There are over 24 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States, and collectively, the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community is the fastest growing demographic group in the country. The APIA community also forms one of the most diverse communities in America: APIAs can trace their ancestry to more than 30 countries and ethnic groups. The needs and concerns of the APIA community are just as diverse as the community itself, ranging from affordable health care, housing, and reducing gun violence, to climate change and immigration. Yet public policy discussions often overlook the needs and priorities of the APIA community.
As a member of the APIA community, Kamala understands firsthand the unique and wide-ranging concerns facing the rich tapestry of ethnicities, languages, and cultures that form this diverse community. Kamala knows our country is stronger for this diversity and will fight for equal opportunity, access to justice, and human rights for all API Americans.
HOW SHE’LL DO IT:
Dismantle language barriers to enable access to services and the right to vote.
APIAs speak over 100 languages and dialects. Nearly 3 out of 4 Asian Americans speak a language other than English at home, and roughly one third are limited English proficient (LEP). Language barriers can impede access to a wide range of vital services, including healthcare, social services, housing assistance, courts, and education. Language barriers also bar full participation in the democratic process. Kamala believes in an America that guarantees equal opportunity and full participation for everyone. That’s why she’ll:
- Ensure that programs that receive federal funds are accessible to individuals with limited English proficiency. Executive Order 13166 requires that federal agencies, as well as recipients of federal funds, ensure LEP individuals can effectively participate in and benefit from federally funded programs. While some agencies have complied with the Order, many more have not. Additionally, programs often expand access to just a single additional language, still leaving many LEP APIAs without meaningful access. As president, Kamala will direct federal agencies to assess existing language access programs, develop an action plan to further improve language access, and push Congress to include language access as a core component in future legislation, where applicable.
- Eliminate language barriers to voting. The right to vote is fundamental. But many LEP citizens cannot effectively exercise their right to vote. For example, difficulty understanding voting materials, such as voter registration forms, ballots, and complicated referenda can essentially exclude many citizens from exercising their right to vote. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions to provide non-English language assistance at polling places to groups that have historically faced voter discrimination. However, of all jurisdictions covered by Section 203, just 27 provide language assistance for at least one Asian language. And even in covered jurisdictions, language assistance can be deficient. In one 2012 study, 45 percent of a sample of covered precincts had missing or poorly displayed translated materials, and 23 percent lacked at least one Asian-language bilingual poll worker.
Kamala believes all citizens must have equal access to the vote. That’s why she’ll make sure that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has the resources to fully implement language assistance at the polls and vigorously monitor covered jurisdictions’ compliance. She’ll also fight to pass legislation that expands language access by decreasing the minimum population threshold necessary for Section 203 coverage.
Disaggregate data to accurately reflect the needs and challenges of the APIA community.
In the aggregate, APIAs appear to form a successful group with high income, education achievement, and health outcomes. However, breaking down that data by ethnicity uncovers an entirely different story. Take pay equity as an example. Taken together, APIA women are paid an average of 86 cents for every dollar a white man receives; on that same dollar, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Samoan American women receive 61 cents, Burmese American women, 53 cents, and Bhutanese American women, 38 cents.
Here’s the truth: aggregated APIA data is simply inaccurate. It masks the needs and disparities of marginalized APIA subgroups and leaves them unserved. We need disaggregated data to guide accurate private and public decision-making and direct resources to where they’re most needed. That’s why, as president, Kamala will:
Revise the federal data collection standard to include ethnicity.
The federal government still uses data collection standards from 1997. It provides two race-based categories for APIAs: “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.” That has to change. The Obama administration took steps to improve data collection, including through disaggregation, but the Trump administration discontinued these initiatives. Despite wide support from APIA community groups, the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has refused to adopt a combined race and ethnicity question when collecting data.
In the Harris administration, Kamala will instruct OMB to revise its standards to ensure comprehensive and meaningful race and ethnicity data collection standards across federal agencies.
Adopt best practices to overcome data collection challenges.
Fundamental challenges can frustrate accurate data collection from the APIA community. For example, a large portion of the APIA population speaks a language other than English at home, and about 1 in 3 have limited English proficiency (LEP). In addition, people of color, rural residents, and low-income households respond to surveys at relatively lower rates.
To encourage APIA participation, ensure adequate representation, and increase response rates, Kamala will instruct federal agencies to:
- Take into account LEP among APIA communities;
- Oversample areas in with a high concentration of APIAs to ensure that APIA respondents are adequately represented in the overall survey sample;
- Partner with APIA community organizations, media, and advocates on outreach to increase participation;
- Direct the Census Bureau to secure federal funding for community organizations serving as Census Information Centers;
- Employ multiple methods to collect data, including phone surveys, in-person interviews, and community partner-led approaches; and
- Collect information on detailed ethnic groups that reflect and celebrate the diversity within the APIA community.
Ensure full participation of federal agencies to submit and implement plans to improve data disaggregation.
Executive Order 13515 requires federal agencies to submit plans “to improve the quality of life of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased participation in federal programs,” including research, data collection, and analysis of APIAs by subgroup. Twenty-four federal agencies submitted plans to improve data disaggregation, but many have not. Kamala will require all federal agencies to develop plans to improve data disaggregation and take steps to implement them.
Boost economic opportunity, mobility, and growth.
The nearly 2 million APIA-owned businesses in the United States form the backbone of communities across the country. Almost half of these are small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and 1 in 5 provide food or accommodations. They serve and employ local residents, many of whom are limited English proficient (LEP), offer financial stability, and create paths to economic growth for APIA community members and their families.
Kamala is committed to empowering APIA-owned businesses and growing the small business engine of our economy. That’s why she’ll:
Work with Congress to create a $12 billion capital grant and technical support program.
The program will directly help APIA entrepreneurs and other minority small business owners start businesses. She’ll direct the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency to distribute these funds, leveraging its nationwide network of business development centers.
Invest in culturally and linguistically competent services.
Kamala also knows that increasing access to capital is more than a matter of providing funds. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy found that APIAs were more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to use their personal resources to finance start-up costs, which appreciably limits business growth. A recent nationwide survey of APIA small business owners found that nearly half of respondents relied on loans from friends and family, and one third relied solely on their own funds. That’s why she’ll make sure that APIA entrepreneurs can access capital and business counsel in culturally and linguistically competent ways through programs such as the SBA Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs, SBA Community Advantage and Microloan programs, SBA Small Business Development Centers, Office of Refugee Resettlement Microenterprise Development Program, and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.
Achieve health equity.
Kamala recognizes that language barriers, education level, occupation and income, immigration status, and other social determinants directly impact health risks for APIAs and drive the health care they need. And as with other communities of color, APIA groups face significant health disparities. For example, although APIAs comprise 5 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of all chronic hepatitis B cases. If left untreated, hepatitis B can develop into serious liver disease, such as cirrhosis, liver damage, and cancer. And APIA female high school students were 20 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white female peers in 2017, but just 8.6% of APIAs seek mental health care.
Kamala will fight to eliminate APIA health disparities. She’ll:
- Pass her Medicare for All plan which will cover all medically necessary services for all Americans with no deductibles and no copays. Kamala’s plan will also cover long-term health care services and supports in home- and community-based settings, so family members can care for their loved ones in their own communities.
- Provide more in-language support. Limited English proficiency (LEP) poses a serious barrier to accessing and receiving care and magnifies existing health disparities. Studies show that LEP patients are more likely to report poor health and forgo necessary medical services, and less likely to receive follow-up appointments and use preventative services (such as cancer screenings) than other patients. Kamala will dedicate federal funds to expanding in-language services so patients can communicate with their doctors and fully understand their care instructions. She’ll also work to translate more government agency resources, such as factsheets and health care marketplace exchange websites, to reach all APIA community members, regardless of English ability.
Facilitate family-based immigration.
For centuries, new Americans have come to this country as families. This foundational family-based immigration bolsters our economy and strengthens families and communities. Immediate family members who join relatives in the United States work in family businesses, care for children and elderly family members, pool money for investments in businesses, and generally provide a social safety net for each other.
Forty-four percent of APIA new legal permanent residents were most likely to come as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. And under the Trump administration, wait times for family-based immigration visas have increased drastically. Most of the immigration backlogs are for family-sponsored applicants (314,000 from the Philippines, 299,000 from India, 232,000 each from Vietnam and China); more than 40 percent of individuals stuck in the family visa backlog—or approximately 1.5 million people—are from Asia. As president, Kamala will clear the family visa backlog as part of her plan for a fair and just immigration system.
Defend immigrant youth and families.
Asian undocumented immigrants comprise about 13% of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in our country. Approximately 130,000 of these immigrants are DREAMers who know no other place but the United States as their home. As president, Kamala will take decisive executive action to keep families together and forge a path to U.S. citizenship for DREAMers and their families.
- She’ll immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and expand DACA by eliminating the requirement that DREAMers apply before they turn 31 years old, raising the age at time of entry from 15 years old and under to 17 years old and under, allowing little DREAMers under 15 years old to apply for protection with parental or guardian consent, increasing the two-year term of DACA protection to three years, and updating the cutoff date for entry into the United States.
- She’ll protect the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents from the prospect of deportation by expanding the deferred action program. She’ll also extend deferred action eligibility to other law-abiding immigrants with ties to our communities.
- And she’ll use every tool available via execution action to tear down unnecessary barriers to citizenship for DREAMers and other deferred action recipients.
Reverse the Trump administration’s actions targeting immigrant communities.
Make no mistake: President Trump has used the presidency to rewrite regulations and issue Executive Orders that target the APIA community. As president, Kamala won’t let that stand. When she enters the White House, Kamala will:
- Rescind President Trump’s Muslim Ban.
Three in ten American Muslims are Asian American. President Trump’s Executive Orders restricting citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States discriminates against Muslim immigrants and refugees, many of whom are women and children displaced by violence. That’s why Kamala will immediately reverse the Muslim Ban upon taking office.
- Rescind this administration’s public charge rule.
Under the current administration’s hateful public charge rule, immigrants who play by the rules and contribute to their communities risk deportation for participating in public benefit programs, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To leverage vital public services to discourage lawful immigration is cruel and dangerous.
- Rescind the Trump Proclamation denying immigrants a visa unless they have “approved health insurance” or can prove they have “the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” President Trump’s cruel campaign to separate immigrant families will end under the Harris administration.
Restore humanitarian immigration programs.
The U.S. has traditionally led the world in refugee admissions and provided a lifesaving safe haven for those from war torn countries. Since fiscal year 1980, 55% of refugees have come from Asia. Kamala believes we have a moral responsibility to welcome children and families fleeing ongoing violence and oppression. That’s why, as Senator, she’s called for fully funding programs for refugees and other vulnerable migrant populations, and introduced legislation to ensure that the annual admissions ceiling on refugee admissions doesn’t dip below 95,000.
The Trump administration has abdicated our country’s commitment to humanitarian aid. It has lowered the annual admissions ceiling to 18,000 in fiscal year 2020—an 84 percent reduction from fiscal year 2017 and a new all-time low ceiling since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. Slashing the refugee admissions program is yet another way that this administration continues to administer a cruel and inhumane immigration policy that directly harms so many APIA immigrant families.
As president, Kamala will restore our country’s global standing as the world leader in vital humanitarian immigration aid. She’ll ensure our critical humanitarian programs are fully funded and fight to pass her Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act.
Reform employment visa programs to eliminate discriminatory backlogs.
Current policies like per-country caps for employment-based green cards effectively penalize immigrants for their country of origin. The vast—and growing—employment-based visa backlog has an outsized impact on the APIA community: as of 2018, 95% of the over 825,000 individuals in line for the chance to apply for their green cards come from Asia (China, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam). At the same time, demand for immigrant workers shows no signs of abating. For six consecutive years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received so many petitions that it’s hit the annual cap for H-1B visas (for high-skilled workers) within 5 business days of opening the filing period.
Kamala believes we must do more to eliminate discriminatory backlogs and protect immigrant workers so they can stay in our country and continue to contribute to the economy. That’s why she’ll push overdue reforms to visa programs, including for high-skilled and low-skilled workers, to streamline our immigrant labor force and stimulate entrepreneurship. Her Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, for example, would lift existing per-country caps for employment-based green cards and also raise per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent.
Seek equitable treatment and support for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders trace their ancestry to the indigenous peoples of Hawai‘i; the U.S. Territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and other Pacific Islands. Like Alaska Natives and American Indians, Native Hawaiians have a special political and legal relationship with the federal government due to their status as indigenous people who once exercised full sovereignty in areas that now form part of the United States.
The United States also has a special historical and political relationship with its territories and other countries in the Pacific Islands, namely the independent Micronesian nations with whom the United States established the Compact of Free Association (COFA). Individuals from COFA countries can live and work in the United States without visas or health screenings; in exchange, the United States has exclusive military rights over their territory.
Kamala knows that federal policies and programs must carefully consider the unique circumstances of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. She also knows that these communities have been historically underserved and faced discrimination. As president, she will:
- Direct federal agencies to develop action plans to advance civil rights and educational and health equity for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. For example, she’ll instruct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to develop an action plan to address home ownership and employment disparities.
- Restore federal safety-net program eligibility for COFA immigrants. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated the equivalent of over 7,200 Hiroshima-sized bombs in the Marshall Islands, an island country in Micronesia. These nuclear weapons tests transformed homelands in the Pacific Islands into radioactive wastelands and resulted in devastating health outcomes, including stillbirths, sterility, and cancer. Under the 1986 Compact of Free Association, COFA immigrants, as legal residents of the United States, could initially receive the same public benefits as Americans. But ten years later, federal welfare reform stripped COFA immigrants’ eligibility for Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and other vital safety net programs—despite the fact that COFA immigrants pay taxes and therefore contribute directly to these programs.That’s not right. Although some states provide health care services to COFA immigrants, this still leaves many COFA immigrants who cannot afford the premiums to secure health care for their families. As president, Kamala will fight to restore COFA immigrants’ eligibility for Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other federal safety-net benefits to which they were previously entitled.
Celebrate the culture and history of the APIA community.
Kamala is proud to honor and celebrate the APIA community’s contributions in public service, arts and media, education, and beyond. As Senator, she led a bipartisan resolution the Senate unanimously passed to designate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As president, she’ll continue to recognize the rich and diverse contributions of the APIA community and supports Representative Meng’s proposal to consider building a museum dedicated to the history, culture, and accomplishments of APIAs.