urban League’s concern about the potential neglect and disempowerment of the black community by being undercounted in census data, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) shares the same perspective relative to its Latino constituents.

Angela Manso, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, NALEO Educational Fund, cited Census Bureau findings in Providence County, R.I., that “over 78 percent of the Latinos surveyed believe that a citizenship question would make people afraid to participate in the census.”

Manso contends Secretary Ross’s insistence to include the question is “designed to erase our presence in this country and impact our growing political force.”

A newly released Pew Research Center analysis of the 2020 electorate underscores demographic shifts that will produce a greater number of eligible ethnic minority voters, especially Latinos.

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a panelist on the call, argued for the elimination of the question as well. He explained that its addition would likely produce a lower turnout among Asian Americans, this country’s fastest growing ethnic cohort. A significant percentage of that growth is due to recent immigrants.

“One in four Asians in the United States,” Yang said, “are new Americans and have never participated in the Census, and a citizenship question endangers an accurate count.”

Panelists urged Congress to “step in” to resolve the contention over the citizenship question by introducing legislation that would bar its usage. There are concerns that even with Judge Furman’s ruling in New York, a potentially favorable outcome for opponents of the question’s inclusion in a Maryland lawsuit, and yet a third trial in California that is anticipated to produce a ruling similar to New York’s, the Supreme Court could decide to hear the case on the government’s expedited appeal.

Though presumably adherence to precedents would prevail at the country’s highest court, a new law specifically excluding the citizen question could put issue to rest and beyond the reach of Secretary Ross or others who may seek to exploit its use to accomplish a political agenda.

There already is a bill in House of Representatives and it is anticipated that Sen. Bob Menendez, D- N.J., will craft a Senate bill as well that would bar the question’s use. Yet, while the panelists argued that a fair and accurate census should be a bi-partisan issue — as an inaccurate count reduces revenue for Americans in need everywhere, not to mention violates the principle of equality under law — attempting to enact legislation brings its own risks.

For one, not only would both the Senate and the House have to pass legislation, the president would have to sign it into law. Should he choose to veto it, it would take 67 senators to override.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House subcommittee charged with overseeing the census, said the most likely route to pass legislation addressing the citizenship question would be to attach it to a “must-pass bill,” like an appropriations bill.

Meanwhile, with court cases still pending and the final status of the question still unresolved, key deadlines are at risk. A roughly half-million-dollar contract for public education has yet to be finalized. There may be a delay in printing the final census forms this summer. Green noted that Census Bureau enumerators, who will conduct door-to-door interviews when there’s been no response to mailed surveys, have yet to be hired and trained. Green said that to hire the 500,000 the Census Bureau expects to need requires screening 2.5 million applicants. For those enumerators to be coached in how to ask people their citizenship status is already a delicate situation. Not even knowing if that will be necessary only complicates the training process.

Green also pointed out that, given the 2020 census will be the first to utilize the Internet as medium of response, the consequences of the digital divide and lack of Internet access may negatively affect response rates from already hard-to-count communities, typically low-income and rural, and ones where the number of present in a household is often unreported.

Beth Lynk, Census Counts Campaign Director, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, speaking of the New York ruling said that “each of the dozens of defects the judge found” would provide a sufficient basis to exclude the question. Especially relevant to traditionally hard to count populations, Lynk cited a quote from Judge Furman’s 277page decision: “Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people would go uncounted if the citizenship question is included.”

Khalil Abdullah

Khalil Abdullah

Reporter

Khalil Abdullah is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services, providing consulting, writing, and editing services on a range of policy issues. He has served in a number of senior administrative roles with New America Media, the Beat Within, and the Washington Afro-American Newspaper, among others.

San Jose makes its plans for Coyote Valley – Voters OK’d millions for green space, water quality

Coyote Valley (Photo from Greenbelt Alliance).

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Under the watchful eyes of dozens of community activists who hours earlier had rallied outside on the plaza, San Jose’s City Council held a study session Jan. 22 to discuss plans for Coyote Valley.

The valley is a 7,400-acre swath of farms and undeveloped land extending south from San Jose to Morgan Hill, between the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west and the Diablo Range to the east.

By an overwhelming margin ꟷ 71% ꟷ voters in November endorsed Measure T, which authorized the city to float $650 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements throughout San Jose, including up to $50 million to buy land in Coyote Valley for conservation purposes.

Among the expected benefits are natural flood mitigation, enhanced groundwater protection and wildlife habitat and open space for recreational purposes.

The city must now decide how to spend the bond money. Besides Coyote Valley, the city is looking at what to prioritize with the other $600 million of bond money, intended to be spent fixing roads and bridges and upgrading fire stations and emergency operations.

But the Jan. 22 study session was all about how to proceed in Coyote Valley. And although the voting public spoke clearly in its 71% support of Measure T, developers and Coyote Valley property owners are holding out hopes of making more money by building there. The city could opt to spend less than the $50 million voters authorized, or look for options that would still allow some Coyote Valley development. But, Greenbelt Alliance program director Brian Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, doing so would “not be following the spirit of the measure.”

Over the course of four and a half hours, the City Council heard presentations organized into three categories: “Land Use Planning,” “Environmental Perspective” and “Development Perspective.” Then, for 45 minutes, the public was allowed a chance to address the council, in one-minute increments per speaker.

Opening the land use planning portion of the discussions, Chris Burton, deputy director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, reminded the council that Coyote Valley development had long factored into the city’s planning as an “employment lands growth area.” As such, it has been expected to deliver tens of thousands of jobs, primarily from an industrialized northern sector of the valley. San Jose land with that designation is in relatively short supply and job opportunities are limited for those without higher education degrees.

The environmental panel emphasized the hope of creating a wildlife corridor so animals can range freely between the mountain ranges. By restoring the valley’s Laguna Seca wetlands and taking full advantage of unpaved ground’s ability to absorb rainfall, the city will be protecting and replenishing the aquifer, they argued, safeguarding the source of a third of the city’s drinking water. Doing so would also help prevent catastrophic flooding such as the city experienced in December 2017 ꟷ and is continuing to remediate, at a cost surpassing $100 million. They also emphasized the value of protecting a natural habitat for people’s recreational use and reminded the council that aesthetic values also can provide economic benefits.

Burton also led the development presentation, with representatives of real estate developer Scannell Corp, real estate investment firm Jones, Lang LaSalle, and Kate Sofis, of SFMake and Manufacture: San Jose.

Collectively, they argued that Coyote Valley represents the city’s best opportunity to attract businesses that can’t afford downtown rents and would otherwise find Newark, Fremont, Tracy or Livermore more attractive options.

In the question-and-answer period that followed, Mayor Sam Laccardo asked them about the added cost developers face due to the state’s VMT ꟷ vehicle miles traveled ꟷ assessment. The VMT factor is a product of the state legislature’s SB 743 from 2013, which San Jose chose to implement in 2018. It will apply statewide by July 2020, part of the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases, it imposes a fee on new projects based on their anticipated traffic impacts.

A 200,000- to 500,000-square-foot facility, employing 1,000-1,200 workers, would incur about $17 million in transit fees, the Scannell Corporation representative calculated.

“No matter how much they want to be near San Jose, they’re going to move to Tracy or Livermore,” he said.

“The state (California) may have just decided this for us,” Laccorda replied.

District 10 council rep Johnny Khamis asked how much flooding might be prevented by preserving the open space, and had some pointed questions about the effect of surrendering possible job creation by declining to industrialize Coyote Valley.

An unofficial appraisal of the privately held Coyote Valley lands is about $130 million. The Peninsula Open Space Trust has pledged to pony up what the city cannot and already begun the process.

Other possible sources of funding include FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Army Corps of Engineers, which support flood mitigation efforts.

Dozens of people filled out public comment cards for the opportunity to voice their opinions at the conclusion of the session. Some called for “a balanced approach.” Others bemoaned a “short-term pursuit of tax revenue,” saying “the jobs are not going to be coming full force” because changes in technology, for example, are likely to alter the economic landscape.

Others emphasized the special qualities of the land in its natural state. “This is unique, irreplaceable and also a flood plain,” one said. “Coyote Valley is doing its actual, natural job. Just protect the land and stick with the voters.”

The next City Council meeting, on Feb. 12, will feature more comprehensive discussions about Measure T. Three council members were absent for the Coyote Valley study session: District 4’s Lan Diep, District 5’s Magdalena Carrasco and District 8’s Sylvia Arenas.

The worst possible outcome, Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, would be if proposed warehouse development were approved. Such spaces, which provide only a few jobs, would avoid the disincentive posed by the VMT assessment but have an outsized environmental effect by paving over the natural sponge that open land provides.

Mark Hedin

Mark Hedin

Reporter

Mark Hedin is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services.

From womb to tomb—LA County Offers “Oasis of Support” to Immigrants

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis speaking at the January 18 briefing (Photo by Bryan Chan, Chief Photographer, LA Board of Supervisors).

By Jaya Padmanabhan, Reporter

If you’re an immigrant and reside in Los Angeles county, there are resources available for you, whether for legal needs or non-legal ones like food, health, environment or education. This was the message of support that came from L.A. county leaders who promised to serve immigrants in tangible ways at a briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services on January 18, 2019.

At a time when the federal government continuously re-defines who is an American, and who is entitled to the rights and privileges of being American, the L.A. county is an “oasis of services” for all its residents, regardless of immigrant status.

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis called out the federal government’s decisions to strip immigrants of their Temporary Protected Status, ending DACA, separating kids from their families and targeting Vietnamese and Muslim communities. “I, too, am a daughter of immigrants. They [My parents] sought their opportunities going through discrimination,” said Solis. They came through different pathways from different countries, fleeing poverty and civil unrest and met in America and fashioned a life together. Her parents’ experiences made Solis recognize the courage and hardship that are part of the migration process.

About thirty-five percent of the residents of L.A. county’s 10 million residents are immigrants. With this sizeable diverse population, it’s important that the county attends to its different voices and is able to communicate in a culturally competent and linguistically appropriate manner, according to Solis.

Rigo Reyes, executive director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, gave context to the demographics of L.A. county. The population of the county is larger than that of 42 states in the country; sixty percent of all kids have at least one parent who is an immigrant; on average, 85% of residents have lived in the county for more than 10 years; and forty-two percent of employed people are immigrants. “It behooves us to make sure to promote the success of immigrants,” Reyes said, adding that the county provides services “from womb to tomb.”

Making immigration one of its key priorities, Solis said that the L.A. county board of supervisors has voted on 34 motions to protect immigrants. And, through a public-private partnership, a Legal Justice fund has been set up to provide resources to immigrants in court. With a goal of $10 million in funding, the legal fund has acquired $3 million from the county, $2 million from the City and plans to get the rest from foundations and donors.

Using an analogy, Reyes demonstrated the importance of the Legal Justice fund. Imagine I go outside and steal a muffin and I get caught and charged. I don’t have money for legal fees, but I’m entitled to, and get a court-appointed lawyer. Now imagine that I’m a five-year old child who gets separated from my parents at the border and I’m sitting in front of a judge in deportation hearings. I don’t have the right to be defended in court, and hence have no lawyer and furthermore I speak no English. Who represents me? These are the kinds of cases that the L.A. Legal Justice fund will take on, Reyes said.

When it comes to health care, Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said that her department tries to ensure that “everyone has what they need to be healthy.” With 14 health clinics and mobile vans, free immunization is provided to all residents. This is important not only to protect each individual but all those around, too, from communicable and preventable diseases. Through education and training programs, healthy practices and hygienic food handling behaviors are emphasized. Most importantly, all children can access medical services, including dental care, through Medi-Cal.

With the changes to the Public Charge policy proposed by the federal government in October 2018, immigrants fear that if they access county services, they will be targeted. Joseph Nicchitta from the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, as well as other L.A. county representatives reiterated that changes, if enacted, will not be retroactive and residents should avail of the county’s services, including food stamps, medical benefits and public housing.

At the call center set up by the L.A. county’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), at least three calls are received everyday around Public Charge, explained Roxana Molina, the chief of DPSS. “Our message is that nothing has changed … if you are in need of cash assistance, medical assistance, you have the ability to get these services.”

With the government shutdown, DPSS was asked to issue the following week’s Cal Fresh benefits in advance. Molina advised immigrants on Cal Fresh to “budget their benefits wisely.”

County stakeholders from Human Rights First, Program for Torture Victims (PTV), Catholic Charities, Al Otro Lado, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and CARECEN promised to supplement L.A. county’s immigrant initiatives.

“There is trauma in migration, there is trauma in loss, there is trauma in leaving home,” said Carol Gomez from PPV. People from all over the world are seeking asylum in the faith that America is a beacon of hope. Gomez thanked L.A. county for having safe spaces for refugees and asylees and for making the county “a safety net and a sanctuary.”

Nora Phillips from Al Otro Lado talked about her work in re-uniting separated children with their parents. “We find out where the parents are, we interview parents, we find out where the kids are being detained and work with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to get the kids to the parents” she said. The process takes about a week or less, and some of the problems that Al Otro Lado faces include missing data and parents living in rural areas and speaking indigenous languages. She estimates that 14,000 kids are currently being detained. There’s a lot of work still to be done.

Showing leadership to the rest of California and the nation, L.A. county leaders declared that they stand strongly together and in unison to combat the divisive and demeaning language and policies being used against immigrants.

The biggest worry of the moment is apathy, said Supervisor Solis. “We cannot afford to sit back. We have to stand up and speak.”

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan

Reporter

Jaya Padmanabhan is a consultant for Ethnic Media Services, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

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Census Confidentiality Concerns Worry Activists

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

As the Census Bureau prepares for its 2020 count, concerns about new plans to question respondents about their citizenship status have taken center stage.

But now, civil rights activists and others focused on the importance of ensuring a full and accurate tally of everybody living in the United States are also worried that current administrators seem to be wavering from a long-standing practice of fiercely safeguarding the confidentiality of census data.

In discussing the implications of government workers asking vulnerable communities about their legal status, Department of Justice officials were reluctant to reassure members of Congress this spring that census confidentiality remains sacrosanct.

“We are alarmed,” Corrine Yu, of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, the country’s oldest coalition of civil rights activists, said. “We are alarmed by DoJ’s position that census confidentiality protections are open to debate. In our view, there is no debate.”

Although census data informs billions of dollars of government spending, the allocation of government representatives, business decisions and more, the Census Bureau’s “culture of privacy” bars sharing information gathered beyond sheer numeric tallies. That prohibition lasts for the lifetime of those who have access to the data, with penalties that include years of incarceration and hefty fines.

But things may be changing in Wilbur Ross’ Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.

California is only one of many states, cities and others who have filed lawsuits opposing Ross’ intention to add the question about respondents’ citizenship status to the 2020 census questionnaire, a proposal made at a very late stage in the normal, carefully thought-out and field-tested process.

At a May appearance by John Gore, acting head of the DoJ’s civil rights division, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss that proposed change, California’s Jimmy Gomez (D-Riverside) asked if Justice concurred with findings prior to the 2010 census that “there appears to be no provision in the USA Patriot Act that would supersede or create an exemption to the confidentiality provision of the Census Act.”

That opinion was rendered in 2009 to address concerns that the then-recently enacted Patriot Act, created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, would impact census confidentiality practices.

Gore declined to answer, citing the litigation already filed against the proposed citizenship question. Gomez then asked for a written response.

A June 12 draft of that response, not released but recently uncovered in the course of California’s suit challenging the proposed citizenship question, raised red flags among concerned observers.

“I don’t think we want to say too much there, in case the issues addressed in the OLC opinion or related issues come up later for renewed debate,” Ben Aguinaga, Gore’s chief of staff, wrote. OLC is the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“We are worried about response rates and working to ensure a fair and accurate count. This affects every state, rural and urban areas alike. That’s why there’s such a groundswell of opposition to the citizenship question. It’s a real problem.”

Current census confidentiality protections, though, Yu said, “are the strongest in federal law.”

Already, the census’ biggest challenge is to follow its mandate, enacted with the U.S. Constitution in 1790, to count every person residing in the United States, whatever their circumstances. Opposition to the citizenship question often focuses on the concern that people won’t trust that they can be honest about their situations without fear of becoming targets of law enforcement, immigration authorities and the like. To bring into question the underlying guarantee of confidentiality only increases the challenge of obtaining the best data possible.

Asked what steps are available to protect census confidentiality, Yu said: “Congress should continue to press senior administration officials, including Cabinet members, for confirmation that they will respect the ironclad confidentiality protections for census responses that are embedded in the Census Act (Title 13, U.S.C.).

“Congress’ efforts could involve oversight hearings, requests for written assurances from relevant Executive Branch agencies, and – if necessary – considering legislation that would remove any doubt about the supremacy of Census Act protections

“Advocates will continue to work with Congress, which has constitutional responsibility for the census, and senior Census Bureau and Commerce Department officials, to secure written assurances from the Justice Department and other federal agencies that they fully understand the supremacy of confidentiality protections in the Census Act and that they will respect the need for a positive environment before and during the 2020 Census.”

And asked of any indications of changes already apparent in the government upholding its tradition of confidentiality, she said, “Civil rights advocates and other census stakeholders will be monitoring carefully the public rhetoric coming from the White House and senior administration officials with respect to the constitutional requirement that the census count all persons living in the United States and the statutory requirement that census responses cannot be used for any purpose – including national security and law enforcement – other than producing anonymous, aggregated statistics (datasets).

“We also will be monitoring the activities of immigration and other law enforcement authorities as the start of peak census operations approaches and during the census, to be sure there are no activities, such as immigration raids and sweeps of certain communities (other than searches for criminals who are endangering public safety) that could needlessly frighten residents away from participating in the census.”

“Congress has a role to play,” Yu said. “Our hope is that Congress exercises robust oversight of the 2020 census.” She cited concerns about “insufficient and frequently late” funding of census work in recent years to prepare for the 2020 count, with its plans to be the first to which people can respond online.

“We need to make sure the Census Bureau has the resources it needs to do the job well.”

Yu and a colleague, Allyn Brooks LaSure, spoke of how “we blew the top off” of their target of encouraging 100,000 public comments on the citizenship question plan prior to the Aug. 7 deadline for such comments. A quarter-million voices made themselves heard, they said.

As for what effects that public outcry may have, Yu said, “The Census Bureau is expected to submit the final 2020 Census questionnaire to the Office of Management and Budget by the end of this month, for approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act. That request will allow for another 30-day public comment period (which is somewhat pro forma), but more importantly, it will address the tens of thousands of public comments submitted previously in response to the proposed questionnaire.

“Both comment periods provide an opportunity to establish a strong, clear public record from a broad range of stakeholders and experts who oppose addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.”

“Links to the many organizational comments filed this summer can be found here,” Yu said in conclusion.

Mark Hedin

Mark Hedin

Reporter

Mark Hedin is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services.

Camp Fire’s Toxin Runoff Poses Threat to Prized Salmon

By David Waddell, ChicoSol

Obscured by the staggering human losses in last month’s Camp Fire devastation are the potential consequences of the disaster for Butte Creek’s highly valued Chinook salmon. During a particularly vulnerable time in their lifecycle, the fish now will confront toxic runoff from the inferno.

The Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, started Nov. 8 and quickly became a mega-blaze, engulfing more than 150,000 Butte County acres in Paradise, Magalia and Concow, destroying nearly 14,000 homes and in excess of 500 commercial structures, killing at least 86 people and displacing nearly 27,000.

Horrific though it was, long-term, the Camp Fire the blaze will benefit wildlife, biologists say. But in the near term, some species will struggle. Even birds, though able to flee the flames, will have short-term winners and losers: Raptors in grasslands are better able to spot prey whose ground cover was turned to ash, but other birds will starve from a lack of acorns and berries during the winter.

And as for the salmon, the timing of the Camp Fire couldn’t have been worse, fisheries expert Allen Harthorn said. But it will take about three years to know whether and to what extent that spring-run salmon population has been poisoned by a potential witches’ brew of toxins flowing from the extremely hot wildfire.
That’s when most of the surviving salmon that today are juveniles are due to return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn and die.

But for this year’s brood, Harthorn said, “The juveniles … are up out of the gravel and swimming around on their own. … They’re at their most vulnerable stage to toxic and excess sediment pollution.
And about those toxics: “I wouldn’t venture to guess what you’re going to find in a burned-out home,” Harthorn said. “Pesticides, paint, paint thinners, plastics. … Computers have heavy metals, and most everyone had a computer. … There was asbestos in a lot of the old buildings … Just a whole suite of potentially harmful chemicals.”

Less noxious but still a concern, excess sediment caused by erosion from denuded hillsides also could harm salmon habitat.

NAMED FOR THE SEASON
Spring-run Chinook salmon are named for the time of year that most begin returning to their fresh-water origins as adults from the ocean. In California, historically, the species was abundant from the now-parched San Joaquin River in the south to the northernmost waterways. However, a deep decline led to the species in 1999 being listed as endangered by the state and federal governments.

Today, spring-run salmon creeks have dwindled to a mere handful. Butte Creek is by far the Central Valley’s most robust and considered key to the species’ health. Last year, 2,100 adult salmon were counted in Butte Creek, compared with an average of about 500 per year each in Mill and Deer creeks in Tehama County.
“And that was a bad year for Butte Creek,” Harthorn said.

LETHAL FIRE
According to Henry Lomeli, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, the Camp Fire occurred in “predominantly chaparral and mixed conifer ecosystems” that contain a wide variety of wildlife. Although some miraculous survival stories[http://chicosol.org/2018/11/27/camp-firechanged-lives-survivors-story/] were reported, many animals, both domestic and wild, were killed in the intense, fast-moving, fire.

“Paradise contained numerous green belts that were home to a wide range of urban wildlife species … surrounded by … neighborhoods that burned and these animals had nowhere to flee. Urban populations of … deer, bears, skunks, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, raccoons and other smaller animals that were fortunate enough to survive the initial wall of fire will most likely face higher winter mortality.” Lomeli said.

But the ecosystem, he said, is “highly fire-dependent” and in the long term, both mammal and bird populations will benefit from the fire. “A majority of the natural landscape that burned in the Camp Fire … could not be healthy without burning. … If you truly believe in functional ecosystems, then the long-term impact on wildlife due to the fire is positive.”

MANAGE OR LOSE IT
Drawing on the practices of indigenous tribes, including the Mechoopda, Chico State geography professor Don Hankins is also a passionate advocate for prescribed and controlled burning.

“Most native animals have adapted to fire,” he said. His academic expertise includes pyro geography and land restoration. “A lot of species benefit from fire. … It’s not always doom and gloom.”

The prescribed burning he oversees in the university-managed Butte Creek Ecological Preserve, he said, is motivated by a desire to protect the creek’s Chinook salmon: “If we’re not going to manage the habitat around them, they’ll be lost.”

David Waddell

David Waddell is the news director for ChicoSol.

Midterms Spotlight Rising Latino Power

By Roberto Lovato, Ethnic Media Services

(Spanish language translation available).

The full tally of the Latino vote on the mid-term election is not in yet, but the available information makes one thing clear:  Latino power is rising.

Preliminary reports indicate that Latinos eligible to vote now number a record 29 million (12.8% of all eligible voters).  More than 11% of all voters nationwide in the mid-term election were Latino in what analysts consider a major jump. Of the Latinos who voted, 69% voted for Democrats while 29% went for Republicans, according to exit poll data from the National Election Pool.

Republican fears of the Latino voter are manifesting in the results. More than one out of every four Latino voters were first-time voters. Democrat excitement about the future, however, may not be realized fast enough for 2020, thanks in no small part to their continued lack of investment in the Latino vote.

A majority of Latino voters reported that they hadn’t been contacted by a major party about voter registration. Despite this lack of attention to what some analysts call the Democrats’ “Latino problem,” Democrats nonetheless appear to be the benefactors of the rise in Latino voting power.

A number of indicators appear to confirm the anti-Trump Latino moment some predicted. For example, there were spikes in the number of Latinos voting in battleground states and in key races, record Latino gains in Congress, an increase in Latino officials elected in 36 state races, a decrease in Latino Republican members of Congress, an increase in Latina participation.

The anti-President Trump tilt is clear in congressional races.  Democratic Latino members in the House jumped from 27 to 32 while remaining stable in the Senate. At the same time, the number of Latino Republican House members dropped from seven to five.

Similarly, mid-term results in Latino-heavy states also favored Democrats, with Latinos making up a major share of voters in competitive Senate races.  In the. Senate race in Texas, for example, 64% of Latino voters voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke while 35% voted for Republican incumbent Ted Cruz In an unprecedented Latino turnout.  An analysis of early voter turnout in some of Texas’ largest, most diverse counties found increases in Latino participation that matched levels seen in the 2016 presidential election  (turnout in presidential races is usually far higher than during midterms).

In Florida, a record 2.2 million Latinos registered to vote in 2018, up 8.4% over 2016. 

Local indicators in Texas yielded similar results. In El Paso County, the home turf of Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, voter participation jumped 168% from 2014.   Hildalgo, Webb, Travis, Cameron and several other Texas counties also saw 100%-plus leaps in Latino voters.

In Florida, a record 2.2 million Latinos registered to vote in 2018, up 8.4% over 2016.  Of the Latinos who voted in the still-contested Senate race, 54% voted for Democrat  Bill Nelson and 45% backed Republican Rick Scott, while in the contest for governor, 54% of Latinos voted for Democrat Andrew Gullum and 44%  for Republican Ron DeSantis. Many analysts believe these results signal a continuation of the decline and fall of the conservative Cuban vote that once reigned in the Sunshine state.

In Nevada the 67% of Latinos who voted for Democrat Jackey Rosen in the Senate race played a major role in defeating Republican Dean Heller, who lost by just under 50,000 votes. Las Vegas unions, many of which are more than 50% Latino, played definitive roles, registering tens of thousands of new Latino voters.

And in California, whose Latino majority makes it the largest Latino state in the union, Latino voters boosted losing as well as winning candidates.  Though he lost, State Senator Kevin de Leon beat the odds in his race against powerful incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who outspent him by millions but beat him by less than 10 percentage points, hardly the landslide defeat many predicted.  Latino voters played a definitive role in de Leon’s campaign and rise.

An indication as telling as any in the country are the results in the birthplace of Reagan Republicanism, the longtime GOP stronghold known as the “Orange Curtain.”  Democrats in Orange County, with the help of a fast-growing Latino electorate, will likely represent five of its seven congressional districts in a complete flipping of the political tortilla there.

And in what might be taken as a preview of the future of the Latino vote with respect to the GOP, the startling results in Reagan country moved L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano to write a piece titled “An Obituary for Od Orange County, Dead at Age 129.”

Roberto Lovato

Roberto Lovato

Reporter

Roberto Lovato, a member of the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, recently completed a 3-year commitment as a Visiting Scholar at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Latino Research.

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Elecciones a mitad de legislatura destacan el poder del voto latino

By Roberto Lovato, Ethnic Media Services

El recuento completo de lo latino aún no está completo, pero la información disponible sobre el voto latino a mitad de legislatura clarifica una cosa. El poder latino va en aumento.

Los informes preliminares indican que un récord de 29 millones de latinos (el 12.8% de todos los votantes elegibles y más del 11% de todos los votantes en todo el país fueron latinos, en lo que los analistas consideran un salto muy grande. Los resultados en un número de elecciones estatales en estados con grandes poblaciones latinas también indican que los votantes latinos ejercieron un poder aumentado este año, algunos con una inclinación a favor de Trump, la mayoría con una inclinación decididamente anti-GOP, anti-Trump. De los latinos que votaron la semana pasada, por ejemplo, el 69 por ciento votaron demócrata, mientras que el 29 por ciento a los republicanos, según datos de los sondeos a boca de urna del National Election Pool.

Los temores republicanos del votante latino están empezando a manifestarse. Más de 1 de cada 4 votantes latinos votaban por primera vez. La emoción demócrata con el futuro, sin embargo, puede que no se realice lo suficientemente rápido para el 2020, gracias, en buena medida a la continuada falta de inversión en el voto latino por los demócratas.

Aún así, a pesar del hecho de que la mayoría de los latinos declararon que no habían sido contactados por un partido principal acerca de registrarse para votar, a pesar de la falta histórica y continua de inversión que muchos llaman el “problema latino” de los demócratas, los demócratas parecen ser los benefactores del aumento del poder de votos latino.

Un número de indicadores, como los picos en los números de votantes latinos votando en estados de contienda y competencias políticas, los aumentos récord de latinos en elecciones congresales, un aumento en los oficiales estatales latinos elegidos en competencias políticas en 36 estados, una disminución en los miembros latinos republicanos del Congreso, un aumento en la participación de mujeres latinas y en el número de latinos elegidos, parecería indicar una realización del momento latino anti-Trump que algunos predijeron.

La inclinación anti-Trump es indiscutible en las competencias congresales. La mayoría de los latinos en el siguiente congreso serán anti-Trump, ya que el número de miembros latinos demócratas en la Cámara de representantes subió de 27 a 32, mientras que se mantuvo estable en el Senado. Muchos de los candidatos latinos compitieron directamente en contra de Trump. Al mismo tiempo, el número de republicanos latinos cayó de siete a cinco.

Similarmente, los resultados a mitad de legislatura en los principales estados latinos también favorecieron a los demócratas, con los latinos formando una gran parte de los votantes en competencias competitivas del Senado. En la competencia del Senado en Tejas, por ejemplo, el 64% de los latinos votaron a Beto O´Rourke, demócrata mientras que el 35% votaron al republicano en funciones, Ted Cruz, en lo que fue una participación latina sin precedentes en el mayor estado del país. Un análisis de la participación de votantes anticipados en algunos de los condados más grandes y más diversos en Tejas encontró grandes aumentos en la participación latina, lo que igualó los niveles vistos en las elecciones presidenciales de 2016 (participación en las competencias presidenciales normalmente es mucho mayor que en las elecciones a mitad de legislatura).

Los indicadores locales en Tejas dieron un resultado parecido. En el condado de El Paso, la tierra natal del candidato Beto O’Rourke, la participación de votantes aumentó en un 168 por ciento desde 2014. Hidalgo, Webb, Travis, Cameron y varios otros condados de Tejas vieron subidas mayores del 100% en la participación de votantes latinos.

En Florida, un récord de 2.2 millones de latinos se registraron para votar en 2018, un aumento del 8.4% más que en el 2016. De los latinos que votaron en la competencia del Senado aún disputada, el 54% de los latinos votaron a Bill Nelson, demócrata y el 45% apoyaron a Rick Scott, republicano, mientras que el 54% de los latinos votaron a Andrew Gillum, demócrata y el 44% votaron a Ron DeSantis, republicano. Muchos analistas creen que estos resultados señalan una continuación en el descenso y caída del voto cubano más conservador que antes reinaba en el estado del sol.

En Nevada, el 67% de los latinos que votaron a Jacky Rosen, demócrata en la competencia del Senado, tuvo un papel importante en la derrota de Dean Heller, republicano, que perdió por poco menos que 50,000 votos. Los sindicatos de Las Vegas, muchos de los cuales son más del 50% latino, desempeñaron papeles definitivos, registrando decenas de miles de nuevos votantes latinos.

Y en California, cuya mayoría de latinos hace que sea el mayor estado latino del país, los votantes latinos impulsaron a los candidatos ganadores, e incluso a los perdedores. Aunque perdió, Kevin de León, senador estatal, superó expectativas en su competencia contra Dianne Feinstein, la poderosa Senadora de EUA en funciones, que gastó más que él por millones, pero solo le ganó por menos de 10 puntos de porcentaje, en lo que a duras penas se podría llamar la gran derrota que muchos esperaban. Los votantes latinos desempeñaron un papel definitivo en la campaña y subida de de León.

Tan revelador como cualquier indicador en el país son los resultados de la cuna del republicanismo Reagan y bastión republicano de hace mucho tiempo conocido como la “Cortina naranja”. En el Condado de Orange, los demócratas, con la ayuda del electorado latino de rápido crecimiento, probablemente representará a cinco de los siete distritos congresales en el condado y sus alrededores, lo que sería una vuelta completa de la tortilla política allí.

En lo que se podría considerar una vista previa del futuro del voto latino con respecto al partido republicano, los asombrosos resultados en la tierra de Reagan movieron a Gustavo Arellano, periodista del LA Times, a escribir un artículo llamado, “Un obituario para el antiguo Condado de Orange, muerto a la edad de 129.”

Roberto Lovato

Roberto Lovato

Reporter

Roberto Lovato, a member of the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, recently completed a 3-year commitment as a Visiting Scholar at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Latino Research.

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Trump Effect — Mid-terms a turning point for Asian American voters

By Jaya Padmanabhan, Reporter

The 2018 mid-terms marked the pivotal moment when Asian Americans made a difference — as voters, candidates and historic winners.

An Ethnic Media Services survey of Asian American voter turnout and growing involvement in the political process reveals the surging significance of these major ethnic groups’ participation in elections in various states.

With a history of low voter engagement, Asian Americans have not been seen as an influential voting bloc.  Despite 1.46 million new voters registered between 2012 and 2016, “voting rates among Asian American adult citizens (in the 2016 elections) remained low (49%) relative to whites and blacks (65.3% and 59.4% respectively), and was slightly higher than voting among Latinos (47.6%),” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, head of AAPI Data at UC-Riverside.

What is known as the Trump effect appears to be changing that, judging from the 2018 election results.

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice conducted a survey from Aug. 23 through Oct. 4 querying 1,316 Asian American registered voters about their political views. Almost half of the respondents said they were “more enthusiastic about voting this year” and 3 in 5 disapproved of President Trump’s performance.

Indicators of growing civic engagement by Asian Americans fueled by the Trump effect:

Exit polls indicate an overwhelming 77% of Asian Americans leaning Democratic — an increase of 4% since Trump assumed office.

Filipino and Vietnamese Americans provided exceptions with 48% of both communities favoring the Republican party. Jun Nucum from Manila Mail, a Filipino newspaper headquartered in the Daly City, said he saw “some unexpected Filipino losses” — notably that of Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, a Republican who had served six terms.

In Orange County, Calif., Vietnamese Americans were viewed as making a difference in close Congressional races. The county has the largest Vietnamese population in the United States. Republican Janet Nguyen was re-elected to her state senate seat in California’s 34th district, comprising Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Gina Ortiz Jones, T.J. Cox, Kenneth Mejia, Cristina Osmena and Jennifer Zimmerman together represented the highest number of Filipino Americans running for Congress.

Several Chinese Americans won their races in California. Fiona Ma will succeed John Chiang as Treasurer of California. Betty Yee will continue to serve as the State Controller. Kansen Chu, Evan Low and Phil Ting won their re-election bids for state assembly seats. While there are only a handful of people of Chinese origin in the U.S. Congress today, an increasing number are competing in local races.

Asian names proliferated on the ballot in California, many running for school board or the city council.

In Santa Clara county, Calif., where a third of residents have Asian roots, more than 50 candidates ran for office in 100 local races.

In South San Francisco, a city where 1 in 3 residents is Asian, two Filipino Americans – Flor Nicolas and Mark Nagalese – were elected as new members to the City Council. The city of Oakland has its first Filipina American council member.

The Indian American Impact Fund, a political action committee, reported that four Indian American incumbents — all Democrats — were re-elected to the U.S. house of Representatives.  Seven first time Indian American candidates ran and lost for the House and one for the Senate.  “Even though we weren’t able to win any new seats in Congress, we are tremendously proud of our candidates,” said Gautam Raghavan, executive director.

The mid-terms saw historic Asian American victories.

Two judicial and five legislative seats were won by Hmong candidates in Minnesota – the most ever.

In New York, John Liu and Kevin Thomas became the first Asian Americans to be elected to the state Senate.

Washington has My-linh Thai and Joe Nguyen become the first Vietnamese Americans to serve in the state legislature.

Ram Villivalam became the first South Asian state senator of the Illinois State Assembly.

Korean American Republican Young Kim won California’s 39th House district race to become the first Korean American woman in Congress.

Sri Preston Kulkarni, a first-time Democratic Congressional contender in Texas’ 22nd district, spoke to voters in English, Hindi, Tamil, Mandarin and Vietnamese among other languages. His district has the highest number of Asian American voters in Texas.

Kulkarni told CNN he’d been advised not to focus on Asian American voters “because they either don’t vote or vote Republican.”  Kulkarni ignored the advice. He lost. But he came within 15,000 votes of his Republican rival, Pete Olson — the closest any Democratic candidate has come in defeating the four-time incumbent.

Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya Padmanabhan

Reporter

Jaya Padmanabhan is a consultant for Ethnic Media Services, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

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