Editor's corner/ Over a cup of tea
Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year
for the State of Wisconsin
We are a "Community of Contrasts"
I read with enthusiasm the report recently issued by Asian American Center for Advancing
Justice, titled, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans in the United States 2011,”
and grateful to its authors for bringing forth data from many reliable sources that highlight
issues and concerns facing our various communities . The report also includes policy
recommendations addressing the more critical issues we face. Hopefully, our voice would
be heard by those concerned.
Asian Americans are among the fastest growing racial groups in the United States today,
made possible by the elimination of discriminatory immigration-quota policies in the
1960s. We are 6 percent of the total American population today. While many of us are born
in the U.S., most of us are not, as the Census Bureau says. And as Asian American
population grows, we contribute greatly to this nation’s economy. Many are well educated
and gainfully employed. This fact sometimes draws most people to believe that Asian
Americans are achievers. However, while some parts of the Asian American community
|UNABLE TO CONTINUE WORKING??
There should be help.
Social Security Disability and SSI -
Programs designed to help individuals
who are disabled from work.
IF YOU APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
AND/OR SSI AND YOU ARE DENIED,
THERE IS HELP!
are thriving, many who aren’t seem invisible. The report describes in detail what isn’t generally portrayed about Asian
Americans. It is a valuable resource to anyone who wishes to better understand our incredibly diverse populace.
Let me highlight some of the issues raised and recommendations in this report:
*Immigration policies disproportionately impact Asian Americans ---because most Asian Americans are likely to be
foreign-born and come in as members of immediate family of U.S. citizens, or under employment/student visa
preferences. It takes decades for family members to be reunited, and this has contributed to close to a million
undocumented Asian American population.
The report recommends that immigration policies should promote family unity, provide a path to legalization and
citizenship for the undocumented, and create a process for immigrant students who have lived in the United States for
most of their lives to obtain legal residency. In addition, harsh immigration enforcement measures have extremely
disproportionate impacts on the Asian American community.
*Language barriers limit opportunities for millions of Asian Americans -- According to 2007–2009 American Community
Survey 3-Year Estimates, roughly one out of every three Asian Americans are limited-English proficient (LEP) and
experience some difficulty communicating in English. This impacts their ability to integrate fully into American society or
access critical services needed to survive.
Providing assistance in Asian languages and greater opportunities to learn English promotes better access to good
jobs, citizenship, voting, healthcare, social services, and the judicial system for millions of Asian Americans.
*Asian American educational attainment varies widely among ethnic groups--With disproportionate numbers of Asian
immigrants entering the country as professionals under employment-based preferences, Asian American educational
attainment generally approaches or exceeds that of non-Hispanic Whites. Yet disaggregated 2007–2009 American
Community Survey 3-Year Estimates data show that the educational attainment of Cambodians, Laotian, Hmong, and
Vietnamese Americans is similar to African Americans and Latinos, limiting employment opportunities for many in
Southeast Asian communities.
Job training programs and vocational English language instruction should be targeted to Asian Americans with lower
levels of educational attainment in an effort to increase access to good jobs.
* Some Asian Americans struggle economically. While some in Asian American communities enjoy economic success
and stability, others struggle through severe poverty. According to 2007–2009 American Community Survey 3-Year
Estimates, poverty rates have fallen for all Asian American ethnic groups since 2000. Yet challenges persist. Hmong
Americans have the lowest per capita income of any racial or ethnic group nationwide, while Hmong, Bangladeshi, and
Cambodian Americans have poverty rates that approach those of African Americans and Latinos.
Federal, state, and local governments should establish or expand culturally and linguistically accessible public
assistance programs to meet these needs, particularly in light of the ongoing economic recession.
*Unemployment has impacted Southeast Asian American communities. With disproportionate numbers in
management and professional fields, many Asian Americans have been better situated than others to weather the
current financial crisis. While the unemployment rate of Asian Americans is low relative to other groups, 2007–2009
American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates shows that the most vulnerable in our community face high rates of
joblessness. Hmong, Laotian, and Cambodian Americans have unemployment rates higher than the national average.
Job training, adult English language learning, unemployment benefits, and other safety net programs should be made
accessible to these workers as they struggle to get back on their feet.
*Asian Americans continue to face housing concerns. According to 2007–2009 American Community Survey 3-Year
Estimates, 59% of Asian Americans own homes nationwide. Yet this rate of homeownership lags significantly behind
that of non-Hispanic Whites, with a majority of Bangladeshi, Hmong, and Korean Americans renting rather than owning
their own homes. The problem is compounded by large numbers of Asian Americans living in overcrowded
housing. Approximately 7% live in over-crowded housing, twice the national average. Like other communities continuing
to face recession, Asian Americans would greatly benefit from expanding affordable housing and homeownership
*Access to affordable healthcare coverage is critical for Asian Americans. Data from the Centers for Disease Control’s
2008 National Health Interview Survey show that Asian Americans are twice as likely than both non-Hispanic Whites
and African Americans to have seen a
doctor in the past five years, despite being
more likely to develop hepatitis and other
diseases. Asian Americans are also more
likely than non-Hispanic Whites to be
uninsured, with nearly one in four Pakistani
and Bangladeshi Americans being without
The federal government should work with
insurance companies and employers to
expand access to affordable healthcare
coverage for all U.S. residents, including
immigrants. Social and economic data on
Asian Americans, particularly those
disaggregated by Asian American ethnic
group, provide policymakers and service
providers with critical information to guide
sound decision making.
To share this information to our readers
and to our policy makers is our goal. The
complete report may be viewed at