Saturday, March 31, 2018

SUNDAY READ: Documentary on Filipino food will have its world premiere at SF Int'l Film Festival, April 7

The chefs at Lasa in Los Angeles, featured in 'Ulam,' have received rave reviews from food critics and the public.

THREE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS that start with "F" -- films, food and Filipinos -- combine at the world premiere of Ulam: Main Dish, a documentary by Filipino/American filmmakers about the cuisine that is making its belated mark in the culinary world.

I can barely contain my excitement.

Ulam: Main Dish, a documentary about Filipino food, will have its world premiere April 7 as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, which begins April 4 and run throughl April 17.

“'Ulam' means main dish in Tagalog," explains director Alexandra Cuerdo. "This film truly strives to examine the 'main dish' — not only by highlighting the hallmarks of modern Filipino cuisine, but also by telling the stories of those that create it. Through pioneering Filipino-American chefs and restaurateurs, we discuss the issues inherent in the Fil-Am crossover; also, we celebrate the newfound success of the thriving culinary community that is the Filipino food movement." 

Food is so central to Filipino and Filipino/American culture. When someone enters a Filipino home, instead of the expected greeting of "How are you?" the question is more likely, "Have you eaten?"

The film centers on the honest struggle for authenticity and respect for a cuisine often marginalized by the food world. Deploying rousing interviews with owners, restaurateurs, top chefs, as well as mouth-watering dishes placed front and center, California filmmaker Cuerdo follows the heartaches and triumphs of contemporary Filipino/American chefs who seek a place for their culture at the dinner table, one dish at a time.

Rene and Alexandra Cuerdo, producers of the documentary, are father and daughter. "My dad and I have a really interesting relationship. He's not just my dad  for my whole life, he's been a career mentor," said Alexandra. "We often talk about film, ideas and projects we’re working on. 

"One day, he mentioned an idea that he and his college friend, Paul, had discussed: what about doing a Filipino food documentary? For various reasons, it never got off the ground. But that idea stuck with me. I have always wanted to tell stories that reflect my identity, and being Filipino/American is a huge part of that."

'Ulam/ coproducers, Rey and Alexandra Cuerdo, right.

Television celebrities Andrew Zimmerman and Anthony Bourdain have predicted Filipino cuisine as "the next big thing," for several years. But it wasn't until Filipino chefs began opening up their own restaurants in the last few years so that foodies have become familiar with the Filipino food palate of sweet, sour, salty, savory that dishes of adobo, singang, kare kare and that exotic purple ube ice cream that made fans of the foodies, gastronomical adventurers and culinary critics.

The fact that Filipino cuisine is (at long last) having a moment in America's food consciousness -- is a metaphor for the Filipino/American search for identity and a place in the American cultural milieu.

"Ultimately, we strive to document personal stories, which inform the way we think about food in the context of our own lives," says Cuerdo. 

"In Ulam, our subjects and our food are vehicles for further discussion. Food is our history, and the history of the Filipino people is complex. Filipino food and its ability to succeed is also a window into our future — and we must discuss what divides us, to find what unites us. If we are to celebrate Filipino food, and be respected as a people, we must dig deep into what makes us, and examine the future we want to create."

(Ulam: Main Dish will be presented by the SF International Film Festival 4:30 p.m. April 7 at Dolby Cinema, 1275 Market St.; 4:30 p.m. April 8 and 3:30 p.m. April 10 at Children's Creativity Museum, 221 Fourth St.)

New Mexico to erect a sculpture comemmorating historic case of Yee Shun

A scale model of the sculpture 'View From Gold Mountain.'

Commissioners of New Mexico's Bernalillo County have approved the purchase of a public art sculpture that will recognize a landmark Chinese/American civil rights case.

The commissioners voted unanimously, 4-0, March 27 in support of a motion authorizing the county manager to approve the purchase of a monument commemorating the Yee Shun case of 1882, which resulted in Chinese/Americans being granted the right to testify in court and have their testimony accepted.

“The sculpture will inform the public about the contributions that Asian Americans have made to advance civil rights through use of the judicial system,” says Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, sponsor of the measure. “This Asian American Monument will honor of the landmark civil rights ruling from Territory of New Mexico versus Yee Shun (1882) which granted Chinese Americans the right to testify in court and have their testimony accepted.”

Funded with a combination of local and state sources, the project has been in the works for a few years.

Dr. Siu Wong initiated the project and raised $275,000: $100,000 from in legislative appropriations in 2015, $155,000 in 2016 and $20,000 from the City of Albuquerque.
From a national call for artists by the Asian American Monument Committee of New Mexico, the design by Leo-Gwin and Wong was chosen.

Leo-Gwin and Wong are the creators of "View from Gold Mountain." The sculpture will be installed near the state district courthouse in downtown Albuquerque.

Through the selection process, artists’ team Cheryll Leo-Gwin and Stewart Wong were selected for their design “View from Gold Mountain” The project uses symbols and metaphors that refer to not only Chinese culture and honor the Territory of New Mexico v Yee Shun case but are also universally understood by cultures around the globe.

"As a visual artist, I use narrative imagery to bring forgotten history to the forefront. The histories I am interested in have to do with issues of social justice and celebration of the human spirit,” says artist Leo-Gwin.

Who was Yee Shun?

Yee Shun was not a civil rights hero fighting for justice but it was his name attached to a precedent-setting case that recognized Asian/Americans as human beings whose testimony was equal to the testimony of white people.

John Wunder of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln wrote an article about the details of the historic case. Shun was accused of killing John Lee, owner of a Chinatown laundry in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Among the witnesses was Jo Chinaman (Sorry, but that was his name in court documents!), who identified Shun as the killer. His testimony led to Shun's conviction despite the testimony of two other Chinese witnesses contradicting Chinaman's testimony.

As Wunder's review of the transcript and other evidence makes clear, the trial was a classic case of poor man's justice and Shun was convicted.

Shun was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life sentence. 

In his appeal, Shun's attorney tried to disqualify Chinaman's testimony because up he said Chinaman was "of the Chinese religion," he could not take an oath acceptable to a U.S. court, and thus could not testify against Shun.

The territorial Supreme Court ruled that Chinaman's testimony was admissible and Shun lost his appeal. In so ruling, the courts set a precedent allowing Asian/Americans' testimony in the judicial system.

Tragically, when informed of the verdict denying his appeal, Shun hung himself in 1884 using bed linens in his jail cell in Leavenworth (Kansas) prison.

In subsequent years, the case, Territory of New Mexico vs. Yee Shun, was used to allow Asian/Americans full participation in the justice system.

What immigrants need to know: 'You Have Rights'

A scene from the 'We Have Rgights' campaign where ICE agents interview an immigrant.

USING GESTAPO-LIKE TACTICS, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are doing their best to make immigrants feel not welcomed in the United States.

Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan when he was 18, knows what it's like to be an immigrant. But his experience as a newcomer to this country is nothing like the persecution that today's immigrants must go through: The lies coming out of the White House painting immigrants as criminals, the uncertainty of when ICE  comes knocking on your door or raids your place of employment, strangers attacking you physically and verbally and telling you to "go back to your country."

Under the Donald Trump Administration, which has called for a major increase in deportations, ICE’s “noncriminal” arrests doubled over the 2017 fiscal year, according to the Washington Post.

That's why the Silicon Valley star is pitching in to help members of immigrant communities get informed bout what to do if ICE comes knocking.

Nanjiani posted a tweet this week about his work with the ACLU and Brooklyn Defender Services on their We Have Rights campaign,

The “We Have Rights” campaign includes animated, instructional videos based on four real-life scenarios: what to do when ICE comes to your door; when ICE is in your home; when ICE stops people in the street; and when ICE arrests someone.

“ICE has a disturbing history of crossing the line and we want immigrants to know that they are protected under the Constitution,” Natalie Montelongo, ACLU’s campaign strategist, said in a statement.

The videos warn that ICE may lie, claim to be the police investigating a crime, or show official-looking but invalid documents. The videos say, ICE has no authority to enter or search a home without a warrant signed by a judge.

The videos are available in seven different languages, each voiced by a prominent activist or actor. Nanjiani voiced the version in Urdu, the language of Pakistan. Other versions feature Diane Guerrero (Spanish), Linda Sarsour (Arabic), Edwidge Danticat (Creole), Xiren Wang (Mandarin), Katya Lee (Russian) and Jesse Williams (English).

If ICE agents come knocking on your door, the videos advise, “do not open the door… no matter what they say.” You have rights!


Appeals court upholds man's conviction for killing his pregnant girlfriend

Raymond Wong, left, and Alice Sin.
A CALIFORNIA MAN convicted of murdering and mutilating his girlfriend had his appeal turned down by the appeals court.

Raymond Wong, 46, was convicted in 2015 for fatally shooting Alice Sin, 21, over 15 years earlier. Sin was also four months pregnant with Wong’s child when she was killed.

“Depraved brutality ended Alice Sin’s life, a young woman who was poised on the brink of a bright and promising future. Alice’s story touched everyone who was part of this prosecution forever,” Contra Costa County's senior deputy district attorney Mary Knox said in a written statement. “I am so grateful that the Court of Appeal affirmed Raymond Wong’s conviction, truly bringing an end to Alice’s parents’ and friends’ long and arduous journey to find justice for Alice.”

Sin, a resident of Pinole, Calif., was reported missing in November 1999, a month after she got a $2 million life insurance policy naming Wong as a beneficiary. Shortly after her disappearance, her car was found and a police dog led authorities to Wong’s residence, where they discovered that Wong's new girlfriend, Jessica Tang, had recently moved in.

Sin’s partially decomposed body was found in 2000, in a Churchill County, Nevada, desert east of Reno. Prosecutors presented medical experts who testified that her corpse had been mutilated by a human, and further torn apart by animals. Experts said the mutilation was caused by Wong acting out a fantasy and an attempt to throw off investigators by linking Sin's death to white supremacists.

Wong was sentenced to 50 years to life for his deed. Tang, whose testimony helped convict Wong, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and was sentenced to five years probation and 500 hours community service.

Friday, March 30, 2018

'Serial' podcast subject, Adnan Syed, will get a new trial

Adnan Syed  has spent most of his life behind bars.

AFTER SPENDING almost 20 years in jail, Adnan Syed is getting a new trial.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled today (March 29) that the man who was the subject of a popular podcast, will have his murder conviction overturned because of poor counsel.]

Syed was found guilty in 2000 of the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, a Korean/American immigrant. Her strangled body was found off a trial in a city park. 

Seventeen-year old Syed, a son of immigrants from Pakistan, was given a life sentence in 2000.

The case was the subject of NPR's most popular podcast in 2014, the first season of hit Serial. The podcast narrator questioned some of the details of the Lee's homicide and the adequacy of Syed's attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez.

Chief among the errors was that the defense lawyer for failing to pursue a classmate who witnessed Syed at the library at the time of the slaying. The testimony of Asia McClain, who knew both Lee and Syed at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, was never interviewed by Gutierrez nor was her information brought up during the trial.

Chief Judge Patrick L. Woodward ruled, "There is a reasonable probability that McClain's alibi testimony would have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror about Syed's involvement [in] Hae's murder, and thus 'the result of the proceedings would have been different.'"

In a separate ruling but in the same proceedings, Woodward wrote:  "Syed's murder conviction must be vacated, and because Syed's convictions for kidnapping, robbery, and false imprisonment are predicated on his commission of Hae's murder, these convictions must be vacated as well. The instant case will be remanded for a new trial on all charges against Syed."

The family of Hae Min Lee criticized McClain who they say did not sit through every day of both trials like they did.

“It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae,” a family statement said.

Serial, which meticulously re-examined the murder in Baltimore and original 2000 trial, helped bring renewed attention to Syed’s case. The podcast helped propel the NPR show to become the most popular podcast ever, gaining a global audience.

Serial was enormously helpful,” a lawyer for Syed, Justin Brown, said at a press conference after today's verdict was read. “[Syed] asked me to convey his deep gratitude and thanks from the bottom of his heart to all those who have supported him and believed in him.”

The State of Maryland has opposed the overturning of Syed’s conviction and in 2017 it appealed a lower court’s decision to grant a new trial. Today’s ruling could mean that Syed will have another shot at freedom, or it might mean that prosecutors take the case to Maryland’s Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.

(UPDATED: March 30, 9:30 a.m. to include statement from the Lee family.)

TGIF Feature: SF film festival honors director Wayne Wang


FILMMAKER Wayne Wang will be honored during the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival with a special tribute, followed by a screening of his 1995 film Smoke, newly remastered and recolored.

"Wayne Wang has consistently been among the most interesting and engaging filmmakers at work in the American independent and Hollywood scenes," said SFFILM Executive Director Noah Cowan. 

"A pioneer and giant in telling Asian/American stories but with a career that sprawls from Hong Kong to Florida and back again, he continues to inspire us as he rethinks and reinterprets his work for the digital age. We are delighted that he has held back the new version of his masterpiece Smoke for our Festival."  

After the tribute there will be ascreening of Wang's 1995 film Smoke, newly remastered and recolored.  

Wayne Wang has always followed his own path in a career that's jumped between genres and countries, working at both independent-budget and Hollywood scale. 

One of the most important Asian/American directors living today, Wang was born in Hong Kong and named after his father's favorite movie star, John Wayne. He moved to California in the late '60s and studied film and television at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. 

Wang's first feature film, Chan Is Missing (1982) was financed through grants and set in San Francisco's Chinatown. 

Wang is often identified with films about the Chinese diaspora including, Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985), Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989), and The Joy Luck Club (1993) but has also made such studio features as Maid in Manhattan (2002) with Jennifer Lopez and Last Holiday (2006) with Queen Latifah, and independent features such as Blue in the Face (Festival 1994) and Center of the World (Festival 2001). 

His most recent feature, While the Women Are Sleeping, was loosely based on Javier Marias's short story and shot in Japan. 
If you're going: Tickets to "A Tribute to Wayne Wang: Smoke" are $13 for SFFILM members, $16 for the general public. Box office is open to SFFILM members now online at and opens for the general public.
True to its name, the festival will show 183 films. Among the 45 countries represented, motion pictures or documentaries from Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea, Hongkong, Malaysia and China will be featured during the two-week festival starting April 4 and concluding April 17.

A documentary about the ascendence of Filipino cuisine in the United States, Ulam: Main Dish, will be presented April 7. Directed by Filipino/American Alexandra Cuerda, the film interviews several Filipino American chefs. "Through pioneering Filipino-American chefs and restaurateurs, we discuss the issues inherent in the Fil-Am crossover; also, we celebrate the newfound success of the thriving culinary community that is the Filipino food movement," says Cuerda.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

American Samoans fight for U.S. citizenship

John Fitisemanu wants birthright citizenship for American Samoans.

AMERICAN SAMOANS are trying once again to gain U.S. citizenship -- just like everybody else born on U.S. soil.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday (March 28) against the U.S.  State Department seeks birthright citizenship for residents of American Samoa under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Utah resident John Fitisemanu is the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit filed on behalf of American Samoans in Utah. Born in American Samoa, he has the status of a U.S. national.

He's been rejected for jobs that list U.S. citizenship as a requirement. Prospective employers "need me to show them proof that I am a U.S. citizen, which I am not." Around elections, "I sit quietly at my cubicle, and don't say a word, because I know I can't vote," he said. "It's kind of embarrassing."

In addition to the 50 states, the United States has five territories: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. While none of the five territories have all the rights granted to states, residents of the other four are given U.S. citizenship at birth. American Samoa is the only territory where residents are not automatically granted citizenship.

Like residents of the other four territories, American Samoans pay taxes and are recognized as U.S. nationals. American Samoa also sends a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. However, without full citizenship, they are not permitted to vote, run for political office, apply for certain government jobs, or to sponsor relatives immigrating to the United States. 

Despite their status as U.S. nationals without full privileges of citizenship, the U.S. has no problem accepting them into the military. For their small numbers, the American Samoans have the one of the highest rates of enlistment into the armed forces.

This is Fitisemanu's second attempt to overturn what appears to be an unjust rule.A previous case he led stalled in 2016 when the Supreme Court declined to reconsider a ruling from a lower court in D.C., which found the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship didn't apply to American Samoa, and based its ruling on controversial racist legal precedents from the early 20th century after the Spanish-American War the U.S. acquired some former Spanish colonies including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Philippines.

Known as the "Insular Cases," the Supreme Court distinguished between "incorporated" and "unincorporated" territories. Incorporated territories such as Arizona and New Mexico and mostly settled by white people, were thought destined to be a permanent part of the U.S. Unincorporated territories such as American Samoa, weren't considered candidates for statehood, whose inhabitants were described as "alien races" and "uncivilized," and thus weren't granted full constitutional rights.

RELATED: Why the court ruled against citizenship for American Samoans
President Theodore Roosevelt was even more explicit in praising “the expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood” into the lands of “mere savages.” It’s worth noting that President Trump has pointed to this period as the era “when we were great, when we were really starting to go robust."

"A lot of people are justifiably embarrassed by the Insular Cases because they really do capture an earlier imperial moment that is saturated in white supremacy," says Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Law.

In subsequent cases, the courts have seen fit to grant citizenship to the other U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Marianas but denied that same privilege to the 55,000 American Samoans.

"This is the holding pattern we've been in now for over a century," said Sam Erman, an expert in constitutional law and a professor at the University of Southern California. Still, Erman and many legal scholars agree that "American Samoans are clearly citizens under the 14th Amendment."

It didn't help Fitisemanu's earlier case that the local American Samoan government took a nuanced view over the issue, given concern about how aspects of Samoan life and culture "would be jeopardized if subjected to scrutiny under the 14th Amendment," according to court documents filed in 2014 by lawyers representing the government. 

"If someone has a birth certificate showing they were born on U.S. soil, they shouldn't have to jump through any more hoops to be recognized as a U.S. citizen," said Neil Weare, president and founder of nonprofit Equally American, the attorney leading the lawsuit.


Asian American women lead UCLA to Pac-12 championship in gymnastics

Kyla Ross, seen here on the uneven bars, says this event is her favorite specialty.

LED BY A trio of Asian/Americans, UCLA claimed the 2018 Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Championship over the past weekend (March 25-26).

Former U.S. Olympian Kyla Ross, Peng-Peng Lee and Katelyn Ohashi helped UCLA record a 197.500 team score to capture first place in the competition at McKale Center at the University of Arizona. Utah came in second with a 197.350 score followed by UC-Berkeley and Washington.

RELATED: AAPI gymnasts score perfect 10s for 2019 championship
Sophomore Ross and Utah’s MyKayla Skinner tied for first place in the all-around with a score of 39.675. Ross also led her squad on vault with a 9.900 and took home the win on bars with a 9.975. 

Ross, 19, was a member of the 2012 Olympic women's gymnastic team known as the Fierce Five, which won a team Gold Medal in London. She is majoring in bioengineering at the California university.

Toronto native Lee, who is competing in her last year for UCLA, received the only perfect score of the night for her performance on beam in the evening session, earning her gold with her fifth perfect 10 this year, four of which were on beam. This marks her eighth perfect score of her career.

Ohashi, a freshman, who won the additional honor as the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year, took home a share of the gold in a three-way tie with Stanford’s Elizabeth Price and Utah’s MyKayla Skinner, each posting a 9.950. The Bruins squad took home top marks on beam with a team score of 49.600 and on floor earning a 49.475.

Asian/Canadian Peng Peng Lee on the beam for UCLA.

Monday (March 27), it was announced that UCLA's Lee has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the AAI Award, which is presented to the most outstanding senior female gymnast in the country.

Lee, who was on the Canadian Olympic team, has had a standout 2018 season, scoring a national-best four perfect 10s on balance beam and five perfect 10s overall. The eight-time All-American and 2017 Scholastic All-American will be graduating this year with a degree in sociology.

Next up for this loaded team is the Western Regionals where UCLA will likely receive the top seed. The top two teams from each of the six regionals , will then move on to the NCAA National Championships.

Report: Racial inequality in the most diverse state in the U.S.

The taro fields of Hanelei Valley on the island of Kuaii.


A NEW REPORT reinforces Hawaii’s claim as having the most diverse culture, lifestyle and workforce in the nation.

It also highlights glaring racial inequality in the land of paradise.

Big Island Now reports 57% of the total population was non-white. Nearly a fourth of Hawaii’s population identifies as multiracial with the top five races self-reporting as Whites (43%), Filipino (25%), Japanese (22.1%), Native Hawaiian (21.3%) and Chinese (14.1%).

“This gives us an advantage in terms of international trade and tourism by supplying the diversified work force and providing a wide variety of food and cultural activities,” said Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism director, Luis P. Salaveria. “At the same time, there are more demand for government and private services, especially in the areas of education and healthcare.”

Tian told Civil Beat that Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Filipino communities boast high ownership rates and the corresponding high income and economic prosperity.

He also says Marshallese, Tongans and Samoans suffer from higher poverty, unemployment and overcrowding rates. Marshallese has the highest rate of unemployment with more than half living in poverty.

he average age of Marshallese residents is 18.5, the youngest of any racial group on the island.

“They have a lot potential because they are the youngest,” Tian says. “Forty years later they will be well-established.”


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Whistleblower settles for huge settlement vs. Wells Fargo

AN OREGON MAN who blew the whistle on Wells Fargo Bank has won a 7-figure settlement from his former employer, reports Willamette Week.
Duke Tran says he was fired for refusing his former boss’ order to lie to customers facing foreclosure, according to the
New York Times.

The Vietnamese refugee who was enslaved by the Khmer Rouge sued the bank alleging he was fired in retaliation for reporting the incident to authorities. He accused the bank of not having the documentation to prove the mortgage holders owed any money.

“I have a story to tell,” he said to the Times. “This is a true story. I blew the whistle. They all know.”

Many of the foreclosures Wells Fargo pursued were loans purchased from another bank in 2008. Tran said he saw that the bank lacked the proper proof to proceed with foreclosure and spoke up.

It’s an allegation the bank has admitted to. A spokesperson said they were missing proper documentation on 120 loans.

One man the bank went after said the home he was in was paid off 35 years ago and doesn’t know anything about the $90,000 loan the bank said he needed to pay off.

Tran said the goal of his lawsuit was to get Wells Fargo to admit wrongdoing.

After some reluctance, he accepted the settlement which sources put at 7 figures.

Census citizenship question will harm AAPI communities

INCLUDING A QUESTION on a person's citizenship status will result in an undercount of minority communities, affect Congressional representation and impact a host of other issues that depend on accurate data provided by the U.S. Census.

AAPI civil rights leaders and census say the citizenship question was the wrong decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and its inclusion in the 2020 Census form is likely to jeopardize a fair and accurate census.

“I’m incredibly concerned by the inclusion of an untested citizenship question whose sole impact will be to suppress participation in the 2020 census," said Rep. Judy Chu of California. "The census is essential for ensuring fair and accurate representation and distribution of government resources. But by including a question on citizenship, which is not required by the Constitution, the Trump Administration is exploiting the fear of immigrant communities who are already reticent to divulge personal information to the federal government." 

California, with the largest number of immigrants, documented and undocumented, could lose Congressional representatives. Presently, the state has the most members in the House of Representatives.

According to California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Constitution requires an actual count of the population in the decennial census, regardless of citizenship status. Including a question about citizenship could intimidate or discourage people and result in an inaccurate census that might "translate into several million people not being counted," he said.
"This latest move by the Trump administration to threaten California is not just a bad idea, it's against the law," Becerra told reporters. "We're going to defend every one of our rights to make sure that every one of our people who has worked hard to make California the sixth-largest economy in the world is counted.
California's lawsuit is separate from the multi-state lawsuit filed by 11 others states so far. That legal challenge includes New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington 
The census is not about who should be in the country. It’s about understanding who is currently in the country and it should not be treated as just another weapon in Trump’s anti-immigrant arsenal. It’s too important for our schools, roads, hospitals, and communities that we have an accurate reporting. It’s also concerning that this question was apparently rushed into the census, without undergoing the usual testing that other questions do.
"Suppression of responses risks significant undercounting in the 2020 Census that will disproportionately impact communities of color," said Chu.

Critics say that the addition of the citizenship question is just another bargaining chip for Trump in his anti-immigrant agenda, which includes Muslim travel bans, a radical immigration policy overhaul limiting family reunification and a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.


Chu points out that the other questions included in the Census took years of testing before they were added to the questionnaire. 

"Existing Census Bureau research already documents the growing reluctance of survey respondents to take part in any Census Bureau surveys – all due to the “climate of fear” created by the Trump Administration’s hostile policies and rhetoric,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The civil rights community is speaking with a clear, united voice: this decision is wrong for our communities, our democracy, and our country, and we will fight to overturn it.”

“The citizenship question and similar policies by this administration seek to leave minority communities undercounted, under-represented, and under-protected. The Commerce Department has shirked its responsibility of ensuring that all questions are properly tested and lead to accurate data,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

The administration's actions thus far in regards to immigrants is not do much for inculcating trust in the federal government. The question is unecessarily intrusive and will raise concerns in all households whether they are native-born or foreign-born, citizen or non-citizen, documented or undocumented. The AAPI community should remember that in recent times when the Census included the question about citizenship, that information was used to round up Japanese/Americans and place them in internment camps.

March memorializing Bataan continues to grow

A portion of the 8500 who marched last weekend to memorializee the Bataan Death March.

A RECORD 8,471 people registered for the 29th Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico on Sunday, March 25.

The event commemorates the Bataan Death March. On April 9, 1942, American and Filipino soldiers in the Philippine peninsula of Bataan, out of ammunition, food and medicine,  surrendered to Japanese forces, the largest number of U.S. military forces to ever surrender, and were taken as prisoners of war.

The prisoners of war, made up of U.S. and Philippine soldiers and Filipino civilians, marched approximately 65 miles through jungle terrain, during which time about 1,000 Americans and nearly 9,000 Filipino soldiers died.

Among the marchers are young people doing it in honor of  those who were forced to endure the malaria, tropical sun, lack of water and malnutrition of the original march. There were also a handful of survivors of the original Death March. 

At 100 years old, this would be retired Col. Beverly “Ben” Skardon's 11th memorial march in 12 years for Skardon, a Bataan Death March survivor. His participation makes him not only the oldest marcher but the only survivor to ever walk in the event.

“(Participating in the march) means a lot to me personally because that march and the men hang heavy on me. I’ve never forgotten it,” Skardon told the Las Cruces Sun News. “While I walk, it seems to me, my memory flashes back, and I get emotional.”

The New Mexico trek requires participants to hike through 14.2 or 26.2 miles of the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range.

Joining the march for the first time, were the Rivera brothers, Glenn and Kenneth. They were marching to honor their grandfather, Jose Atagon, a Bataan survivor and a POW.

When the Rivera brothers arrived to the event site, they only knew each other, but they quickly found friends with other Filipino marchers and formed an informal group.

“So far it’s been great meeting new people,” Glenn Rivera said, particularly meeting people whose loved one have similar stories of his grandparents. “It’s a priceless experience.”

One of Rivera's new acquaintances was Rowena San, who marched in memory of her father, Maj. Pedrito Ortiz, a guerrilla fighter at the time.

“My father was a guerrilla, so I’m here to honor him,” San said. “And it’s always been on my bucket list.”

Bataan by the numbers

68,000-plus: The approximate number of prisoners of war who were surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army during the Fall of Bataan . Many of the prisoners were starved, sick and debilitated.

38,000-plus: The approximate number of Filipino civilians who were captured by the Japanese army at Bataan.

80,000: The estimated number of U.S. and Filipino military, and civilians who started on the Bataan Death March.

54,000: The estimated number of prisoners of war who made it to Camp O’Donnell at the end of the Bataan Death March.

5,000 to 10,000: Estimate of the number of Filipinos who died during the Bataan Death March. Multiple sources listed various approximate numbers.

500 to 650: The estimated number of Americans who died during the Bataan Death March.

60 to 69.6: The approximate distance, in miles of the Bataan Death March. Multiple sources listed varying distances. The Bataan Death March was from Mariveles to San Fernando.

5: The number of days it took to complete the march.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Supreme Court: Harvard's affirmative action case could be heard by this summer


If Harvard gets its way, a lawsuit accusing the university of capping admissions of Asian American applicants could be heard by the summer, reports the Philly Trib

That’s the proposed schedule the Ivy League institution has submitted to the judge.

The plaintiffs in the suit, however, say they need more time and are asking for an October trial date.

Both sides say they are confident of victory with The Students for Fair Admissions say they have “incriminating emails” and Harvard’s own studies to back up their claims.

The university argues it has its own analysis of the data.

“To deliver on our educational mission, our admissions practices consider the whole person, their capacity not only for academic excellence, but also their ability to contribute to and learn from people profoundly different from themselves,” said Harvard spokeswoman Anna Cowenhoven.

Affirmative action is one of the most divisive issues in the Asian American community, with most the opposition coming from newly arrived Chinese immigrants who come from countries that prioritize meritocracy, according to Tablet.

Wesley Yang in his article for the Tablet calls this a defection of Chinese from the Asian American coalition that threatens “the entire system of racial patronage” and the focus on “underrepresented minorities.”

Editorial: Immigration crackdown bypasses criminals to punish family breadwinners


The following is an editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 2018
THE NEW AND BEWILDERING policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seem more aimed at punishing harmless people simply for being in this country illegally, as opposed to going after the truly bad people who deserve to be removed.

The ordeals of two families, one in Missouri and the other in Kansas, put a human face on ICE’s inhumane crackdown.

Alex Garcia in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and Syed Ahmed Jamal in Lawrence, were arrested despite having no criminal convictions. The arrests deprived their families of breadwinners and induced untold stresses. Such arrests have increased substantially under the Trump administration even though deportations have lagged.

The net effect is just to split up families, as if by spite.

Does the nation benefit by forcing people whose only crimes were overstaying visas or entering the country illegally — the two most frequent immigration violations — to separate from their families? Until last year, ICE officers were forbidden by presidential order from arresting immigrants for either violation. Criminals were supposed to be the priority.

Garcia, 36, arrived illegally from Honduras in 2004. He got a job, met and married a local woman and went to work for her father’s construction company.

Jamal, 55, entered from Bangladesh legally on a student visa in 1987. A chemist, he overstayed two visas before receiving an H-1B work visa to be a hospital research scientist. Jamal taught college-level science for five years on legal work permits. He paid regular visits to ICE offices.

He is married with three children and recently ran for the school board. That didn’t stop authorities from arresting and handcuffing him in his front yard in January as he was preparing to take his 12-year-old daughter to school.

These family men have coped with a dizzying immigration system for years. Their situations are different, but neither tried to hide from authorities. The agency shifted from deporting undocumented criminal immigrants to detaining non-criminal immigrants. The agency’s 2017 data show a 41 percent increase in immigrant arrests compared to 2016, with the share of criminal arrests up 17 percent and non-criminal arrests up 171 percent.

Cracking down on men like Jamal and Garcia does nothing to make our streets safer. And for all Trump’s talk, immigration reform remains a distant dream.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

March For Our Lives: The children shall lead us

Petrina Chan took part in the March For Our Lives rally in Boston.

THE MARCH FOR OUR LIVES demonstrations and rallies occurred throughout the U.S. and in cities around the globe Sunday inspired by a gunman's rampage through 
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that took 17 lives.

Sen. Kamala Harris joined the students in the March For Our Lives.

"The students from Stoneman Douglas have turned their mourning into a movement — and I genuinely believe they have changed the conversation about gun violence in America," said California Sen. Kamala Harris.

"From here, we need to look to our youth for inspiration. They are teaching all of us so many lessons on activism and action in the face of tragedy. I wish Congressional leaders had their courage and determination to stand up to the gun lobby," said Harris, whose parents come from India and the Caribbean.

According to its website, March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar. In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now. 

A half-century after Bob Dylan's iconic "The Times They Are A-Changin" inspired a generation of young people to march against the Vietnam War, for civil rights and question anybody over 30. the 60's anthem gained new meaning to the Baby Boomers' grandchildlren, young students who took part in the March for Our Lives Sunday (Mar. 24).

With the opening stanza, "Come gather now children wherever you are," the song was a perfect message to the young kids taking part in the gun-control demonstration. Sung by Jennifer Hudson, whose mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew were all shot dead in 2008,, the performnce was an emotional highlight to a day full of powerful moments. 

Parkland student Emma Gonzalez created a powerful statement with her silence at the Washington D.C. march. 

"Six minutes and about 20 seconds," Emma said, tears flowing down her cheeks. "In a little over 6 minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured and everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered."

So young, yet so meaninful speeches were given throughout thet day: Parkland student David Hogg: “We are going to make this the voting issue. We are going to take this to every election, to every state and every city. When politicians send their thoughts and prayers with no action, we say, ‘No more.’ And to those politicians supported by the NRA, that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say get your resumes ready.”

Fellow student Cameron Kasky read aloud the names of victims of the shooting, " We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come. Don’t worry, we’ve got this,” Kasky said.

Martin Luther King's 9-year old granddaughter Yolanda King recalled her grandfather's famous "I Have A Dream" speech: “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of the skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough."

“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don’t lead on the evening news,” said 11-year old Naomi Wadler at the Washington D.C. march.“My school will now always be remembered for what took place on Feb. 14, 2018,” said Leslie Chiu, a graduate of Stoneman Douglas who attends Northeastern University in Boston.

Her alma mater will be known, Chiu said, as the place that “started the movement that we are a part of today.”

“Our generation will carry with us the weight and burden of countless lives lost and we will take it upon ourselves to ensure that on their behalf that we are the last ones in this environment of daily shootings,” she said.


The Parkland students led the organizing but were soon joined by hundreds of incredible students across the country.

One of them is Mirashaye Basa, 18 of southern Indiana.

"I started becoming more politically aware after the 2016 presidential election. So many of the tragedies that we see in the news and on social media are becoming normalized, and that is not acceptable. There needs to be action. My good friend Eli and I are very passionate about music and theatre, so we decided to contribute to the March for Our Lives movement by using our talents to make a video that calls attention to those who have been affected by gun violence. 

"We proposed the idea at a March for Our Lives meeting and posted it on social media to help raise awareness," she said.

"As a high school student, sometimes it’s hard to find ways to make an impact on a large scale, but this movement has made me feel like anything is possible. The students in Parkland are so inspiring; they’ve used and continue to use their voices effectively. I hope the leaders of the country are influenced by the masses of people who demand action instead of the money they receive from interest groups. 

"In the future, I hope we have gun control so effective that we never have a mass shooting ever again."
One of the biggest turnouts for the march was held in Los Angeles. One of the amazing student organizers was Madison "Madi" Phan., a jurnior at North Torrance Hhigh School.

Interviewed by Smart Girls, we learn that Madi has given a TED talk to kids in her district, been a member of ASB, and was a Girl Scout for six years. Currently, Madi is involved in her school’s theatre and dance program, on the student panel group, and is in GATE progr

In the future, Madi wants to be part of the film industry to give Asians and Asian-Americans more representation in Hollywood. She would also like to provide assistance to those in developing countries. 

Helping to make a change in society and the world is something Madi is passionate about and hopes for more amazing opportunities like participating in the March For Our Lives.

“Gun violence is something that impacts us all, whether directly or indirectly,” said Rhiannon Rasaretnam, a Seattle March For Our Lives organizer told the Seattle Times. “This is about us stepping up and not waiting for adults to take action on issues that risk our lives every single day.”