I am truly honored to address you as National President of OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, an institution that has served the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community for over four decades. Over the years, I have been privileged to serve on the boards of many leading organizations in our community, including the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), Hmong National Development (HND), and the Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW).
However, what makes OCA very special to me are our members and supporters. It is you who have created our success: past, present, and future. I thank you for your support. We began as a grassroots organization and our power remains in our people, who reflect the diversity of our community and our priorities. That is why our first commitment must be towards continuing the successful advocacy of my predecessor, Michael W. Kwan, to keep our advocacy efforts strong and forward-thinking.
Although the national center and our local chapters are engaged with many diverse issues affecting the AAPI community, these are the priorities we intend to focus on at a national level:
- Immigration: Family is important to AAPIs, which is why it is of the utmost importance that we strive to keep families together by fighting to improve the family visa system and cut our visa backlogs. More than 20 years is far too long a wait to reunite with family, yet this is the situation that many AAPI families face because of our nation's broken immigration system. Additionally, it is important that we eliminate discriminatory enforcement and stop deportations of undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants deserve their safety and family and our laws must reflect that.
- Education: Higher education has become the bedrock of AAPI success in America, but for many the opportunities to obtain a degree are tantalizingly out of reach. As a longtime educator, I know education policies are critical in securing the success of our children and grandchildren. This year we hope to push for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that will support institutions that serve AAPIs and make financial aid accessible to undocumented and/or first-generation students. Additionally, we stand firmly in support of holistic admissions policies that are inclusive and beneficial to all students.
- Military Justice and Espionage Cases: In recent years, we have made great strides towards institutionalizing policies to reduce and prevent hazing in our nation's armed services. However, as we continue to work on this issue a new discrimination issue has emerged in the form of faulty espionage accusations against Chinese American scientists. We will continue to monitor future cases to verify that ethnicity is not a factor in accusations by federal agents.
- Broadband Access: Innovations in technology has provided many societal benefits, including breaking down communications barriers and increasing access to information and entertainment. However, some AAPIs are being left behind. Internet access is crucial in helping a child learn, helping an adult find a job, and helping an elder stay engaged. That is why we must push for policies that increase access to broadband, so that all of us can enjoy the benefits of the technological revolution.
In addition to national advocacy on these issues, we will continue to push forward with our signature line of programs for youth, college students, young professionals, and elders. Given that civic engagement plays a critical role in every aspect of our programming, we will make certain that AAPI voices are heard loud and clear by political leaders from around the country. As Congresswoman Judy Chu so eloquently said, "AAPIs have gone from the margins of society, to the margin of victory", and 2016 is the year to prove that her statement is true.
I look forward to hearing from you and working with you on the issues that most deeply affect our community and remember that you, the advocate, are the one making true change for our community.
Very truly yours,