‘Policy makers must support pro-immigrant policies and pathways to citizenship’ : New APALA report

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“Untapped Power” lists the strengths of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander working community in America.


Asian Americans are among the fastest-growing working age population in the U.S. About 17.4 percent of the American workforce, or 28.2 million people, are foreign-born and Asian Americans account for nearly one-quarter of this population. The numbers show that Asian Americans form a vital part of the global migrant workforce.

A new report released Nov 5 highlights the contributions of Asian American workforce to America along with their Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander counterparts. Titled ‘Untapped Power,’ the report by Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) shows ways in which policymakers, corporates and employers must reach out to their immigrant workers to ensure fair and equal rights.

“To empower immigrant workers,” the report says, “policymakers and the labor movement must support pro-immigrant policies and legislation that create pathways to citizenship.”

Calling for a need to establish cross-racial coalitions at work places, the report says, “It is incumbent upon unions to avoid perpetuating nativist and anti-immigrant agendas. [They must also] work on ending white supremacy, disrupt model minority practices that pit Asian Americans against other communities of color.” It adds, “The labor movement must: invest in trainings, programs, and campaigns that strengthen racial equity.”


Noting that the racist sentiments fueled by political rhetoric has affected the immigrant workforce immensely, the report says: “The Trump administration has further endangered these workers with anti-immigrant policies and xenophobic rhetoric.”

“Under the Trump administration, attacks on immigrant workers have also been nonstop,” it says citing attacks on H-4 work permits for spouses of H1B visa holders as examples of unfair policies.

“H-4 work authorization visas are also under attack by the Trump Administration,” the report notes. “They are working to rescind these visas, which would strip work authorization from nearly 90,000 women.” It may be noted that about 90% of H-4 work permits are Indian women.

As other instances of Trump administration’s anti-workforce policy, the report suggests that it has filled the cabinet and federal courts with anti-worker individuals, imbuing them with the power to make court rulings and policies that could impact workers’ rights.

Citing the case of Neomi Rao, the first U.S. circuit Judge of Indian origin, whose appointment was widely opposed by Indian American activists, the report notes that the Trump nominee “blocked an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) measure that would have helped uncover pay discrimination.”

Taking into account the rights of Asian LGBTQ work force in the country, a segment that is often less addressed even within the community, the report states: “Nearly 5 percent of Asian adults in the United States identify as LGBTQ. More than half of LGBTQ people live in a state that does not have laws protecting them from discrimination, including the workplace. These workers
receive some of the lowest pay among all workers.

“Asian American voters receive sparse contact from political parties and traditional institutions when it comes to voting,” it adds. “This lack of outreach shows up as AANHPIs (Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders) are not very familiar with the role of unions, and only 40% of Asian American voters have a favorable impression of unions.

Asian American and NHPI working age populations generally skew younger than the white working age population, it says. “The challenges that Millennials and GenerationZ workers face are unique and growing: they are confronting the decline of the middle class, the rise of the precarious gig economy, contract work that leave workers unable to make ends meet, and worsening labor conditions.”

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