18 Million Hearts: Asian Americans Flex Muscle on Immigration

February 28, 2013; Source: Asian Week

Many people see and hear Latino faces and voices whenever immigration is discussed, but the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is mobilizing to make sure their countenances and voices are added to the discourse. Last week, the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, a consortium of legal and civil rights groups, and 18 Million Rising, a civic engagement organization, launched the “18 Million Hearts: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Immigration Reform” campaign. There are approximately 18 million Americans of Asian descent, or close to six percent of the total U.S. population. The campaign urges AAPIs to push members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“The time has come for us to mobilize and let other Americans know how the broken immigration system is separating and hurting Asian American and Pacific Islander families and communities,” said Betty Hung, policy director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “Any reform of the immigration laws must fully incorporate our shared American values of family unity, fairness, and equality.”

Unauthorized immigration and family reunification are key immigration issues for the AAPI community. About 11 percent of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are from Asia, according to a 2012 Department of Homeland Security report. These are often parents, children, and/or neighbors of native-born, naturalized, and legal resident Asian Americans. Nearly two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign born, but immigration backlogs can keep families apart for years or even decades. According to a Department of State Citizenship and Immigration Services report, four our of the top five countries with the longest wait times for relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are in   Asia: the Philippines, India, Vietnam, and China.

The leaders of the 18 Million Hearts initiative are empowered by their community’s growing number and clout. AAPIs are the fastest growing community of color in the U.S. and were reportedly key to President Barack Obama’s re-election. “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are growing in strength, in number and in political power and with this campaign, we plan to flex our political muscles,” said C. M. Samala, director of   18MillionRising.org. “The 18 Million Hearts campaign will highlight our stories as   immigrants and as descendants of immigrants to build America’s future together,” added Chris Punongbayan, deputy director of the Asian Law Caucus. “Asian American   immigrants are an integral part of America – we are workers, neighbors, and small business owners who revitalize communities and contribute to the economy.”

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire.

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Sequestration and Risk to Nonprofits

In a few days, sequestration hits unless Congress and the White House agree on an alternative to $85 billion in automatic spending cuts. Thousands of human service organizations would be affected, along with the communities, families, and individuals that depend heavily on nonprofit programs and services.

An Urban Institute national survey of human service organizations determined that in 2009, over 30,000 nonprofits had about 200,000 contracts and grants from federal, state, and local governments amounting to $100 billion. Government funding accounted for over 65 percent of the total revenue of organizations surveyed. Sixty percent of nonprofits said government contracts and grants were their largest funding source.

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Among nonprofits that consider government contracts and grants as their largest source of revenue, 4 in 10 medium to large organizations (those with budgets over $250,000 a year), and 3 in 10 small nonprofits reported the federal government as their largest funder. Four in 10 of all human service organizations also said state governments, which act as conduits for federal monies, were their largest revenue source.

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Sequestration would damage human service organizations that contract with the government. A report from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies warns that automatic cuts on nondefense programs “would have destructive impacts on the whole array of federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country—everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security, and safe air travel.”

Head Start, for instance, which provides grants for early childhood services for low-income families, stands to lose close to $622 million, which would result in 96,179 fewer children served. The Community Services Block Grant, which funds 1,100 community action agencies that offer crucial services to low-income families and individuals, is slated to lose over $677 million, which could lead to 1.5 million fewer individuals assisted.

During the Great Recession, human services organizations’ revenue from all sources, including governments, fell. In 2009, nonprofits resorted to various cutbacks including freezing or reducing employee salaries, drawing on reserves, and laying off employees. Some took drastic steps such as cutting back on programs and services and serving fewer people.

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Should sequestration be allowed to take effect, human service nonprofits would lose billions of dollars in government funding and might have to make difficult choices, such as laying off much-needed staff, or worse, ending programs and serving far fewer clients. Ultimately, individuals and families who are just starting to recover from the economic downturn would suffer.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog and the Huffington Post.

Latino Coalition Pushes for Acceptance of Gay Familia

LGBT support

July 9, 2012; Source: Journal Sentinel

On Monday, 21 of the nation’s leading Latino organizations announced their endorsement of a comprehensive public education campaign, Familia es Familia, aimed at building support within the Hispanic community for acceptance of LGBT family members.

The groundbreaking initiative provides bilingual and culturally appropriate resources and information to empower voices within and from Latino families and communities. The campaign also provides training, technical assistance, and support to coalition members and spearheads a national effort to educate the public through a range of viral components that include an interactive bilingual website rich with videos, resources, and publications; social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; and an organizing campaign to engage the community through their mobile devices.

“The polling shows that many in the Latino community already understand that there is one struggle for equality, a struggle that benefits from appreciating common mission,” Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said in a statement. “Familia es Familia is a campaign that will help to deepen the understanding that a discriminatory deprivation of rights on any basis is a cause of concern for all. Together, we can overcome all of the irrational biases that adversely affect any member of the Latino community.”

Freedom to Marry, a marriage equality advocacy group, provided the seed funding and serves as fiscal sponsor for Familia es Familia. The Gill Foundation has also committed to providing additional resources.

“A growing majority of Latinos in this country know that every gay or lesbian person is part of someone’s family—a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a loved one—and the more conversations we have, family member to family member, the more support for the freedom to marry grows,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “Latino gay couples seek the freedom to marry to affirm and strengthen their love, their commitment, and their ability to take care of each other and their families; government should not be putting barriers in their way. Freedom to Marry is proud to be supporting the Familia es Familia campaign to lift up Hispanic voices and stories as together we make the case for ending the exclusion from marriage.”

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly’s Nonprofit Newswire, July 11, 2012.

Landmark Study Highlights Challenges of LGBT Youth in U.S.

June 7, 2012; Source: The Advocate

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, recently released the findings of its of groundbreaking survey of 10,000 LGBT youth.

While the report, “Growing Up LGBT in America,” contained no real surprises, some of the statistics it presented are nonetheless alarming. Only 37 percent of LGBT-identified youth say that they are happy, compared to 67 percent of straight kids. Four in ten say the community they live in is not accepting of LGBT people. Nine in ten say they hear negative messages about being LGBT, mostly from school, the Internet, and their peers. The LGBT respondents are twice as likely as their peers to say that they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school.

However, LGBT youth are hopeful, as a vast majority believes that things will get better and that they will one day be happy. Nine in ten say they are out to their close friends and six in ten say they are out to their classmates. Three-quarters say most of their peers do not have a problem with their gender orientation and identity.

“No one would say that growing up LGBT is easy, but this survey is a stark wake-up call to the daily toll that discrimination takes on vulnerable young people,” HRC’s president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to change that, because we know all too well that there are real life consequences to inaction.”

Indeed, a study of lesbian, gay and bisexual teens published in Pediatrics last year revealed that they are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Living in a supportive community, however, can make a difference. Families and communities of youth who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender need to accept the fact that their children do not choose to be different. We are born that way and, truly, it will all be okay.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, June 11, 2012.

Johns Hopkins Affiliate Accused of Tuskegee-Like Study

September 15, 2011; Source: New York Times | A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Johns Hopkins University affiliate, accusing the lab of conducting experiments on African American children which the Maryland Court of Appeals has compared to the Tuskegee syphilis study.  The research, which has been the subject of litigation for more than a decade, involved periodically testing children’s blood to determine lead levels in order to study the hazards of lead paint.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that researchers knowingly exposed more than 100 children who ranged in age from 12 months to 5 years old to high levels of lead dust in apartments selected by Kennedy Krieger for the children and their families to live in. Parents were supposedly misled by assurances from the institute that their homes were “lead safe.”

David Armstrong, father of the lead plaintiff, said he was not told that his son was being introduced to elevated levels of lead paint dust. “I thought they had cleaned everything and it would be a safe place,” he said. “They said it was ‘lead safe.’ ”

The lawsuit also claims that no medical treatment was made available to the children. “Children were enticed into living in lead-tainted housing and subjected to a research program which intentionally exposed them to lead poisoning in order for the extent of the contamination of these children’s blood to be used by scientific researchers to assess the success of lead paint or lead dust abatement measures,” reads the suit.

Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, president and chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in a statement that the “research was conducted in the best interest of all of the children enrolled.” He points out that “Baltimore city had the highest lead poisoning rates in the country, and more children were admitted to our hospital for lead poisoning than for any other condition.”  He further argues that “with no state or federal laws to regulate housing and protect the children of Baltimore, a practical way to clean up lead needed to be found so that homes, communities, and children could be safeguarded.”

Goldstein appears to argue that it is not the responsibility of researchers and scientists to change public policy. Fair enough. But what about their responsibility to people who serve as research subjects? In this case, the court will determine whether Kennedy Krieger researchers fully disclosed all the facts to parents before having their children live in lead-laced apartments.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, September 19, 2011.

In Shadow of Debt Ceiling Debate, A Positive Immigration Bill Passes the House

 U.S. Navy Sailors with ties to the Filipino community welcome the Philippine navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar Most of us were so riveted to or repelled by the debt ceiling circus that we missed the passage of a truly bipartisan bill. The House of Representatives on Monday debated and approved H.R. 398 by a 426-0 vote.

H.R. 398 seeks “to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to toll, during active-duty service abroad in the Armed Forces, the periods of time to file a petition and appear for an interview to remove the conditional basis for permanent resident status, and for other purposes.”

In other words, the statute would make it easier for married binational straight couples by giving foreign-born spouses with conditional green cards and their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses more time to petition for the removal of the conditional status. The amendment introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would apply to couples in which either spouse is an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving abroad.

This statute would be a welcome relief for immigrant families in the military.

The Migration Policy Institute reports that about 65,000 immigrants serve in the U.S. military and foreign-born troops represent approximately five percent of active duty personnel. Over 11,000 foreign-born women serve in the Armed Forces. The National Center for Children in Poverty in turn counts 1.76 million children and youth in military families, a fraction of which hail from immigrant families.

Military families have a lot to deal with: the strain of constant separation due to frequent deployments; the stress caused by low wages and rising costs; the burden of one parent raising children and running a household alone; and most of all, the very real threat of losing a loved one fighting our wars abroad. Some immigrant military families have the additional anxiety brought on by an uncertain immigration status.

H.R. 398 would give those immigrant families a little reprieve to contend with our arcane and burdensome immigration system. It has been received in the Senate and is now with the Committee on the Judiciary. I wouldn’t be surprised if this also gains true and full bipartisan support among Senators and passes without many of us noticing. Now back to our sputtering economy, missing jobs and impotent lawmakers.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 4, 2011.

Summer Respite for Kids from Migrant Families

July 29, 2011; Source: Tampa Bay Online | A handful of children from migrant families have been able to enjoy a great American tradition: attending summer camp. Four churches banded together to give more than 100 youngsters the opportunity to enroll in a church-sponsored day camp in Dover, Florida. The children are treated to meals, games, and, of course, some bible study.

Hal Stinespring, pastor of a Georgia congregation, said, “It’s about the gospel. It’s bringing communities together and giving kids the chance to interact with one another regardless of where they are from, what their financial circumstances [are], or what race they may be.”

The National Center for Farmworker Health reports that there are more than three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States. Close to 10 percent of the laborers and their families are based in the Sunshine State. Florida, along with Texas and California, is one of the top three sending states for migrants – that is, states these itinerant workers call home. Farmworkers fan out to where crops need to be harvested, and return once the season is over. Workers usually travel alone, leaving their families behind – particularly those with school-age children.

Children from migrant families have lives that are vastly different from those of their peers. Poverty regularly denies them the activities and luxuries most American kids take for granted. This camp not only brings communities together, it provides these youngsters with a chance to be just like everyone else – if only for the summer.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly, Nonprofit Newswire, July 31, 2011.

Adoptive Families Nurture Children’s Foreign Roots

July 25, 2011; Source: The Washington Post | Last week, 60 or so families attended a four-day summer camp in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains. Kids and their parents got to play new games, try exotic food, and dress up in different clothes. They were at the Ethiopian Heritage and Culture Camp (EHCC) which is designed to help Ethiopian children and their adoptive families learn about the Eastern African nation’s heritage and culture.

The camp was founded three years ago by Mekdes Bekele, a native of Ethiopia who discovered that some of the challenges she faced raising a bicultural child were shared by white adoptive parents. Bekele’s yearly gathering is a safe space where Ethiopian American kids and their white families can take classes in Amharic and Ethiopian etiquette, music and cooking.

Mike Boucher, who came all the way from Albany, N.Y. with his seven-year-old African child said, “We thought it was important for us to learn about our daughter’s culture and help her maintain that identity.”

Suri Phillips, a nine-year-old who came to the United States the same year EHCC opened, was delighted by what she found. “I don’t see brown people very often where I live. And now, I see all these other kids and families that look like mine,” she shared. “I know I’m not alone. It’s not just me.”

The sense of difference and isolation adopted children from overseas feel can be alleviated by programs such as the heritage camp. Last year, more than 2,500 children from Ethiopia joined thousands of others who now live in America. From 1999 to 2010, the U.S. Department of State reportsthat close to 225,000 children from all over the world were embraced by American families.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, July 28, 2011.