Community Advocacy

People’s Assembly on Immigration (PAI)

Founded in 2019, the PAI builds on APSARA’s 26 years of experience advocating for rights and protections for immigrants and our ongoing work providing legal representation, know your rights education, base building, and policy advocacy. The PAI uses a direct democratic model of organizing (one person, one vote) to ensure that the wisdom and experience of those most impacted by the issue are at the center of designing solutions to the unique immigration challenges faced by Southeast Asian.

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center’s “Southeast Asian American Journeys” (2020) report found the number of SEAA deported to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam more than doubled between 2015–16 and 2017–18, with over 95% of deportations in fiscal year (FY) 2018 accounting for individuals repatriated to Cambodia and Vietnam. The report also found that since 1998, “at least 16,000 Southeast Asian Americans have received final orders of deportation despite many arriving in the U.S. with refugee status and obtaining a green card. Due to stringent immigration policies enacted in 1996, [those in] Southeast Asian American communities are three to four times more likely to be deported for old convictions compared with other immigrant communities.”

We know that the systemic transformation of the attitudes and policies which discriminate against immigrants and refugees can only occur by building a strong and well-informed base of community power. The community members of the PAI have identified their core interests as making a more extensive base of power, to share immigration information, and to increase access to legal resources for immigration cases. Future visions expressed by residents include unifying with other ethnic groups and building a broader base of community power to act on issues facing the community.

Southeast Asian Census Outreach Project (SEACOP)

SEACOP is part of a broader collaborative project with 22 local community organizations. The agencies designed to ensure that hard to count populations are counted in the 2020 census, to improve community engagement in community decision making, and to increase the resources available to meet essential social needs.

SEACOP is focused on ensuring Cambodian, Lao, Hmong, and Vietnamese populations are counted. Many Southeast Asians have not been represented in previous counts due to language barriers, discrimination against immigrants, and unconventional living and working arrangements common to the refugee and immigrant experience.

SEACOP combines grassroots and creative outreach to build trust and provide resources on the census, with mobile assistance centers where community members can learn about and fill out the census questionnaire in their neighborhood, with translation, technology, and education support. Combined outreach activities aim to reach 2,100 community members.