March 2019 - In This Issue:

Repping SEAAs in CA 
SEARAC celebrates the selection of our community partner Vattana Peong, executive director of The Cambodian Family, SEARAC Policy Associate Lee Lo, and SEARAC Boys and Men of Color Coordinator Gabriel Garcia to serve on California's Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) committees. The MHSOAC guides the California mental health system by conducting research and evaluation, advising the governor and legislature, reviewing and approving innovation plans, promoting transparency, and providing oversight.

 With Vattana, Lee, and Gabriel serving on their committees, we hope the MHSOAC can better serve SEAAs and other communities of color.


Counting our communities
SEARAC remains dedicated to advocating against the addition of a citizenship question to the Census 2020 questionnaire. This month, SEARAC signed onto an  amicus brief  with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF) to highlight the unique harm a citizenship question would have on the broader Asian American community. Additionally, SEARAC submitted a  comment  to the Commerce Department to express concerns for a census field test, meant to gauge participant response to a citizenship question even prior to the Supreme Court's final ruling on the matter. 

There are less than 365 days until Census Day 2020, and  55% of Asian Americans , Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are not aware of it, according to research from Asian Americans Advancing Justice. More than $800 billion in federal funding is allocated based on census data, so it is crucial that our communities are counted accurately. 

ACTION ALERT:  Take the pledge to fill out Census 2020 by clicking here

You can learn more about Census 2020 and what's at stake for the Southeast Asian American community by joining our April 25 community call. Click here
to register. 


Renewed battle over ACA
The Department of Justice  submitted a court filing this month in support of the 5th district court of appeals' ruling to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While this decision is currently being challenged by several other states, it will likely make its way to the Supreme Court for a final decision. In contrast to past efforts by the Trump Administration to eliminate provisions of ACA, this move signals a drastically more aggressive approach to ending the Obama-era policy completely.  In response, House Democrats introduced  new legislation  aimed at strengthening ACA protections.

Protecting SNAP
SEARAC submitted a comment to the US Department of Agriculture opposing a recent  proposal by the Trump Administration to further restrict food assistance access through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Currently, non-disabled adults between the ages of 18-49 without dependent children are limited to only three months of food assistance through SNAP in a 36-month period; however, states have the flexibility to limit this impact by applying for waivers in areas with high unemployment. The current proposal by the Administration would make it more difficult for states to qualify for these waivers. Read SEARAC's comment submitted to the federal register on how this proposal would harm Southeast Asian Americans. 

Advocating for Social Security benefits 
SEARAC submitted a comment to the Social Security Administration to oppose a proposal that would eliminate "inability to communicate in English" as a factor in evaluating claims for adults seeking access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For low-income limited English proficient Southeast Asian immigrants, access to these critical lifelines are an important means of survival. 


Community education
SEARAC participated in two opportunities in March to educate community members about the importance of data disaggregation. On March 6, SEARAC joined a community panel discussion sponsored by the  Asian Pacific American Coalition of Connecticut  and the Commission on Women, Children & Seniors to talk about the importance of data disaggregation and SEARAC's ongoing advocacy for a national policy. On March 12, SEARAC facilitated a workshop at the  2019 Advancing Justice Conference  to inspire participants to be a part of the data disaggregation movement. Participants heard from two sets of Asian American and Pacific Islander data disaggregation movement leaders--those from SEAA communities leading major state victories on data disaggregation and those from ally communities who play critical roles. SEARAC is grateful for everyone who contributed to the sessions, and we look forward to continuing to organize and mobilize together.

Supporting progressive immigration bills
This month, Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9) introduced the Dream and Promise Act providing a pathway to citizenship for certain DREAMers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program recipients. The bill would potentially help the 9,000 undocumented Vietnamese young adults. SEARAC, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, and South Asian Americans Leading Together put out a joint statement earlier in month expressing support for the bill. 

Advocating for reduced ICE, CBP funding 
SEARAC submitted a series of requests to members of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee to reduce funding drastically for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). The letter also included language from the Detention Watch Network to limit the authority of ICE to transfer or reprogram funds from other agencies for their ERO activities. SEARAC also emphasized the need to drastically reduce or eliminate funding for other programs, such as Secure Communities, implementation of the public charge executive order, and implementation of the Muslim ban. 


New reflections

This month, SEARAC's Director of Communications and Development Elaine Sanchez Wilson thought about the factors that go into invisibilizing Asian American communities and how it impacted her life.

To be seen, Elaine recalls the moment she realized her racial identity and sees hope for the future.

Your response is needed

Are you 18 years or older and provide any type of physical, emotional, and/or financial support to a relative, friend, or neighbor who is 55 or older who needs assistance due to ongoing health problems or disabilities? If so, please consider filing out this  online survey  to help inform a study on elder caregiving in diverse communities. SEARAC in partnership with the Diverse Elders Coalition is conducting a study with Asian American, Latino, Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and LGBTQ communities to understand the unique needs, motivators, and challenges that our communities face in elder caregiving. Your survey answers will be combined with 800 others who are similarly supporting a relative or friend. The survey takes 20-30 minutes to complete and you will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 Target virtual gift card (20 winners will be selected), if chosen. The deadline for survey completion is May 10. The  current survey  is translated in Vietnamese with translations into Cambodian, Hmong, and Lao coming soon. Please share far and wide!

Internship opportunities at SEARAC
Calling all college students and recent grads! We are still accepting applications for three open internship slots: c ommunications and field  intern  (Washington, DC), n ational policy  intern  (Washington, DC), and California  intern  (Sacramento, CA).  For more information and to apply, see our  website

In case you missed it
This month, we held our second  Keeping Our Communities Informed webinar, when we discussed new advocacy opportunities in Congress, our California budget and policy priorities, and our Census strategies. Check out the full webinar here.

SEARAC is a national civil rights organization that empowers Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese American communities to create a socially just and equitable society. As representatives of the largest refugee community ever resettled in the United States, SEARAC stands together with other refugee communities, communities of color, and social justice movements in pursuit of social equity. 
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