BY JOO-ANN YOO
Like other immigrant communities, Asian Americans have been impacted by the anti-immigrant rhetoric from our new president, which began with last year’s campaign season. In a community where almost seven out of 10 Asian New Yorkers are immigrants and where 95 percent of Asian American kids have at least one immigrant parent, President Donald Trump’s vilification of immigrants has created an atmosphere of fear, vulnerability and frustration. His continued assault on immigrants stands contrary to the character and core values of our country, which are based on tolerance and inclusion of all races, ethnicities and religions.
In every corner of Queens, the influence of Asian immigrants is pervasive. Jackson Heights flourishes as one of the most vibrant South Asian neighborhoods. Woodside is an important neighborhood post for the Filipino community. Korean Americans were one of the first Asian communities to revitalize downtown Flushing, which also serves as an important hub for our city’s Chinese community. Richmond Hill is home to a vibrant network of Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers.
In fact, there isn’t one area that hasn’t been influenced by the Asian American community.
Not surprisingly, Asians now represent 10 percent or more of residents in 13 out of 14 council districts in Queens. Driving the population growth are Asian immigrants coming to the United States to seek what every other immigrant has before them—the opportunity to build a more secure socioeconomic life or to seek refuge from persecution.
Anytime we hear rhetoric that casts a negative light on immigrants and ignores our many contributions, we are reminded of our own community’s history of exclusion and incarceration.
Examples include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese immigrants from citizenship and family reunification; and the imprisonment of over 100,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent. The recent travel ban and temporary stop to the refugee program is especially heart-wrenching since this country has provided important sanctuary for Cambodian, Vietnamese, Hmong and Burmese immigrants fleeing political persecution and war.
A vital part of New York City’s immigrant experience is the dozens of community-based organizations that are on the front lines to help immigrants adapt, contribute and thrive in their new homeland.
In our role in highlighting and advocating for the most pressing needs of the pan-Asian American community, the Asian American Federation works with a network of nearly 70 organizations that serve the Asian community. Our member agencies perform vital work in providing health and social services, such as serving our seniors, helping immigrants learn English and find jobs, and a host of other services now under threat due to federal budget cuts.
On top of their primary work, our member organizations must now help Asian immigrants address a spectrum of immigration concerns since many, even those with documented status, are feeling threatened under the new administration. During this critical time, we call on all New Yorkers to support our Asian-serving and Asian-led organizations, as they are the most trusted voices in our community for immigrants and are working tirelessly to protect the rights of our community members.
Joo-Ann Yoo is the executive director of Manhattan’s Asian American Federation.