L.A.-area Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander leaders and media came to the Japanese American National Museum to hear a presentation on APALC’s report. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

California’s fastest growing racial groups, Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) have considerable needs that should be addressed by policy makers, according to a report released Feb. 4 by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) in Los Angeles and the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) in San Francisco.

APALC President/Executive Director Stewart Kwoh.

Using the latest data from numerous federal, state, and local agencies, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California, 2013” counters perceptions of these groups as universally successful.

The need for humane immigration reform is among the most pressing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 3.1 million Asian Americans and 47,000 NHPI in California are foreign-born. Data from the Department of Homeland Security show that one million immigrants from Asia and the Pacific obtained legal permanent resident (LPR) status in California between 2000 and 2010 alone, making up 40% of all LPRs statewide.

There are roughly 416,000 undocumented Asian Americans living in California, 15% of the state’s undocumented residents.

Dan Ichinose, APALC demographic research director, and Mike Eng, former member of the State Assembly and current candidate for the Los Angeles Community College Board.

“Issues that affect immigrants and the undocumented in California affect Asian Americans and NHPI,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of APALC.  “Our communities urge President Obama and Congress for reform that promotes family unity, provides a path to legalization and citizenship for the undocumented, and creates a process for immigrant students who have lived here for most of their lives to obtain legal residency.”

The report can be found online at www.apalc.org.

The report also notes the impact of the economic crisis on Asian American and NHPI communities. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed Asian Americans in California grew 196% between 2006 and 2010, the most of any racial group statewide.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of NHPI and Asian Americans living below the poverty line statewide increased 138% and 50%, respectively, over a similar period. Today nearly 540,000 Asian Americans and nearly 27,000 NHPI in California live in poverty.

Catherine Eusebio, board member of United We Dream, and Tana Lepule, executive director of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities.

“Asian Americans and NHPI in California were hit hard by the recession,” said Hyeon-Ju Rho, executive director of ALC. “As the State Legislature begins to tackle a new policy agenda, safety net programs remain critical to those in our community who are trying to get back on their feet.”

Health care is another critical issue. Approximately 14% of Asian Americans and 15% of NHPI in California do not have health insurance, rates higher than whites (10%). Among ethnic groups, 27% of Korean Americans and 25% of Samoan Americans statewide lack coverage.

As California works to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it should ensure accessibility to the limited English proficient, the report says. Just over one in three Asian Americans and one in 10 NHPI statewide experience some challenge communicating in English that impacts his or her ability to access basic services, including health care.

“We hope the report promotes a better understanding of our growing and diverse communities,” said Joanna Lee, senior research analyst at APALC. “California can’t craft good public policy on Asian Americans and NHPI without good data.”

The report was made possible through the generous support of the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the Cyrus Chung Ying Tang Foundation, and Bank of America.

APALC, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, is the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983, it advocates for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.

Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, APALC seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of these communities while also building a strong Asian American and NHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.

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