New York. Governor Kathy Hochul has signed into law State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s bill for creating the first ever New York State Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission.
This historic commission will bridge the gap between the Asian American community and the State government, according to a press release from Rajkumar’s office.
The Commission comes at a pivotal moment in time, the release said noting Asian-Americans are now the fastest growing ethnic group in the State, having increased 40% statewide in the past decade, with triple digit percent increases in some regions.
This unprecedented growth has also come with unique challenges, including a 2900% spike in hate crimes statewide during the pandemic and a continuous slew of hate crimes against the community in recent years.
With the signing of Rajkumar’s bill A3301, New York joins at least 12 other states with similar commissions, as well as the White House.
The new law mandates that the Commission will be housed in the New York State Department of State, and will be composed of 13 members jointly appointed by the Governor, State Senate, and State Assembly.
New York’s Secretary of State will chair the Commission. The Commission will develop policies to promote the Asian American community’s safety, health, economic stability, and education.
The Commission will also galvanize leadership in the Asian American community and develop public education campaigns on Asian American issues and culture.
Rajkumar stated, “I am proud to have established a historic Commission that will bring Asian-American New Yorkers across our State to the table of government.”
“I introduced this historic legislation to meet this critical moment in time: Asian-Americans are now the fastest growing ethnic group and making large gains in representation across many fields,” she stated.
“At the same time, the community faces unique challenges such as a dramatic spike in hate crimes, language access issues, and access to state government services. This Commission will empower Asian-American New Yorkers for generations to come,” Rajkumar added.
The new Commission comes at a time when 72% of Americans say they want government to address racism against Asian Americans, the release noted.
Over the past year, Rajkumar amassed support for the legislation in Albany. The bill was passed unanimously with 40 co-sponsors, including the support of every Asian American legislator in the Capitol.
When the bill reached the Governor’s desk, Rajkumar, organized a coalition of 49 Asian American community organizations within 24 hours to support the Commission. She also successfully advocated for funding for the Commission in this year’s state budget.
READ: Jenifer Rajkumar moves to address New Yorkâ€™s migrant influx (September 7, 2023)
Historically, Commissions have been formed at critical moments such as this one. After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Al Smith and Robert Wagner formed a Factory Investigating Commission that led to breakthroughs in worker safety, including 20 workplace safety laws, the release noted.
The Hofstadter Commission exposed widespread corruption in the criminal justice system, helping lead to the demise of Tammany Hall.
The first South Asian-American woman ever elected to New York State Office, Rajkumar has been a champion of empowering the Asian American community, the release stated.
In her historic election, she brought many Asian Americans into the political process for the first time, increasing voter turnout by three times the most it had ever been. As Assemblywoman, she has given Asian Americans a voice in Albany and brought them to lobby their state government, it stated.
This unprecedented representation has delivered historic results, including the legislation establishing Diwali as a New York City public school holiday following over two decades of struggle by the South Asian community.