Community Spotlight
Photo credit: Street Side Production
SEAA youth in Sacramento find a voice through advocacy
A recent article from KCET follows two young Hmong American leaders, Dexter Niskala and Dee Khang, who have organized with the East Bay Asian Youth Center’s Youth Action Team to advocate for young Southeast Asian and communities of color to be heard in Sacramento. Their journeys capture the mobilization of young Asian Americans, challenge the model minority myth, build power through coalition-building, and illuminate the unique voice that youth bring to community organizing.
Photo credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times
NAPCA launches in-language hotline to #StopAsianHate
Our partners at the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) have launched an online anonymous form that supports 27 AAPI languages to report assaults on elders. Data collected will be used to gauge incidence of anti-Asian violence nationwide to help inform local, state, and federal policy makers. The launch of this new reporting tool was covered by the LA Times and other news outlets. “Many of our older adults have this fear that if they do speak out or share information about what they’ve experienced, it could be used against them down the line,” Joon Bang, former CEO of NAPCA, shared in an interview.
FDA authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID vaccine boosters
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for some adults. If you initially received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you can now receive a vaccine booster if you are:

  • 65 years or older, OR
  • are 18 to 64 and at high risk of severe COVID-19, OR
  • are 18 to 64 and your work or school exposure puts you at high COVID-19 risk.

Additionally, if you initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can access a booster shot regardless of your age or risk. You do not need to get a booster shot from the same manufacturer as your initial vaccine. Learn more in this NPR article and find a vaccination site near you.
Moua Vang and his wife, Dokmai (photo courtesy of Moua Vang)
“I just want my wife to be with me here”
When Moua Vang, a 26-year-old Hmong American Minnesotan, first met Dokmai Cakseng six years ago on Facebook, he felt a strong connection. Many conversations later, he flew to Laos to meet her in person, and he quickly envisioned a lifetime of love, family, and companionship with her. The couple married in 2018 with dreams of a bright future together. 

However, due to the United States’ 243(d) visa sanction on Laos, the US Embassy in Laos would not process Dokmai’s visa and allow her to be reunited with her husband in the United States. The Southeast Asian Deportation Defense Network has launched a petition calling on the Biden Administration to end these visa sanctions.
Call for transparency in Afghan Humanitarian Parole process
Last week, SEARAC joined 120 other organizations to demand transparency and action on Humanitarian Parole applications from Afghan refugees. The letter, led by Project ANAR (Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources), was directed to the Biden Administration and members of Congress, and demanded accountability and clarity on thousands of applications filed by the group. As members of the largest refugee resettlement in U.S. history, Southeast Asian Americans across the country have been calling for immediate action to support and resettle refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Afghanistan. Learn more in our recent press release.
DHS releases new memo on prosecutorial discretion 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released new guidance on prosecutorial discretion that goes into effect on Nov. 29. The guidance replaces both memos from January and February of this year. Though SEARAC recognizes that, through the hard work of Southeast Asian organizers and other advocates working on these issues, some welcome changes were included in the new guidance, we remain concerned about the vagueness of the new policy and the broad discretion given to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents. Read SEARAC’s full statement here.
Big wins for ethnic studies and mental health education in CA
California’s 2021 legislative cycle has come to a close and we are excited to share that Governor Newsom has signed into law a number of bills that support the needs of students across the state:

Ethnic studies as a graduation requirement:
AB 101 (Medina) requires high schools to offer ethnic studies courses beginning in the 2025 academic year and requires all students to complete a semester-long course in ethnic studies to earn a high school diploma starting with the class of 2030. AAPI youth are deeply impacted by racism and violence through school bullying. For example, half the youth we surveyed for our 2019 report on school culture and climate for AAPI youth in California indicated being bullied in school. The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is a necessary step in combating racially motivated bullying and cultivating awareness of the cultural richness that AAPI students bring to their schools.

Mental health in schools:
SB 14 (Portantino) broadens the definition of excused absences to include an absence due to mental and behavioral health. SB 224 (Portantino) requires mental health instruction to be included in existing health education courses at middle and high schools. These laws come at a crucial time as the pandemic and the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes exacerbate the mental health needs of our communities. Earlier this year, SEARAC launched The Right to Heal: Southeast Asian American Mental Health in California, a report that emphasizes that the mental health needs of Southeast Asian Americans cannot be truly addressed without shedding our stigma, normalizing mental health treatment, and checking in on and communicating with one another. We hope these bills are the first step in many that prioritize the mental health of our youth.
Data equity in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
Last week, SEARAC, APIA Scholars, and 53 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) and civil rights organizations sent a letter asking the US Department of Education to make data equity a priority in implementing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The letter emphasizes the structural inequities that have limited the access to and attainment of a postsecondary degree or credential for AANHPI students, and asks FSA to include disaggregated racial and ethnic subgroup data collection as part of their simplification process.
SEARAC in the News
A young Quyen Dinh and her father Quang Dinh in San Jose, CA. (Photo courtesy of Nga Tran)
Prism: "There’s a way to resettle Afghan refugees in the U.S. if we have the will"
In case you missed it, our Executive Director, Quyen Dinh, wrote an op-ed for Prism reflecting on her family's refugee journey to the United States and the obligation that our country has to support refugees from Afghanistan today. "Those of us who are part of the Southeast Asian migration know this story: determined action saves lives. Now is the time to take action. Now is the time to continue building our country’s legacy, one that lives up to its ideals of equity and freedom for generations to come."
Staff Blog
In SEARAC's October staff blog, our new Director of Field, Tuấn ĐinhJanelle, writes about his work and SEARAC's support of Afghan refugees. "We have done so because solidarity is ultimately about us. It is about us specifically as a Southeast Asian community in the United States and about all of us collectively as people who cannot thrive unless all of us are thriving. Solidarity is the act of showing up. It is showing up to follow the lead of those who are most directly affected and showing up with resources and with our friends who also want to help."

Meet Tuấn and read his blog post here.
CMAA Lowell is hiring an Executive Director
Our friends at the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) in Lowell, MA are searching for their next Executive Director. If you are looking for a leadership position in programming and services for the Southeast Asian American community, check out the job description and apply here.
Let us know about your upcoming events
If you have an event or campaign that you would like SEARAC to promote to our communities, please fill out this form to let us know! We recommend alerting us to your event at least two weeks in advance of the date to allow time for processing. If you have any questions about your submission, 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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