Moving Beyond Marriage Equality

A couple of days ago, my husband and I were interviewed by an immigration adjudicator. The gentleman deemed our relationship legit, approved us on the spot, and told us to expect a green card in the mail. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling upending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he treated our marriage just like any other. My spouse and I are very fortunate.

Not all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) immigrants are as fortunate, however. The Williams Institute estimates that about 7,000 gay couples are both non-citizens, and that approximately 267,000 undocumented immigrants identify as LGBT. These individuals do not benefit from the Supreme Court’s ruling, but they will benefit from comprehensive immigration reform. A path to legalization will free them from the shadows to become more productive, engaged, and committed members of our society.

On Thursday, the president once again called for passage of immigration reform. He rightfully argues that fixing our immigration system is good for our economy and our national security, and, ultimately, for all of us.

“It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead,” President Obama said. “It’s not smart. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense.”

As we celebrate breathtaking progress on the marriage equality front, we need to be mindful that other pressing issues beset our community. We can be fired in 29 states for being ourselves. Our transgender sisters and brothers are not welcome in the military. We suffer poverty more than straight people, especially those of us who are of color. And too many in our community are further marginalized by their immigration status. Just as we rallied behind the freedom to marry, let us rally behind the freedom to live, love, and work in this country of immigrants.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Advertisements

The unexamined element of immigration reform

Now that the government shutdown has ended and the debt limit lifted, President Obama has shifted his attention to immigration reform. He argues that it is imperative that the broken immigration system be fixed once and for all. Considering the bruising everyone just went through, it is hard to imagine lawmakers duking it out over another contentious issue.

Imagine that comprehensive immigration legislation does manage to clear Congress and the White House. Will systems be in place to handle the surge of immigrants who will be eligible for legalization? I cannot speak to the capacities of federal and state governments, but I can begin the conversation on the nonprofit infrastructure that helps immigrants integrate.

The U.S. Senate immigration reform bill that passed last June includes a path to citizenship for a vast majority of undocumented immigrants. The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 8 million will be eligible and apply for regularization of their status. The process will be long, arduous, and costly. But before they embark on this path, individuals will need, first and foremost, legal assistance in understanding the process and submitting applications.

Unauthorized immigrants, who are mostly low-income, will have few resources, if any at all, to secure the services of immigration attorneys. Many will turn to immigrant-serving nonprofits providing free legal information and advice. A new Urban Institute brief provides an outline of these organizations.

An analysis of data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics indicates at least 684 nonprofits provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. These providers are dispersed throughout the United States and can be found where immigrant communities have settled.

Figure1

 It appears, however, that there aren’t enough of them. In the 10 states with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants would have more people to serve than other nonprofits. For instance, in Texas, there is one nonprofit providing legal aid to immigrants for every 41,250 undocumented clients. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,916.

Table3

In the top 10 states with the largest percentage change in undocumented immigrants, nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants potentially have a larger population to serve compared to other nonprofits. For instance, in Maryland, the ratio of nonprofits that provide legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients in 1 to 27,500. In contrast, the ratio of other nonprofits to the general population is 1 to 2,182. Alabama is a stark case, where the two nonprofits that provide legal services to immigrants could face an estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals.

Table4

This very high ratio of undocumented immigrants to potential sources of nonprofit legal aid should be a cause for concern. Adding thousands of new cases to existing caseloads without substantial infusion of resources—funding and staffing and volunteers—is not a realistic scenario.

The infrastructure for assisting undocumented immigrants with legal issues is very thin, compared to the projected needs. A concerted effort to assess capacity and plan for expansion is required. Further analysis will help identify where and how infrastructure and capacity can be built to prepare for comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime funders and other stakeholders can step up and support this research.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends.

15 Years in a Binder

Op-E Pic

Last month, my husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary. In a few days, we need to prove those 15 years real to an immigration adjudicator, now that my spouse is able to sponsor me for a green card. This one person will decide our future in the country we love and call home, possibly radically altering our lives just as five Supreme Court justices did four months ago. We will be presenting this arbiter with an inch and a half binder, an abridged edition of our life as a couple.

Enclosed, each in its own plastic sleeve, are supporting documents that include shared leases, savings and credit card accounts, pension plans and living wills naming the other as sole beneficiary, and health care proxies guaranteeing the other makes life and death decisions when the time comes. These proxies were written up eight years ago when couples like us had no legal rights or protections, documents we always had on hand whenever we traveled outside of New York City, just in case.

Over a hundred select pictures countenance our history. The first Christmas at our cramped East Village studio, followed by holidays in Times Square, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill. The first time my husband’s parents met me on neutral ground at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The first time my large Filipino-American family met John in Chicago for my cousin’s debut. Formal parties celebrating my lola’s 80th then 90th birthday. Grad school graduations from General Theological Seminary and the New School. John’s ordination at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with family members and friends in attendance. Summers in Maine. President Obama’s first and second inauguration. And of course, our civil ceremony at Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, D.C. three years ago. An elopement that was later celebrated on Facebook, Washington, and New York.

Notarized letters from family and friends attest that ours was not a marriage of convenience. We have over two dozen missives from folks who know us as a couple. From kin as well as from good friends, colleagues, and fellow advocates for civil rights and equality. A lawmaker has written on our behalf, so has a bishop. Finally for good measure, we have tossed in a few cards written to us both, mailed to our home address.

Perhaps this is all overkill. After all, there is no reason why my husband’s petition should be denied since we do meet the criteria. More so, I’d imagine, than countless straight binational couples who have much shorter histories and less proof than we do and whose marriages have been deemed real and worthy of green cards. But our long struggle with the immigration system as a gay binational couple leaves us a bit anxious. When we do finally learn that our 15 years together has been judged real and have a green card on hand, then will we exhale.

Reposted on the Huffington Post.

Are Immigrant Aid Organizations Ready for Reform?

(Photo: Flickr/SEIU International)

(Photo: Flickr/SEIU International)

On Oct. 8, thousands rallied at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. then marched to the Capitol demanding that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform immediately. A reported 200 people got themselves arrested to underscore the urgency of the matter, among them union and community leaders and eight Democratic lawmakers including civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis.

When lawmakers finally do attend to immigration reform, a path to some form of legalization will be part of the equation. The Weekly Standard reports, “84 House Republicans have publicly voiced support for granting some type of legal status to the 11 million immigrants here in the country illegally, and 20 others have said they would be willing to consider it.” Legislation that regularizes the status of over 11 million undocumented individuals will be a long-awaited boon to immigrants and their families. But will they have the support they need to go through what will undoubtedly be a long and arduous process?

Immigrants without papers will be required to meet stringent requirements such as passing background checks, paying penalties and fines, and learning English, U.S. history, and civics. They will also have to deal with a complex application process that will require legal expertise and guidance.

Some people will have the wherewithal to hire private attorneys. Michelle Sardone, field support coordinator of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), said however that those without the means will either turn to community-based organizations (CBOs) for help or attempt to file applications themselves. But, are immigrant-serving nonprofits ready to help millions of undocumented individuals and their families through the legalization process?

Constantino Diaz-Duran, a New York-based journalist, wonders himself. He worked as a legal assistant for Hogar Immigrant Services in the mid-2000s, helping Central Americans extend their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Over 300,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans were eligible for TPS — a status offered by the U.S. to immigrants affected by natural disasters in the region — and many turned to CBOs for assistance. As part of a team of three full-time attorneys, a few legal assistants, and an army of volunteers, Diaz-Duran sat with immigrants, going through checklists and forms.

“I would be surprised if they are ready, there are so many people,” said Diaz-Duran. “I do think immigrant-aid organizations need to start thinking of organizing and training volunteers. There will be a huge influx of people. I’ve thought of volunteering myself.”

Diaz-Duran’s concerns are well-founded. An Urban Institute study I co-authored identifies less than 700 nonprofits nationwide that provide some form of legal aid to immigrants. Their limited capacity could not possibly meet the demand for services when immigration reform finally passes. In Maryland, for instance, the ratio of nonprofits providing legal aid to immigrants to potential undocumented clients is 1 to 27,500. Alabama is a particularly stark case: two nonprofits provide legal services to the estimated 120,000 undocumented individuals in the state.

Sardone said CLINIC is preparing its 218 affiliates in 47 states for comprehensive immigration reform. The DC-based organization recently released a manual that offers recommendations from nonprofit immigration experts and “veterans” of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which facilitated the legalization of close to 3 million individuals. It also includes lessons learned from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Sardone and some practitioners view as a test run of immigration reform.

“We are preparing our network,” Sardone said. “We’re telling them to start putting together plans, consider what it would look like in their areas to implement [comprehensive immigration reform].” For some, this means getting recognized and accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to legally represent clients. For others, it means finalizing fundraising strategies or incorporating volunteers.

Other networks are also laying the groundwork. Marita Etcubanez, director of programs at the Asian American Justice Center, points to a convening earlier this year by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the Center for Community Change, which brought together immigration advocates from around the country to share experiences from past reform legislation, as well as to discuss ramping up organizational capacity to meet an anticipated surge in demand for assistance and legal representation.

“There is a great deal to do to prepare, and we will have to work with immigration legal service providers, legal aid groups, other advocacy groups and community-based organizations because we know people will be seeking assistance wherever they can,” said Etcubanez. “We will also have to do widespread outreach and education so that our communities are aware of the changes to the law, have good information about what is available and who is eligible, and know where they can find help.”

Jeanne M. Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, recalled her experience as a law intern working with immigrant communities after the passage of immigration reform in 1986. “Back then, there was a minimal number of agencies and limited technology,” she said. “We jumped in a minivan, drove to local community and health centers, wherever immigrants were, put up our sign, and provided information to people.”

It’s a different world now. There are a whole lot more CBOs working together to prepare for immigration reform. But in 1986, the number of undocumented immigrants was estimated at 3.2 million. Today there are more than 11 million.

Atkinson says nonprofits will face many hurdles. “The biggest issue is funding, they need the money to hire volunteer coordinators and other staff and to upgrade their technology.” She is nonetheless pleased with the preparation nonprofits, their networks and their community partners are taking. “We’re getting ready.”

Immigrant-serving groups better get ready. Comprehensive immigration reform will happen at some point and there will be millions who will turn to community-based nonprofits for help.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds and the Huffington Post.

Filipino Racism

GLUTAMAX

Yes, my beloved kababayans, I’m saying it. We get racist. It’s time to admit it and do something about this insidious habit.

A week after we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, a friend who runs a couple of acclaimed Filipino restaurants in New York City posted this on Facebook:

We got a phone call at work today. The pinay said she and her family had a wonderful time at Maharlika. In fact, they enjoyed everything…until she took a stroll and saw “A BLACK” cooking her food. Shes positive that she and her family is sick because the BLACK man cooked her food. I am emphasizing black because this was her emphasis. She was irate and not until she said “discount” did she lighten up. Please note we have not received any other calls regarding food sickness. We have an A WITH MINUS FOUR PTS. lemme tell u thats hard.

I wish i cld have said go fuck yourself. Its taking everything i have not to cry or yell at the woman. She was keen to point out that her husband was a doctor….and they thoroughly enjoyed maharlika. She said black four times on two different calls. Theres no mistake. Theres nothing to debate.

I hear my friend’s distress, anger, and shame. I feel the same way.  We both embrace our roots and want to preserve our ethnic identity. We’re proud to be Filipino and want nothing more than other Americans to learn about us, our food, our culture, our strengths, our contributions, our love for this country and the one we will always revisit. Sadly, our people have some traits and habits which need to be abandoned. Racism, internalized and outward, is on top of my list.

Filipino racism spawned out of three centuries of Spanish colonialism and a century of U.S. imperialism. In the Philippines, it is perpetuated by systems of class and privilege along with institutions that favor those with fairer complexions, Caucasian features, and who can speak with an American accent. It is enforced by the global quest for whiteness, thanks to our more connected world where the West still dominates. In the U.S., we imbibe racism festering in the American psyche, systems, and structures.

I see our internalized racism in our mestiza and mestizo celebrities and our gluttonous appetite for skin-whitening products. I hear our racism when our immigrant doctors and nurses accuse all Hispanics of gaming the system. I feel it when we cringe upon learning that our kumpare’s daughter has a black boyfriend. I sense it when we rally behind the white candidate in Pavlovian fashion.

While we might think that we are better than African Americans, Latinos, and even other Asians, we are not. We too are people of color. Although we love hearing how hard-working we are, never causing any trouble, how good our English is, how nice and gentle we are, the same people who utter these platitudes see our difference. That’s why they say such things.

My hope remains with Filipinos like my friend who hold up a mirror to all of us.

well imagine if a patient wanted their money back after finding out your doctor was a brown skin filipino? God forbid hes dark filipino, right?

Ive got news for you…no matter what you use to bleach your skin or how mixed the bloodline gets….your shit is part igorot….part itim. Your money, your education or your zipcode doesnt make you any better, po.

Enough. Tama na. Let’s claim the kayumanggi and celebrate our difference. By doing so are we empowered. By doing so, we claim our rightful place in this world, not the one defined for us.

Syria, Sochi & Gay Rights at the G20 Summit

781017467

Leaders of the world’s top economies meet in St. Petersburg this week for the G20 Summit and global economic recovery is on top of the agenda. The crisis in Syria, however, overshadows the gathering, with Obama and Putin circling each other and Hollande and Xi on their respective corners.

Gay rights advocates were hoping President Obama would put the spotlight on Russia’s anti-LGBT laws and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. Human Rights First (HRF), an advocacy organization that “challenges America to live up to its ideals,” released a report last week, which documents the violent crackdown on the LGBT community in Russia, traces the evolution of the country’s homophobic laws, and explains the broader context that spurred Putin’s escalating repression of dissent and personal freedoms. The report also recommends actions Mr. Obama can take while in St. Petersburg.

“It is moments like this that test U.S. leadership and commitment to human rights,” argues Innokenty Grekov, author of the HRF report. “President Obama has pledged leadership on LGBT rights and that leadership is needed now.”

Indeed, Mr. Obama, along with former and current Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, have advanced the cause of human rights for gay and transgender people worldwide. It is highly unlikely, however, that LGBT rights, much less the 2014 winter games, will be at the forefront in St. Petersburg. The use of chemical weapons in the murder of more than 1,400 innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, is more urgent. President Obama and his team will understandably focus on Syria and the economic concerns behind the summit.

Buzzfeed does report that Mr. Obama has invited representatives of LGBT groups to join a scheduled meeting with other Russian civil society activists. While the human rights advocates’ presence would no doubt annoy and embarrass Mr. Putin, the issue of the Winter Olympics will be one of many other concerns NGOs will put before President Obama.

It can be argued that it is strategic not to beleaguer the point on Sochi for now and avoid backlash when LGBT rights advocates are perceived or portrayed as insensitive to the horrific carnage in Damascus.

This is not to say that LGBT lives are of lesser value. They are of equal worth to any other, deserving of the same dignity and fundamental rights. In a way, gay and transgender people in Russia and so many other countries that oppress sexual minorities die a slower death, decimated one at a time through savage murder, disease, and suicide. The magnitude of this massacre is not readily apparent and does not elicit outrage.

The Syrian people, the Russian LGBT community, and sexual minorities worldwide do share one horrible thing in common. They are mere objects to many of their leaders and governments, disposable in the quest for power and control.

So while Sochi might take a back seat in St. Petersburg this week, LGBT rights are human rights and the fight for human rights will continue.

Reposted on the Huffington Post.

Why a Gay Asian Immigrant Marches

AFPGetty-178275499-414x540

Image: AFP Getty

I was born years after the March on Washington in 1963 and came to the United States 27 years after hundreds of thousands demonstrated for jobs and civil rights. Nonetheless, I felt the need to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and so many other nameless women and men who marched and fought for the American promise of equality and opportunity. So am I compelled to be part of the ongoing march for social and economic justice.

Fifty years ago, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and LGBT communities were not even visible in the civil rights movement. However, Asian and gay Americans took part in the struggle, having experienced discrimination and marginalization themselves.

During the anti-Chinese movement of the 1800s, Chinese immigrants were lynched and murdered. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act effectively ended immigration from China and prevented Chinese immigrants and their native-born children from becoming U.S. citizens. In 1929, anti-Filipino riots erupted in California, after Filipino men displaced white farm hands and socialized with white women. In 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which revoked the rights of Japanese Americans and sent over 100,000 women, men, and children to internment camps scattered throughout the United States. Five years later, President Truman signed the Rescission Act of 1946 which took away veterans benefits pledged to 250,000 Filipino service members who courageously fought for America in World War II.

Until the 1960s, most lesbians and gay men remained closeted, fearful of being identified as homosexuals and deviants. Thousands of service women and men had been dishonorably discharged during the Second World War. Homosexuals, along with Communists, had been deemed threats to national security and hunted down during the McCarthy era. Women and men who were suspected of being homosexual lost their jobs and were ostracized. Gay bars and establishments were regularly raided. Gay men were routinely entrapped by undercover police officers.

Today, the AAPI and LGBT communities are visible, marching alongside African American and Latino communities, in the continued struggle for equality and opportunity.

Although the model minority myth persists, nearly two million AAPIs live in poverty. The community suffers the highest rate of long-term unemployment of any group in the United States. A study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute reports AAPIs face significant housing discrimination. At the polls, lack of language assistance and voter ID laws hinder Asian Americans from exercising their right to vote. Since 911, South Asian and Muslim Americans have been racially profiled by law enforcement agencies.

The myth of gay affluence also belies the fact that poverty rates for LGBT adults are higher than for heterosexual adults. Nearly a quarter of bisexual and gay women are poor and LGBT people of color are more likely to live in poverty than their straight counterparts. Transgender people are four times as likely to survive on less than $10,000 a year and twice as likely to be unemployed as the typical American. A HUD report found lesbian and gay couples experienced unfavorable treatment in the rental housing market. Even though queer people are more visible and have won major legislative and legal victories, they continue to be victims of hate crimes. Transgender women of color in particular are regularly brutalized and murdered for being true to themselves.

As a queer immigrant of color, as a member of the AAPI, LGBT, and immigrant communities, as one who abides by the American dream, I march. Our nation’s future does not belong to one community, it belongs to all of us. But as President Obama exhorts us, we should not turn from or on each other but towards one another.

“The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate.  But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.”

And so we march on together, with the dream that 50 years from now we will have a more perfect Union.

Also on the Huffington Post.

Immigration: At the Intersection of Race and Sexual Orientation

Last month, I had to stop working because immigration authorities told me so. This week, I am cutting my vacation short because they want to “capture” my biometrics. But it’s all good. After 23 years dealing with our immigration system, it looks like I finally have a clear path to citizenship. Granted, an additional six years at least, but an end is nonetheless in sight. Now that my marriage is recognized by the federal government, my American husband has sponsored me for a green card. My immigration status changed, so I had to resign from my job. Our application is apparently moving along, so the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to record my biometrics. The work permit, provisional green card, permanent green card, and finally, citizenship, should follow in good order within the next few years, barring any surprises.

I am one of the luckier ones. Many of “my people” – queer folks and Asians – are not as fortunate.

Most Americans think of immigration as a Latino issue. Many are beginning to learn, however, that it is also an Asian issue. About 9 percent of undocumented immigrants are from Asia. Family reunification stymied by backlogs is a major concern for Asian Americans.

Some Americans might think that immigration is no longer a gay issue since Americans and U.S. permanent residents can now sponsor their same-gender spouses. But immigration remains an LGBT issue. At least 267,000 undocumented LGBT adult immigrants live in the United States. A mere fraction are married to citizens or permanent residents. Individuals persecuted for their sexual orientation and gender identity flee their home countries to seek refuge in our country.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) recently released Uncovering Our Stories: The Voices of LGBT AAPI Immigrants, a campaign to help the public understand that immigration intersects ethnicity and sexual orientation. Linda Khoy, daughter of Cambodian refugees, relates how her family painfully learned the difference between being permanent residents and U.S. citizens when her sister was put into deportation proceedings. Urooj Arshad, a Pakistani immigrant, talks about the unique challenges faced by queer Muslims of color. Alex Ong, an Indonesian asylee, explains why he is unable to reunite with his parents who had been denied refuge in the U.S. I also tell my story and share why I care about immigration reform, even though I now have a way out of the deep immigration tunnel so many immigrants find themselves in.

Immigration is not one racial group’s issue. Neither is it a straight or queer issue. Immigration impacts all of us and it is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed.

Also on the Huffington Post.

Uncovering Our Stories: Erwin de Leon from Mia Nakano & Visibility Project on Vimeo.

Immigration Reform Stalls in the House

Immigration art

May 13, 2013; CBS News

One thing that’s certain after the House GOP meeting last Wednesday is that immigration reform isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Republican representatives convened to discuss how to proceed after the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, which includes provisions for what Senator McCain described as “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” stringent law enforcement measures, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

House Republicans are well aware that their party mandarins want them to act in short order and produce immigration legislation, but they are not to be rushed. The priorities of national Republicans and representatives are simply different. Party leaders fear losing the Latino vote in 2016 and beyond, while House members fear losing the conservative White vote in upcoming primaries. (Very few House members have sizeable numbers of Latino voters to worry about. On average, only 10 percent of voters in Republican districts are Latino.)

Any steps taken will be after the August recess, and they will be small. The inclination is toward tackling immigration reform piecemeal, starting with border security, interior enforcement, visas for high-skilled workers, and an agricultural guest worker program. But a path to citizenship, a crucial component of any comprehensive immigration reform bill, is a non-starter for most House members, being tantamount to amnesty.

Some Republicans have suggested an alternative path that leads to “legalization,” not citizenship. But isn’t this just semantics? The Senate bill would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants and, after 13 years or so, allow them to naturalize. The House could pass a bill that “only” provides legal status, but under the current system, immigrants could eventually get green cards and in time, citizenship. The process might be tougher and longer, but it nonetheless ends the same…unless formerly undocumented immigrants are banned from ever becoming citizens.

In the meantime, others like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte are open to providing a path to citizenship for one group of unauthorized immigrants: those who were brought into the country as children. Cantor and Goodlatte are drafting their own version of the DREAM Act, which passed in the House but failed in the Senate in December of 2010.

Immigration reform might still happen. But not any time soon, and not in a fashion as comprehensive as some of us would like.

Originially posted on Nonprofit Quarterly’s NPQ Newswire.

Yes America, Poor Asians Do Exist!

med3_0Most folks think Asian Americans are wealthier than everybody else. This is understandable since the numbers show, in aggregate, that they have the highest income among racial groups in the United States. However, when you start digging into the numbers, you will discover that not all members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community are affluent.

A recent study by the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) brings to fore AAPI communities in need and challenges the model minority myth that all Asians are rich.

The Spotlight on Asian American and Pacific Islander Poverty study provides a demographic profile of poor Asians whose numbers have increased dramatically. From 2007 to 2011, the number of AAPIs living below the federal poverty level increased by more than half a million. This 38% increase can be broken down into a 37% increase for Asian Americans in poverty and a 60% increase for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders in poverty. In comparison, the general poverty population grew by 27% during the same time period.

The largest single group living below the poverty line is non-Taiwanese Chinese at almost 450,000, followed by Asian Indian at over 245,000 and Vietnamese at 230,000. The group with the highest poverty rate is Hmong at 27%, followed by Bangladeshi at 21%, and Tongans at 19%.

More than half of all AAPI poor live in 10 metropolitan areas: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Honolulu, Seattle, San Jose, Houston, Sacramento, and Philadelphia. No other racial/ethnic poverty population is as concentrated in as few places. Approximately 30% of all AAPI poor live in only 3 metro areas: New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. An Urban Institute poverty mapping tool confirms National CAPACD’s findings and puts AAPI poverty in context.

So yes America, poor Asians do exist. And just like any other struggling group, they could use a leg up from the rest of us.