White House Initiative Aims at Improving Civil Rights of Asian Americans

By Ron Dory
Ron Dory
Ron Dory
March 1, 2013 Updated: March 1, 2013

WASHINGTON—The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders released a report titled, “Continuing Progress for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Community, Federal Agency Accomplishments” in a conference call last week. Federal agencies are making progress in addressing the unmet needs of the growing AAPI community, according to the Initiative report. 

This report presents the commitments of 23 federal departments and agencies to protect the civil rights and provide equal opportunities for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. They are committed to increasing participation and access for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in federal programs and services.

“I am proud of the strong track record that the Justice Department has established—and continues to build upon—in the vital work of improving access for the LEP [Limited English Proficiency] community in police departments, courthouses, and correctional facilities all across the country. I am confident that we will continue to raise awareness, while vigorously and consistently enforcing our civil rights laws whenever and wherever appropriate,” said Deeana Jang, Chief of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, on the AAPI White House blog.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) published a new health and safety guide for nail salon workers that was highlighted in the AAPI report. Approximately 40 percent of nail salon workers in the United States are AAPI, and so the guide has also been translated into Vietnamese and Korean, according to the White House website.

Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has also developed a website that provides information on the exposure to work place hazards in nail salons, including potentially hazardous chemicals and biological hazards that can cause disease. The site presents steps that nail salon workers and employers can take to prevent injuries and illness. 

The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided 508 contracts totaling over $14.8 million to AAPI producers under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program during the first three quarters of FY 2012 and continued its work with the Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development to provide career mentoring to Hmong youth and increase awareness about the natural resource conservation issues handled by NRCS. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration continued its outreach presence at in-person events and online by participating in webinars on small business outreach, access to capital, government contracting, and high growth programs. SBA program staff also met with state and local commissioners, local AAPI organizations and the National Council on Asian Pacific Americans to discuss SBA loan programs, outreach and participation. 

AAPIs were awarded $1 billion in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) government contracts. The top categories in which AAPI-owned firms received contracts were in Professional, Scientific, Technical Services, Construction, and Manufacturing totaling $2.2 billion. 

The Department of Defense issued guidance to strive for a 10 percent increase in dollars awarded to AAPIs in the Services category, according to the AAPI report.

The SBA’s San Francisco District Office announced earlier this month Tong Qin’s appointment as deputy director and the SBA’s director of AAPI outreach. Since one third of all Asian American firms are located in California, Qin, who is fluent in Mandarin, will be well placed to highlight the unmet needs of the California AAPI community.

“Tong’s energy, understanding of small business and SBA programs, as well as her financial expertise, will be very beneficial to the Bay area small businesses!” said District Director Mark Qinn in a SBA issued press release. 

As a result of the multi-agency efforts, the needs of adult members of the AAPI community are more closely being addressed in addition to those of their children, who are not sheltered from the realities of life faced by many children in America. 

One step to protect AAPI children’s rights was enacted by the Department of Educations’ Office of Civil Rights, which translated its guidance on preventing bullying and harassment into Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and other languages. The aim is to ensure students are not discriminated against because of their or their parents’ citizenship.

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Ron Dory
Ron Dory