National Council of Asian Pacific Americans Calls on Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas, which is a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policies, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) urges the Supreme Court to uphold this program.

This morning, Asian American leaders Christopher Kang, national director of NCAPA, and Eugene Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, spoke at a National Action Network rally on the steps of the Supreme Court in support of affirmative action.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans stands side by side with other communities of color in support of affirmative action in higher education, and we urge the Supreme Court to uphold such policies, which benefit all Americans,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Diversity makes our nation stronger–from education and the workplace to the boardroom and the Supreme Court itself–and we will not be used as a wedge against equal opportunities and access in higher education.”

“Asian Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of affirmative action – by a count of 69% according to a survey we co-authored in 2014,” said Eugene F. Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The goal of achieving diversity in education is one that benefits all Americans and is still a goal worthy of striving for. Asian Americans are often held up as an example of a group that is adversely affected by race-conscious admissions policies, but this is simply misinformation and an attempt to hold up AAPIs as a wedge group.”

“The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association strongly urges the Supreme Court to uphold the long-standing precedent that diversity is a compelling interest in college admission policies, and to uphold the University of Texas-Austin’s admissions plan,” said NAPABA President Jin Y. Hwang. “As future leaders and custodians of the legal system, it is important that students have wide-ranging experiences, engage with diverse populations, and be representative of varied backgrounds. As current events demonstrate, it is equally imperative that today’s students develop empathy, understanding, and acceptance — traits which will become essential throughout their lives and careers.”

Last month, NCAPA joined Asian Americans Advancing Justice in its Supreme Court amicus brief supporting affirmative action in higher education admission policies. Sixteen NCAPA members, led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, were among the more than 160 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander organizations that joined briefs in this important case. 69 percent of Asian Americans approve of race-conscious admissions policies.

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Reaffirms Support for Race-Conscious Admissions As Supreme Court Revisits Affirmative Action

Asian Americans will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise, and divide students of color

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Fisher v. Texas for a second time, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) stands firm in supporting equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education.

“Opponents of affirmative action continue to use Asian American students as a racial wedge by peddling the myth that affirmative action hurts Asian American students by placing quotas on their admissions into elite colleges in favor of African American and Latino students. This is an absolute lie,” says Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Quotas, in fact, have been unconstitutional for decades and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students have historically benefitted, and continue to benefit from affirmative action policies.”

Contrary to the ‘model minority’ myth, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students need race-conscious admissions programs. In California, for example, the admit rates of Filipino, Thai, Laotian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students into the University of California (UC) system are significantly lower than the general admit rate.

Additionally, relative to their overall population, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians/Chamorros, and Fijians are underrepresented in the UC system. This intraracial disparity is not unlike those affecting the AAPI community in Texas. The increased racial diversity and improved racial climate produced by race-conscious admission programs benefit all AAPI students, including those who do not benefit directly from affirmative action programs.

Affirmative action in higher education consists of race-conscious holistic admissions policies. As one of several factors in a holistic review of an individual’s college application including leadership and potential, affirmative action takes into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity. It also considers whether an applicant has endured poverty or is the first in their family to attend college.

Any holistic admissions policy without the consideration of race does not create a race-neutral admissions program. Test scores, for instance, are not an accurate nor race-neutral measure of merit. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

According to a recent study, race is the single most important factor in a student’s SAT scores, even more determinative than socioeconomic status and parental education levels.

“Race still matters in American life and all students benefit from a racially and ethnically diverse learning environment, including increased cross-racial understanding, reduction of stereotyping and isolation of minority students, and training for a diverse workforce and society,” said Ochi.

For additional comments, the following experts from Advancing Justice can be reached at:

Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
lhoq@advancingjustice-la.org

Nicole Gon Ochi, Supervising Attorney
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
nochi@advancingjustice-la.org

Betty Hung, Policy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
bhung@advancingjustice-la.org

Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
chrisp@advancingjustice-alc.org

Aarti Kohli, Deputy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
aartik@advancingjustice-alc.org

Mee Moua, President and executive director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
comrequests@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

160+ AAPI Groups File Legal Briefs with U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Affirmative Action

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), have filed three separate amicus briefs urging the nation’s highest court to uphold University of Texas at Austin’s (UT-Austin) affirmative action policy.

Together, the briefs represent over 160 organizations in support of equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education, representing the tremendous diversity within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including Arab, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. In addition, the briefs represent 53 individuals, including higher education faculty and officials.

FAQs on AAPIs and the Fisher case

“With long histories of serving the most vulnerable members of our community, these organizations range from large, pan-Asian national organizations and professional associations, to student and grassroots groups,” says Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Such broad support for race conscious admissions policies sends a clear message that AAPIs overwhelmingly support these policies and will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise other communities of color.”

The amicus brief filed by Advancing Justice argues that an applicant cannot be evaluated holistically without the consideration of race. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

The brief also shows how race conscious admissions programs opened the doors of higher education for AAPI students after a century of discrimination and exclusion and continue to benefit many AAPI students who face significant educational barriers today.

A closer look at disaggregated data reveals large disparities in educational attainment among Asian American ethnic groups. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the educational attainment of Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans is the lowest among Asian American ethnic groups and similar to those of Latinos and African Americans. Only 61 percent of Hmong Americans hold a high school diploma, while only 12 percent of Laotian Americans have graduated from college.

“Supporters of Fisher have mischaracterized UT-Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy. It can benefit Asian Americans through an individualized review of applicants that avoids harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth,” says AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung.

As summarized in AALDEF’s amicus brief: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders–a unique cross-section of identities and experiences that spans a range of comparative privilege and disadvantage–benefit from this individualized approach to admissions, as do African Americans, Latinos, and Whites.” The AALDEF amicus brief also distinguishes between the two distinct concepts of negative action and affirmative action, noting there is no evidence in the record of discrimination by UT-Austin.

“We recognize that Asian Pacific Americans, like other groups, have endured cases of discrimination and lack of opportunities which continue to impact us today. The low numbers of minority groups in the legal profession, government, and corporate leadership underscore the need to remove barriers to higher education and increase diversity,” says George C. Chen, president of NAPABA.

“Courtrooms, law firms, and law schools must be filled with people of different backgrounds so that we can better understand and respect the diversity of the American public.”

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that universities may consider race as part of a holistic review process to increase racial diversity on campus. When instructed to look more carefully at whether UT-Austin tried other methods of achieving greater racial diversity before considering race, the 5th Circuit determined that UT-Austin’s efforts to increase racial diversity through race-neutral means (e.g. “Top Ten Percent” Plan) did not result in the qualitative diversity that it sought, and therefore, upheld the University’s use of race as a factor in its holistic admissions policy.

Fisher appealed this decision forcing a second hearing of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

The Asian American Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) amicus brief represents 141 Asian American organizations, student groups, and bar associations, as well as, 9 members of academia. Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit www.advancingjustice-la.org.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) amicus brief represents 21 Asian American education and youth-serving groups, including the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association and the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective at UT-Austin, and 44 higher education faculty and officials. Foley Hoag LLP served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit http://aaldef.org.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) amicus brief, filed by the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC), consisting of NAPABA, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), highlights the importance of race conscious admissions policies in order to preserve a diverse pipeline of individuals into the legal profession. For a copy, visit, www.napaba.org.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of approximately 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

SEARAC Press Release: SEARAC Joins Broad Coalition of 135+ Organizations in Firm Support of Race-Conscious Admissions Policies in Higher Education

Washington, DC – The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) has joined over 135 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations to sign a letter affirming the AAPI community’s support for race-sensitive admissions policies in higher education. The letter opposes recent efforts by a small group to dismantle race-sensitive admissions policies at educational institutions such as Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. SEARAC fully supports race-conscious policies as one of many variables for examining holistically a student’s ability to achieve, thrive, and positively contribute to the campus community.

SEARAC Executive Director Quyen Dinh said, “Affirmative action is one of the most important policies we have to undo decades or even centuries of institutional racism, systemic poverty, and discrimination. Discrimination against any racial or ethnic group is intolerable under our nation’s protection of civil rights. However, we will not let divisive groups undermine important policies such as affirmative action without merit in our community’s name. Affirmative action provides a framework for evaluating not only a student’s academic achievement, but the kinds of challenges and barriers that student has had to overcome to succeed at a high level for themselves and their community.”

Affirmative action policies account not only for race, but for challenges that many Southeast Asian American students face, such as poverty, being the first in the family to attend college, having parents who are not proficient in English, and attending low-performing schools that do not prepare students for standardized testing. Only 67% of Cambodian, 65% of Hmong, 68% of Laotian, and 70% of Vietnamese Americans aged 25 and over hold a high school degree or higher, compared to over 86% of the overall Asian American population.

Affirmative action is a keystone policy for addressing education equity, and it must be implemented in the context of a comprehensive approach to reducing education achievement gaps in this country. SEARAC calls for more attention to holistic K-12 policies that are equally important to close education equity gaps including, but not limited to, equal access to rigorous college and career ready content, support for English language learners and families with limited English proficiency, cultural and linguistic competency training for educators and school administrators, and health-promoting policies that address students’ physical and mental health challenges so that all students can thrive.

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The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society. Find out more at 

CAA Press Release: CAA Joins 120+ Asian American Civil Rights Groups in Support of Affirmative Action

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco, joins with over 120 Asian American civil rights organizations nationwide to reaffirm support for affirmative action and equal opportunity in education.

The collective statement represents broad Asian American support for affirmative action – a view reflected in nationwide polls and surveys of Asian Americans – and underscores the need for policies that create inclusion rather than division.

Based on over forty years of successful work to improve equal opportunity, CAA strongly affirms that affirmative action is one of the most important, effective, and necessary policy tools for advancing justice for Chinese Americans as well as other marginalized communities.

For the full statement and list of endorsements, please see: https://asianamericancivilrights.org/letter-equal-opportunity-higher-education

AAAJ Press Release: More than 130 Asian American organizations sign open letter supporting equal opportunity in higher education

WASHINGTON – Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) joined 135 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community organizations from across the country in an open letter in support of equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education, highlighting that a majority of Asian Americans strongly support affirmative action in higher education.  

In response to an administrative complaint being filed today by Asian American groups seeking to dismantle race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University, Advancing Justice issues the following statements:

“Historically, affirmative action programs have opened doors and provided opportunities for Asian Americans and other communities of color, who have been systematically denied everything from entrance into and citizenship in this country to educational opportunities, job promotions, and leadership positions,” states Betty Hung, Policy Director at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Today, these programs continue to benefit communities of color and, in the education context, also has provided opportunities to members of our own ethnically diverse Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, particularly Pilipino Americans, Southeast Asians, and many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.”

Advancing Justice has a long supported and continue to support programs to ensure equal educational access as well as a diverse and inclusive society. As civil rights organizations, we remain a strong supporter of diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity in all contexts, including in education, employment, and contracting.

“Instead of asking Americans to come together to help address serious problems in our education system, these folks are trying to divide communities. We are in this boat together and Asians won’t save our children’s future by pushing other communities overboard,” said Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.

For additional comments, the following experts from Asian Americans Advancing Justice can be reached at:

Mee Moua, President and executive director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
202-296-2300 x 144
comrequests@advancingjustice-aajc.org 

Betty Hung, Policy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
bhung@advancingjustice-la.org
(213) 977-7500 ext. 214

Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
lhoq@advancingjustice-la.org
(213) 977-7500 ext. 257

Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
chrisp@advancingjustice-alc.org
(415) 848-7723

Aarti Kohli, Deputy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
aartik@advancingjustice-alc.org
(415) 848-7713
 

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice | AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

Asian American U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners Issue Statement on Harvard Discrimination Complaint

Today, the two Asian American Commissioners of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Michael Yaki and Karen Narasaki, in their individual capacities, issued the following response to the announcement that an administrative complaint was filed by against Harvard University alleging discriminatory admissions practices against prospective Asian American students.

STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONERS YAKI AND NARASAKI

While we have not reviewed the actual complaint against Harvard University, we hope that this is a sincerely raised issue and not a back door attack on affirmative action that attempts to pit Asian Americans against other minorities, as other efforts have been. Like a majority of Asian Americans, we stand together as long-time supporters of affirmative action. Affirmative action creates opportunities for students disadvantaged by race and circumstances, and a diverse student body ensures that the next generation of Americans is exposed to the variety of life experiences and backgrounds that will help them to build vibrant communities and successfully work in the global economy.

Neither of us believes that any racial or ethnic group should be subjected to quotas. Nor do we believe that test scores alone entitle anyone to admission at Harvard. Students are more than their test scores and grades. Well-constructed and properly implemented admissions programs further our principles of equal opportunity. While we understand that some programs may be imperfect, or even need substantial reform, we do not support any attempt to eliminate affirmative action programs at Harvard or any institution of higher learning.

We will closely review the complaint and the University’s response and closely monitor developments in this situation.

Commissioner Yaki, who is of Chinese and Japanese heritage, was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2005 by Democratic Leader Pelosi. Commissioner Narasaki, who is of Japanese heritage, was appointed to the Commission in 2014 by President Obama. Both are graduates of Ivy-league schools; Narasaki from Yale University and Yaki from the Yale Law School.

Contact: karen@narasakijustice.com or commissioner.yaki@gmail.com