Community Spotlight
Groundswell of support for lu Mien refugee, Kao Saelee
Kao Saelee is a Iu Mien refugee currently being held in ICE custody and facing deportation to Laos. Legal advocates at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus and community groups, such as Advocates for Iu Mien - California and the Southeast Asian Deportation Defense Network (SEADDN), have been leading the charge with Kao’s family to campaign for his release from ICE detention and for a gubernatorial pardon from Gov. Newsom. Join his family and community groups to continue the fight for Kao’s release by using this toolkit:

Fighting for due process and reunification of our separated families is important work, but never easy. Until comprehensive immigration is possible, here are several campaigns from impacted community members that are in need of our support:    

Senate halts COVID-19 relief efforts as cases surge 
The seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 cases in the United States hit a new high in October: 68,767 cases as of Sunday, Oct. 25. Despite a surge of new cases, Senate leadership adjourned for recess until Nov. 9, eliminating any possibility of passing a comprehensive COVID-19 relief until after the election. SEARAC urges community members to continue wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing proper hygiene to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We remain committed to working with members of Congress to pass a robust relief bill that would provide financial, health, housing, education, and immigration support for all Southeast Asian Americans.
A February 2017 rally in support of the Affordable Care Act. (Image: Ted Eytan / Flickr)
ACA open enrollment period begins Nov. 1
ACA enrollment opens on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, and ends on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 for most states. Below are states with extended or permanently extended enrollment deadlines: 

  • Minnesota: December 22, 2020
  • Colorado: January 15, 2021
  • Pennsylvania: January 15, 2021
  • Nevada: January 15, 2021
  • Washington: January 15, 2021
  • Massachusetts: January 23, 2021
  • Rhode Island: January 23, 2021
  • California: January 31, 2021
  • District of Columbia: January 31, 2021
  • New Jersey: January 31, 2021
  • New York: January 31, 2021
Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett by 52-48 vote
On Oct. 26, the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barret by a 52-48 vote, largely along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) as the only Republican voting against the confirmation. Despite a global pandemic, Senate leadership chose to prioritize Judge Barrett’s confirmation just days before election day rather than pass COVID-19 relief legislation. Her confirmation gives the conservative wing of the Supreme Court a 6-3 majority, placing crucial upcoming cases, such as the lawsuit trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in a precarious situation.
Gov. Newsom vetoes CA Assembly Bill 331
On Sept. 30, Gov. Newsom unexpectedly vetoed California Assembly Bill 331, which would have mandated a one-semester ethnic studies course as a requirement for high school graduation beginning in the 2029-30 academic year. Newsom reasoned that the current draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) still needed significant revisions. However, hundreds of existing ethnic studies courses offered by school districts across the state would have met the requirement, including those that fulfill subject requirements of the University of California and California State University as well as courses approved by governing boards across public and charter schools. Many education advocates viewed this veto as a huge disservice to youth of color who make up a majority of students in California, amidst an important year for racial justice and equity. SEARAC provided public comment last month on the ESMC and continues to advocate for adequate inclusion of SEAA history and experiences.
New education research from our partners
Significant Disproportionality In Special Education: Research points to inequities in education for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities, which are particularly apparent when it comes to rates of discipline and special education enrollment. Our partners at the National Center for Learning Disabilities published a whitepaper on significant disproportionality and six accompanying briefs on current trends in special education, including a brief on AAPI students. A key takeaway? We need better, disaggregated data when it comes to the educational experiences of diverse AAPI students. SEARAC thanks NCLD for its important work.
VietLead, SEAC Village, and Charlotte Uprising leaders (Picture provided by SEAC Village)
Organizers charged for protesting new ICE Director
A group of Southeast Asian American, Black and trans community leaders exercised their right to publicly speak out against Tony Pham, the new ICE Director. After being denied a meeting with Tony Pham at his office, they assembled in front of Tony Pham's house in Henrico County, VA, and held a nonviolent street demonstration to demand accountability for the unjust activities of his agency. Following the protest, VietLead Executive Director Nancy Nguyen was arrested and detained for 21 hours in Philadelphia, and the Henrico County Sheriffs' Office issued warrants to arrest eight of the Charlotte activists. ICE has a long history of retaliation against organizers and community leaders who speak out against their abuse and mistreatment. SEARAC posted an action alert on our website to call on Henrico Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor to drop the charges against our partners at SEAC Village and VietLead.
DHS proposes new rule on Affidavit of Support
On Oct. 2, DHS announced proposed changes for the regulations governing the Affidavit of Support. An overwhelming number of SEAAs use the family immigration system and the Affidavit of Support to sponsor loved ones. If DHS’s proposals are implemented, it will add additional burdens to the sponsorship process and would significantly impact our communities. The proposed changes would require sponsors to provide additional financial proof such as three years of tax returns, credit reports, and bank account information. SEARAC opposes these burdensome and unnecessary changes and is working to submit a comment to DHS. We encourage community members to also submit comments to DHS opposing these proposed changes. Submit a comment here; the deadline is Nov. 2. 
CA’s oldest prison must reduce its capacity due to COVID-19
On Oct. 22, a California court ruled that San Quentin, the state’s oldest prison, must reduce its prisoner capacity to half. San Quentin is responsible for one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, with nearly two-thirds of the incarcerated population there infected with the coronavirus at the peak of the outbreak. The ruling condemned the disregard for human rights, health, and well being of inmates on part of facility management and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). SEARAC strongly urges CDCR to decarcerate the prisoners and to avoid mass transfers to other prisons and ICE, putting other facilities at risk and creating more coronavirus hotspots.
Civic Engagement
 2020 Census workshop participants during SEARAC LAT 2019
Thank you, 2020 Census advocates!
SEARAC is so grateful for our network of partner organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly to get out the SEAA count for the 2020 Census! In the face of a pandemic, Census Bureau timeline shifts, and one legal update after another, we witnessed our communities’ perseverance to make sure SEAAs are seen and counted. We extend a special thank you to the nearly 100 census ambassadors in our network as well as the 12 community-based partner organizations with whom we worked closely over the past year, including:

Fight for accurate 2020 Census shifts to data processing
On Oct. 13, the Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration’s request to conclude 2020 Census field operations on Oct. 15. Although disappointed in this ruling, we continue the fight for an accurate census count. Now that field operations have ended, our attention is turned toward the quality assurance processes that come next. The Census Bureau is attempting to complete these crucial processes, which typically take six months, in a mere two months and deliver data for apportionment by the end of 2020. In coalition with other civil rights organizations, SEARAC urges Congress to extend the statutory deadlines for delivering apportionment and redistricting data by 120 days each and to give the Census Bureau the time it needs to produce the most accurate census data possible. We encourage community members to take action by contacting their senators and urging them to support this legislative solution in Congress’s toolbox. SEAA communities cannot and should not have to bear the impact of more shortchanged 2020 Census operations. 
6 days until Election Day
Have you already voted? If so, spread the word to your friends and family using #VoteEarly and #VoteReady and with SEARAC’s Vote Early Digital Toolkit to help build trust in our vote-by-mail systems, manage expectations for election results, and encourage your networks to vote early. If you or your loved ones have not yet voted, we encourage you to make a plan together. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, and we want Southeast Asian Americans to flex our political power!

If you are voting on Election Day, the Fair Elections Center provides guidance about what ID documents you need to vote in your state and where your polling place is located. Remember to wear your mask over your mouth and nose for the entire time you are at your polling site. Utilize hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your mask or your face. Maintain a 6’ distance between you and others at the polling site. If you have any questions or encounter any issues while voting, call 1-888-API-VOTE. Bilingual assistance is available in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali.
Voting in California
California has already shattered the record for early voting, with 5.8 million CA voters having cast their ballot before Oct. 24th. On the state ballot, Californians will have an opportunity to vote on racial justice issues, including on public school funding, affirmative action, and community support programs. Make your voice heard by dropping off your mail-in ballot at an official polling place, county elections office, or a verified county drop box anytime before 8pm on Election Day. Don’t forget that voters who missed the registration deadline can still conduct Same Day Voter Registration by visiting a polling place or county elections office.

SEARAC recommends this CA Voter Guide led by AAPI community partners across California. In-language voter guides are available in Khmer, Lao, Hmong, and Vietnamese.

Additional resources:
  • Learn why so many AAPI leaders, including elected officials, community-based organizations, and social justice advocacy leaders support Yes on Prop 16, including a segment from SEARAC’s Director of California on why affirmative action matters for the Southeast Asian American community
  • Watch Professor Janelle Wong’s presentation on the history, legal parameters, and consequences for racial equity of affirmative action in California
  • There’s still time to get involved! Support voter education and outreach through a Yes on Prop 16 event or phone banking session here
What to expect on Election Day
Every eligible voter should have their voice heard and their vote counted. Because of early voting and voting by mail, it is going to take longer to count the votes and verify a winner in this year’s election — and that’s okay. Absentee ballots take longer to count because of security measures to verify the accuracy of those ballots. Some states can’t even start counting absentee ballots until after polls have closed on election night. Plus, due to the pandemic, election officials will be working with reduced staff. We need to be patient so election officials can take the time to make sure every eligible vote is counted accurately.
Apply to join our Board of Directors!
SEARAC's board development committee is ​currently ​accepting ​applications​.​ If you are interested in supporting SEARAC's work to empower Cambodian, Lao, Hmong, and Vietnamese communities to fight for equity and justice, please consider applying. We are seeking people with a wide range of backgrounds and skills that could support SEARAC's strategic thinking, programmatic development, and fiscal responsibility. This is a particularly wonderful opportunity for someone who has a strong understanding of the Southeast Asian American community and is passionate in uplifting issues that impact our community members. Visit the SEARAC Board of Directors Online Application for more information, including the board application form. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 30.
Staff blog
Our Director of National Policy, Kham S. Moua, shares a touching tribute to his cousin, Marny Xiong, in this month's staff blog. "This pandemic has irreparably harmed my family," Kham writes. "I will never hear Marny laugh again or share another drink with her as we discuss the educational needs of Southeast Asian students. When I return to Minnesota, I will be greeted only by the empty seat that should have been reserved for her. But I know that if she were still alive, she would say that it is unconscionable for Senate leadership to prioritize a Supreme Court nominee to dismantle the ACA instead of providing COVID-19 relief to Americans." Read Kham's blog here.
Let us know about your upcoming events
If you have an event or campaign that you would like SEARAC to promote to the community, fill out this Google Form to let us know! We recommend submissions are entered at least two weeks in advance of event date to allow time for processing and scheduled uplift. To follow up regarding your requests, please email
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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