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:

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 

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

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

Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
(415) 848-7723

Aarti Kohli, Deputy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
(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.


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: or

Statement by Prof. Don Nakanishi

I do not believe Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans or any other group of applicants. I have not seen any persuasive evidence to convince me that Harvard has a quota on Asian Americans or that it requires Asian Americans to have higher SAT scores than others who apply.

I believe Asian American applicants, like others who apply, are rigorously and carefully reviewed in terms of their entire, quite comprehensive application, which includes far more than test scores and grades.

I believe Harvard admits an exceptionally talented, diverse and inquisitive group of students from across the country and around the world, who contribute to and take full advantage of the university’s many academic and extracurricular pursuits and strengths.

~ Professor Don Nakanishi, Ph.D., Director Emeritus, UCLA Asian American Studies Center / Yale BA 1971, Harvard PhD 1978, and actively involved in admissions at highly selective universities for over 45 years

135+ AAPI Community Organizations Stand Up for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education

Chinese 中文

As individuals and more than 135 organizations across the United States that serve and represent Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities, we believe that equal opportunity is a cherished principle in American society that must be protected. Our universities should reflect our diverse democracy and expand opportunities for those students who have overcome significant barriers. Rather than letting ourselves be divided, we must come together to ensure increased opportunities and success for all students.

Affirmative action does not constitute quotas

Unfortunately, there have been attempts by some to engage in divisive wedge politics by using misguided, misleading tactics to attack equal opportunity by calling for an end to race sensitive admissions policies at educational institutions such as Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Opponents of affirmative action have wrongfully and disingenuously equated affirmative action with quotas.

The truth is that affirmative action does not constitute quotas.

Affirmative action does not exclude or limit the admission of students from any specific racial or ethnic background. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court long ago prohibited quotas in the higher education admissions process, including banning limits on the admission or enrollment of any racial or ethnic group.

To be clear, we oppose quotas, discrimination, and bias against any racial or ethnic group.

Affirmative action promotes equal opportunity for all

We support affirmative action which, as noted above, does not constitute quotas, discrimination, or bias against Asian Americans.

Currently, affirmative action at universities consists of race sensitive holistic admissions policies. These policies promote equal opportunity in a society where racism still exists and racial barriers continue to unfairly limit educational opportunities for students of color. For example, our schools are more segregated today than they were in the late 1960s. Students of color, particularly African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians, are much more likely to attend under-resourced K-12 schools. Implicit bias and stereotyping also further impact and harm the educational learning environments and opportunities of students of color. Universities should consider these factors when reviewing applications for admissions.

All students benefit from the racially and ethnically diverse learning environments fostered by race sensitive holistic admissions processes, including the benefits of increased cross-racial understanding, reduction of stereotyping and isolation of minority students, and training for a diverse workforce and society.

Affirmative action simply takes into account whether an applicant has overcome significant obstacles and institutional barriers, such as racial and ethnic discrimination

Affirmative action simply takes into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity as one of several factors in a holistic review of an applicant’s qualifications, leadership, and potential. Holistic admissions processes also consider, for example, whether an applicant has endured poverty or is the first in her family to attend college.

Moreover, in the context of college admissions, “merit” cannot be quantified by grade point average, SAT scores, or number of activities alone. Instead, life experiences such as overcoming racial and ethnic adversity are critical factors in a student’s leadership and potential contribution to the university and to our society. In addition, numbers, like grade point averages and standardized test scores, are not colorblind and often reflect and magnify K-12 educational inequities.

Equal opportunity strengthens our democracy

Affirmative action policies help to level the playing field and promote diverse university learning environments that are essential in our multiracial and multicultural society. Our democracy benefits from a diverse and educated populace and workforce.

Those who are truly committed to equal educational opportunity should demonstrate real leadership and reinvest in higher education throughout the nation to expand access, affordability, equity, and student success. Decades of disinvestment in higher education across the country have made college less accessible for all students, especially students of color. We call for unity in standing up for the future of our youth and realizing the promise of equal opportunity for all in the United States.

Signed by the following organizations:

18 Million Rising
American Educational Research Association: Research on the Education of Asian and Pacific Americans, Special Interest Group
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – ALC
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
After Bruce
Ainahau O Kaleponi Hawaiian Civic Club
Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment
Anakbayan Inland Empire
Anakbayan Los Angeles
Angry Asian Man
API Equality – Northern California
API Equality – Los Angeles
Arab American Action Network (AAAN)
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles
Asian American Intervarsity Fellowship
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
Asian American and Pacific Islander Research Coalition (ARC)
Asian American Psychological Association – Boston
Asian American Psychological Association – Phoenix
Asian American Student Union of UMD
Asian American Student Union of Scripps College
Asian and Latino Community Services, Inc.
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Asian Law Alliance
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Los Angeles Chapter
Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center
Asian Pacific American Network
Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) at Cornell University
Asian Pacific Americans for Progress
Asian Pacific American Student Alliance, Rice University
Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance
Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Asian Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance
Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council: A3PCON
Asian Resources, Inc.
Asian Student Conference
Asian Students in America (ASIA), Syracuse University
Asian Students in America (ASIA), University of Southern Florida
CAACTUS: Asian Student Alliance, University of Denver
CAAAV-Organizing Asian Communities
California Federation of Teachers
CHAI | Counselors Helping (South) Asian/Indians, Inc.
Chapman University Asian Pacific Student Association
Chinese American Service League
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese Progressive Association – San Francisco
Coalition of API American Collaborating Together to Unite the Southwest (CAACTUS)
Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community
Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
Daiso Japan
East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU)
Educated Men with Meaningful Messages
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
Equal Justice Society
Families in Good Health
Filipino Advocates for Justice
Filipino Migrant Center
Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
GABRIELA Los Angeles
Guam Communications Network
Habi Arts
Hamline University
Hmong American Partnership
Hmong Health Collaborative
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Hmong Women’s Heritage Association
Hyphen magazine
Japanese American Citizens League
K-12 News Network
K.W Lee Center for Leadership
Khmer Girls in Action
Korean American Resource and Cultural Center – Chicago
Korean-American Student Association of Florida State University
Korean Resource Center – Los Angeles
Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance
Lao Family Community Empowerment, Inc.
Laotian American National Alliance (LANA)
Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc.
Little Tokyo Roots
Little Tokyo Service Center CDC
Marshallese Educational Initiative
May Day Trans Queer Contingent
Merced Lao Family Community, Inc.
Midwest Asian American Students Union
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Alliance
New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC)
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR)
Northwestern University Asian Pacific American Coalition
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
OCA – Eastern Virginia Chapter
OCA – Greater Los Angeles
OCA – Las Vegas
OCA – Sacramento
Office of Institutional Diversity, Harvey Mudd College
Pacific Islanders’ Association of California State University, Long Beach
Pacific Islander Health Partnership (PIHP)
Papa Ola Lokahi
Philippine American Association of Utah
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Pilipino Academic Student Services (PASS)
Polynesian Community Center – Alaska
QAPA: Queer API Alliance of New England
South Asian American Voices For Impact (SAAVI)
Samoan American Youth of Orange County
SEARAC – Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI)
South Asian Helpline & Referral Agency (SAHARA)
South Asian Network
Southeast Asian Coalition
Southeast Asian Community Alliance
Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment of University of Southern California
SUNY Albany Asian American Alliance
Taulama for Tongans
Teach for America
The Center for APA Women
Tuesday Night Project
UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications
United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
USC Asian Pacific American Student Services
USC Haneulsori
West Coast Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (WCAPSU)

List of supporters as of 5/14/15; click here for an updated list.