BY NHIEN NGUYEN
This year’s Asian Pacific American Legislative Day falls on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s, when love and compassion is in the air.
Compassion for immigrants and refugees, among other disadvantaged groups, will be called upon from the governor and state legislators during this 2007 legislative session in which the state sits fortunately with a budget surplus.
For the past decade, APAs from around the state have mobilized individuals and groups to the Capitol to advocate for the needs of APA communities. This year, over 70 groups will participate in the 2007 Legislative Day.
“Legislative Day provides the opportunity for our constituents to communicate directly with their government about their priority issues,” said Diane Narasaki, chair of the King County chapter of the API Coalition (APIC), one of the Legislative Day’s main organizers.†
“This is the only legislative event that specifically focuses on APA issues, and we need to ensure that our governor and our legislators hear our community’s positions on those issues,” Narasaki said in a press release.
Many of the issues on the day’s agenda are not new to the advocates, such as culturally competent and language accessible health and human services for the most vulnerable, and civil and human rights in such areas as racial profiling, affirmative action and bilingual education. In the past, specific advocacy areas have included health care, job training, English-as-a-Second Language, long-term care, public assistance, education and civic engagement.
At a community briefing in Seattle on Jan. 30, community advocate Tony Lee noted that Washington state is the fifth largest state in the country to receive refugees and immigrants. Many of these populations come from pre-literate societies where people don’t read or write in their own languages.
The level of instruction for people and the need for assistance is much higher for many API refugee and immigrant groups, said Lee.
As is typical in every year, many organizations serving these groups do not receive adequate funding relative to the demand. They often run out of money in the third quarter of the year and then must use their own funds to serve families without money from the state, according to Lee.
For this reason, one of the chief legislative concerns for this year’s event includes providing access to classes and naturalization assistance for low-income immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens. Other concerns include English classes and job training for limited-English proficient adults, among other issues.
In related news, the Asian Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF) Alumni in Civic Engagement (ACE) program hosts a workshop called “API Legislative Advocacy & the Political Process” for those interested in learning more about 2007 API legislative issues, advocating for an unfulfilled community need or finding out more about ways that APIs can influence the political process. The workshop takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 20 from 5:30 – 9 p.m. at a location in the International District to be announced. (To participate, RSVP to [email protected] or call (206) 625-3850 by Thursday, Feb. 15.)
“To enrich your learning experience at this workshop, we recommend that you attend APA Legislative Day,” notes organizers of the workshop.
Individuals and organizations that are interested in participating in the 2007 APA Legislative Day should contact Ming Tanaka at (206) 695-7582 or [email protected].
APA Legislative Day comes about through the grassroots organizing efforts and generous donations of APA and allied community groups. The event is sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties, and of Central and Southwest Washington..