By Jocelyn Chui
Northwest Asian Weekly
A comprehensive report released in May by the Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs examined issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
“The State of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Washington” is a collaborative work between the Commission, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the Seattle University School of Law, and some attorneys from Perkins Coie, LLC. The issues were divided into several topics in the 52-page report.
“The current contributions, needs, and challenges highlighted in this report indicate the significant role Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders play in the future of Washington,” said Executive Director Kendee Yamaguchi.
Some pertinent issues addressed in the report:
“Undocumented Pacific Americans (APAs) in Washington live “under the radar,” according to the report.
While a lot of them are being exploited by low wages and limited access to social services, they contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Indeed, Washington ranks eighth in a list of states that would suffer the highest per-capita loss if the undocumented workforce, which makes up five percent of the state’s total workforce, were removed.
The majority of the undocumented workforce comprises students brought to the country by their parents at a very young age. Under the DREAM Act, which is pending before Congress, undocumented students will be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
Education attainment and unemployment rate
Data show wide educational disparities among AAPIs in Washington. Compared with Asian Indian and Chinese who have the highest education attainment rate, 58 percent and 49.6 percent, respectively, only five percent of Laotian and 6.6 percent of Cambodian have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Despite the differences in education levels between Asian groups, AAPIs as a whole have the lowest unemployment rate at 3.3 percent, out of all the ethnic groups.
Access to quality healthcare
Because of the diverse background and language barrier of many AAPI immigrant populations, poor communication between providers and patients can add extra costs to the national healthcare system, says the Institute of Medicine.
“Federal regulations require that any federally funded healthcare program must provide interpreter service,” according to the report.
Criminal justice system
Though the AAPI community does not have a high rate of reported domestic violence or hate crimes, this could be because many cases are not reported.
“Cultural beliefs and practices rationalize and deny the existence of domestic violence among those communities,” according to the report. “Given the isolation of many APA communities and tendencies to distrust law enforcement, it is highly likely that racially motivated incidents are underreported.”
“National APA voter registration has skyrocketed over the past two decades,” states the report.
Washington had the highest percentage — 66 percent — of APA registered voters among battleground states in 2008. ♦
Copies of the report are available online at www.capaa.wa.gov. The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs is a statewide government agency aiming to improve the well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by ensuring their access to participation in the fields of government, business, education, and other areas.
Jocelyn Chui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.