National CAPACD Opposes HUD’s Proposed Anti-Transgender Rule

National CAPACD Opposes HUD’s Proposed Anti-Transgender Rule

On July 1st, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced proposed changes to its 2016 Equal Access Rule, which would allow HUD-funded housing providers to discriminate against transgender people seeking shelter. This proposed rule change advances the current Administration’s transphobic agenda and emboldens those who wish to harm the transgender community, particularly trans women and trans people of color, who are already disproportionately at risk of housing insecurity.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “HUD’s proposed rule change is not only discriminatory, but also dangerous and particularly callous given the current crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access to safe shelter increases the risk of exposure in shared living spaces. Housing is a human right, not a benefit conditioned on sexual orientation or gender identity. National CAPACD stands with our transgender family in these difficult times, and we are committed to always advocating for gender justice in housing.”

National CAPACD’s partners have launched the Housing Saves Lives campaign to oppose HUD’s anti-transgender rule. Visit the campaign page to learn more, access templates once the 60-day comment period opens, and stay updated.

National CAPACD Applauds Supreme Court Decision to Uphold DACA & Protect Immigrants

National CAPACD Applauds Supreme Court Decision
to Uphold DACA & Protect Immigrants

Earlier today, the US Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to continue for the time being, upholding the rights of over 800,000 young immigrants and their families to live in this country without fear or distress. National CAPACD applauds the Supreme Court’s decision, which challenges the Administration’s xenophobic agenda by stating that the Administration’s attempt to terminate the DACA program was “arbitrary and capricious.” We know that this decision does not permanently protect the DACA program, nor is the program on its own sufficient to address the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by this victory, which affirms the millions of immigrants who lend their presence, labor, and service to make this country better with little to no return for their contributions.

The DACA victory today comes on the heels of a landmark 6-3 Supreme Court decision earlier this week that states lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision establishes legal protections and precedent for millions of LGBTQ people to navigate the workplace free from discrimination, and affirms their right to dignity and respect.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “We have witnessed the tragedies of our broken system far too often, a system intentionally designed to fail Black communities and leave our communities behind. In the last few weeks, we have been called to show up for Black communities, confront our complicity, and challenge our broken system – and to do this while continuing to support our communities hard hit by COVID-19. The Supreme Court decisions this week are a testament to the power of our collective movement to win meaningful, intersectional change for our communities. Today’s win comes on the eve of Juneteenth, reminding us that we cannot afford to be distracted or divided any longer – these wins only deepen our mandate to show up for one another. We will continue to advocate for comprehensive and humane immigration reform; challenge discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; demand that all #BlackLivesMatter; and push for policies that rebuild our system to be equitable and just.”

Today, National CAPACD celebrates our members, partners, and allies for their tremendous advocacy and organizing to protect DACA, and their unwavering commitment to the millions of immigrants who call the United States their home. National CAPACD looks to Congress now to push forward a permanent pathway to citizenship for all immigrants.

National CAPACD Demands Justice for George Floyd

National CAPACD Demands Justice for George Floyd

With the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor still fresh on our minds, National CAPACD is heartbroken by the violent and senseless death of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, George was pinned to the ground by a police officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, choked until he could no longer breathe, and ultimately killed. Footage of the incident affirms the presence of third parties who could have intervened on behalf of George, and instead chose to stay complicit. Like so many before them, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd lost their lives to police brutality born from a deeply racist system that criminalizes black bodies.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states, “We are in the final days of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As we reflect on our histories and celebrate our contributions, our friends and allies in the black community fear for their lives. The challenges of COVID-19 have reminded us of our collective responsibility to support one another and ensure each other’s safety. We must commit to acknowledging, confronting, and dismantling complicity and racism within our own AAPI communities. Again and again, we must repeat: #BlackLivesMatter. That is the heritage we should leave behind for our children to celebrate.”

National CAPACD calls on our members and allies to act against the horrifying injustices that black communities face. We must work together to ensure that black people have the right to exist in this country without constant fear for their lives. Here are some things you can do to demand justice:

National CAPACD Urges Senate to Act Swiftly for Renters

National CAPACD Urges Senate to Act Swiftly for Renters

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the next coronavirus relief bill, the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES)” Act. The bill includes several provisions to provide relief and stabilize housing for struggling renters, including provisions from the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act. National CAPACD applauds efforts to protect renters hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and urges the Senate to move expediently and expand these provisions to be inclusive of all low-income renters.

Prior to the pandemic, rental housing in most US metropolitan areas was characterized by rapidly rising rents and the net loss of affordable housing. The coronavirus has alarmingly exacerbated an already dire housing crisis. As of May 1, there were 26 metropolitan areas with over 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. These metropolitan areas represent some of the highest cost rental markets in the US, with over 50 million people who live in rental housing. Millions of people who have lost their jobs or income can no longer pay rent and fear the threat of eviction. Delays in providing relief to renters is unconscionable; those already struggling in these deeply uncertain times should not be further burdened by housing insecurity. Furthermore, housing, public health, and the economy are inextricably connected – millions of renters losing their homes at this time constitutes a public health and economic disaster.

Supporting renters is a racial justice issue. The majority, or 53 percent, of households headed by people of color are renters, while only 28 percent of non-Hispanic white households are renters. The vast majority (73 percent) of low-income Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) live in the highest cost cities – many of which are also coronavirus hotspots. We are already witnesses to the racial disparities in the impact of the coronavirus on the lives of Americans – our leadership has the opportunity to relieve some of the dramatically disproportionate burden on communities of color in this moment.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “If relief and recovery are to be effective, the benefits need to reach all renters, with particular sensitivity to those who are most vulnerable. Many of our city’s residents have been forced to live in informal or overcrowded conditions due to the extreme housing cost burden. Meaningful long-term solutions should include rent relief for everyone who needs it and long-term solutions for those in our society who are most at risk of homelessness. This means provisions that address structural racial disparities in the recovery planning, including the allocation of significant resources for nonprofit affordable housing developers and owners in order to preserve and expand the stock of high-quality affordable housing across our cities and communities.”

The Senate must act without delay for renters. National CAPACD hopes that they will adopt provisions that provide assistance and protections to all renters in need of support in this crisis, including immigrants, communities of color, and LEP populations. Our leadership must ensure the economic stability of the people that they are in place to protect, and we would be remiss if we did not remind them of this responsibility as millions of renters across the country look toward June 1st with concern and uncertainty.

National CAPACD Supports Legislation to Cancel Rent & Protect Tenants

National CAPACD Supports Legislation to Cancel Rent & Protect Tenants

Last Friday, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill which calls for the nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis (including one month after the official lift of the national emergency). The proposed legislation provides hope in otherwise deeply grim circumstances – 31% of Americans were unable to pay rent at the start of this month, and many more will be unable to do so as millions continue to lose their jobs. The bill moves beyond a call for moratoriums, and instead would constitute full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history. Landlords and mortgage holders would be able to cover their losses from a relief fund instituted by the federal government.

National CAPACD applauds Representative Omar’s bill, and urges Members of Congress to act swiftly to support tenants so that the current crisis does not further economically cripple the most vulnerable members of our country, as past crises have done. National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states, “Challenged by an Administration that is using our current crisis as a smokescreen to perpetuate a xenophobic agenda while cursorily addressing the real challenges, National CAPACD is encouraged by Representative Omar’s proposed legislation – it puts tenants first, and shifts the burden of accessing relief to the landlord. Current solutions offered under the CARES Act are not strong enough, and programs such as a universal voucher would likely leave many tenants without relief. Her efforts are a shining example of responsible leadership that rises to address a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear – health, economic security, and housing are inextricably connected.”

National CAPACD is particularly concerned because we know all too well that the COVID-19 pandemic did not create a housing crisis; instead, it is exacerbating an existing housing crisis that disproportionately impacts communities of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Through data and anecdotal examples, we know that AAPIs are also disportionately impacted by the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.The majority of low-income AAPIs are concentrated in densely populated urban areas and those most impacted by COVID-19 – with over 73 percent of AAPIs in poverty living in high housing cost metropolitan areas.

Members of the #OurNeighborhoods network speak to the growing need to #CancelRent for our communities:

Rebecca Garcia, a youth member at the Southeast Asian Community Alliance in Los Angeles shares, “Rent should be canceled during COVID-19 because people are losing their jobs, including my sister and brother, or getting less hours, including my father. We shouldn’t have to choose whether we eat or have a roof over our heads… I am 14 years of age and I know that it is outrageous to ask us to pay rent. Rent has to be canceled in order for many families to survive during this crisis.”

Cui Guo (房) Fang, a CAAAV Asian Tenants Union member, shared, “I was a homecare worker, and my husband was a worker at a senior center. I stopped working last June because my hip was injured. My husband was laid off two weeks ago… If I pay this month, what will I do next month? We have no idea when the situation will get better. We are both 63. It’s hard to find another job. We must face the current reality; at this time, we have no more money to give. The government must let us live. Our demand is to #CancelRent.”

Across these experiences from the ground, there is a common moral imperative; the government should not put its people in a position where they must choose between their next meal and their next month’s rent. There is an opportunity, in these otherwise troubling times, to come up with transformative solutions for housing challenges that have impact well beyond this moment.

 

 

In Response to Xenophobia Fueled by Coronavirus Epidemic, National CAPACD Stands with Chinatown Businesses

In Response to Xenophobia Fueled by Coronavirus Epidemic,
National CAPACD Stands with Chinatown Businesses

National CAPACD is deeply troubled by the rise of hate crimes and rhetoric and economic loss, fueled by xenophobia, in response to the coronavirus epidemic. While the coronavirus epidemic is undeniably a public health concern, it is inaccurate and dangerous to direct fear toward the Asian American community. From physical attacks on young children to discrimination when seeking services, we are once again witnessing the phenomenon of “Yellow Peril,” that traces back to the anti-Asian prejudices and policies of the 19th century. Too often and too easily, Asian Americans have been dehumanized and served as targets of mass hysteria. The harm done to Asian American communities runs far deeper than the transient source of hysteria.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “The Lunar New Year is typically one of the busiest times of year for Asian American businesses. This year, we have heard from many of our members that restaurants and stores in Chinatowns across the country were and continue to be empty – some businesses are being vandalized. These small businesses are the primary source of livelihood for many low-income Asian Americans already struggling to provide for their families. They are also what give many of our cities their unique character that attracts visitors and stimulates economic activity.  Our country is guilty of consistently relying on Asian Americans for their contributions to #OurNeighborhoods and simultaneously avert responsibility to challenge harmful xenophobic rhetoric that impacts their ability to exist in this country without fear or concern.”

Duncan Hwang, Associate Director of Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), stated “With any public health issue, the most important thing to do is follow the advice of trusted public health authorities. Viruses know no nationality, and hate or fear won’t keep us safe. During any uncertain time, it’s critical that the community come together and support each other by getting accurate information and uniting against any form of discrimination.”

Jessie Lee, managing director of Renaissance Economic Development Corporation (REDC) stated “Unfounded fears about coronavirus have hit our immigrant small businesses from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Flushing to Sunset Park, jeopardizing cherished mom-and-pop restaurants and retail stores dependent on tourist dollars. It is important to debunk damaging myths about coronavirus, but it’s even more critical that we back up our words with firm commitments to support struggling businesses through access to affordable capital and in-language, culturally relevant technical assistance. Immigrant small businesses are not only the heart and soul of our communities, but they are the engine driving job creation in neighborhoods across New York City.”

Small businesses in Chinatown and other Asian American Pacific Islander districts are the cultural character and anchor of #OurNeighborhoods. National CAPACD implores our network to support these businesses and dispel misguided fears. We are inspired by local efforts to organize against misinformation and fear mongering, such as the Association of Chinese Americans (ACA) formation of the Covid-19 Relief Community Education Committee in Detroit.

We invite our network to learn more about the impact and needs of AAPI small businesses, particularly those served by our member organizations, in our 2019 report, Small Business, Big Dreams.

 

Op-Ed: The CFPB Continues to Strip Consumer Protections Against Predatory Lending

Op-Ed: The CFPB Continues to Strip Consumer Protections Against Predatory Lending

In January, I shared my hope that Kathy Kraninger, then-newly appointed Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), would demonstrate real leadership and refocus the CFPB to carry out its original purpose—protecting consumers. Unfortunately, Kraninger has spent the months since supporting financial institutions over consumers. The CFPB has proposed new rules and revisited old ones to limit its own regulatory authority, relieve lenders of hard-fought for data collection and reporting requirements, and protect corporate profits with little regard of the harm to consumers. I am particularly concerned by recent attempts to rescind the CFPB rule to establish ability-to-repay requirements for payday and vehicle title loans. This would be a major setback for consumer rights and is antithetical to the CFPB’s founding purpose to protect consumers from predatory financial institutions.

Low- and moderate-income communities, especially communities of color, continue to feel the devastating effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) were particularly hard hit— in fact, economic gains since the Great Recession have led to declining poverty rates for most racial/ethnic groups except AAPIs whose poverty population levels have not yet fallen below their Great Recession peak. The Recession impacted disproportionately immigrant and refugee communities because of their limited proficiency with English and lack of understanding of American banking and financial systems. And importantly, our most underserved community members continue to be vulnerable to predatory lenders and payday loans.

AAPIs are also the fastest growing racial group in the country – growing over four times as rapidly as the total US population—and expected to double to over 47 million by 2060. Contrary to the ‘model minority’ myth, AAPIs in fact have the highest levels of income inequality of any other racial or ethnic group nationwide. This is compounded by the fact that AAPIs have both high levels of language diversity (fully 77 percent of Asians and 43 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders speak a language other than English at home) and high rates of limited English proficiency (40 percent of Asians and 15 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders), leaving them particularly vulnerable to the duplicitous and predatory practices of big banks and alternative financial service providers.

Most of us have heard of payday lending but many of us don’t understand the long term harm that these loans do to low-income communities of color, nor do we understand the scale of the problem. Also known as cash advances or direct deposit advances, these seemingly ‘easy’ to secure loans are in fact traps for consumers with limited liquidity (mostly Black, Latinx, AAPI, and other low-income communities of color). With an average interest rate of 300-400%, payday loans benefit predatory lenders to the tune of $400 billion per year in fees alone. As context, this figure is larger than the GDPs of Ireland or Singapore. Consumers are trapped in a cycle of debt – invariably, they lose their bank accounts, incur exorbitant overdraft fees, their credit scores are impacted negatively, and some even end up filing for bankruptcy. Payday lenders intentionally target unbanked and under-banked communities because of their lack of access to or knowledge of financial institutions. Coupled with linguistic isolation, this makes them vulnerable to seemingly ‘quick fix’ loans, especially when they are literally living from one paycheck to the next. Indeed, a scan of our members revealed that the Pacific Islander community is particularly impacted by payday lending.

The CFPB spent more than five years gathering information and collecting public input – more than one million public comments were submitted – before the agency finalized a rule that would require payday and vehicle title lenders to establish ability-to-repay requirements for their loan products. With the recent move to rescind this rule, the agency is signaling clearly that it prioritizes profit over consumer protection. Even worse, the CFPB acknowledges that these loans harm consumers. And, by disregarding five years of data collection and public input, the agency is sending a message to consumers that it is willing to overlook empirical data to advance the interests of financial institutions.

The CFPB exemplifies an inherent contradiction seen across this Administration—using the very agencies, institutions, and policies created to advance equity and justice for communities historically and institutionally left behind to dismantle the progress made for those communities. Notably, the Administration inherited the CFPB when it was just beginning to implement some of the most critical elements of its regulatory oversight – from disaggregated data collection under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) to the ability-to-repay payday lending rules. Especially at a time when many see the “ghosts of Recession past” in the market, a CFPB that functions with restored rules and protections is imperative. Indeed, the threat of another market collapse requires that we demand more robust and far-reaching protections that prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable community members.

I still think that Director Kraninger has an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership. I was especially heartened by the agency’s extension of the public comment period for proposed changes to HMDA data through the fall. In January, I was hopeful that Director Kraninger was “focused on the consumers.” This is her opportunity to demonstrate that focus to consumer advocates and the communities we work with.

National CAPACD stands in solidarity with Native Hawaiians to protect Mauna Kea

National CAPACD stands in solidarity with Native Hawaiians
to protect Mauna Kea

The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) is disappointed that a judge in Hawaii denied a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano of significant cultural and natural value to Native Hawaiians. The mountain is an origin of Hawaiian cosmology and the center of the Hawaiian universe – it is where Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and Sky Father, Wākea are said to have met. In addition to housing numerous religiously significant sites, Mauna Kea is also home to precious natural resources.

Mauna Kea is on ceded Hawaiian land – land that belonged to the Hawaiian monarchy until Queen Lili’oukalani was overthrown by the US leaders who ceded the land to the federal government. The land was returned after Hawaii became a state; Hawaii is required to hold this land for specific purposes based on the 1959 Statehood Act, including improving conditions of Native Hawaiians.

The TMT is a $1.4 billion development project of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California system, and the governments of Canada, China, India and Japan. Resistance to its construction is a decade old. Importantly, the final environmental impact statement found that the TMT would store large amounts of domestic and chemical waste on the site on a regular basis before it would be removed. In 2015, protesters were arrested for blocking TMT construction work and a second attempt to start construction ended with more arrests. In 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that construction could continue.

Since July 10th, when Hawaii Governor David Ige announced that construction for the TMT would begin again,  kia’i (protectors) mobilized a small hill, Pu’u Huluhulu, at the base of the Mauna Kea access road as a refuge for people opposing the TMT. There are some 2,000 supporters in the sanctuary. Nearly 40 protestors, the majority of them elders in their 70s and 80s, have been arrested for blocking access to construction. Increasing tensions between law enforcement and the kia’i at the site led to Governor Ige issuing an emergency proclamation to “protect the health, safety and welfare” of the people.

National CAPACD stands in solidarity with indigenous Hawaiians protesting the construction of the TMT at Mauna Kea. While proponents of the TMT cite economic and educational opportunity as positive outcomes, placing profits and development ahead of respect for Hawaiian culture, history, and the environment is deeply unethical. We agree with scientists Kelou Fox of UC San Diego and Chandra Prescod-Weinstein of the University of New Hampshire who state, the TMT “is a clash between colonial science – the one in which, under the guise of progress, has all too often helped justify conquest and human rights violations – and a science that respects indigenous autonomy.” We must stand against “progress” that comes at the cost of people.

National CAPACD Demands Housing Aid for All, Regardless of Immigration Status

National CAPACD Demands Housing Aid for All, Regardless of Immigration Status

Last Wednesday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would expand use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to public housing. Administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), SAVE is used by federal and local government agencies to verify a person’s immigration status so that public benefits are awarded only to verified American citizens and legal residents. The rule, if passed, would lead to the eviction of about 25,000 immigrant households that currently reside in public housing. It is unclear if the policy would also target undocumented immigrants who live in public housing with a spouse or family member who is an American citizen. This rule is another example of the Administration’s anti-immigrant policies. It joins the ranks of the “public charge” rule and increased policing and raids by ICE to directly attack immigrants and refugees.

National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states “National CAPACD and our members work each day to advocate for and protect housing as a human right. HUD’s proposed rule undermines deplorably this right on the basis of immigration status. The Administration continues to devote its entire political machinery to create a climate of fear that has a disparate impact on our most vulnerable populations – undocumented immigrants and refugees. We know that an America that does not protect and lift the immigrants who have shaped it is not America at all. We stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees and their right to access public housing.”

The proposed HUD rule is currently under review in Congress, after which there will be a 60-day public comment period. We encourage everyone in our network to submit comments and will provide further guidelines once the public comment period opens.

National CAPACD Denounces Administration’s Attack on Vietnamese Immigrants and Refugees

National CAPACD Denounces Administration’s Attack on Vietnamese Immigrants and Refugees

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) met with representatives of the Vietnamese government in the latest of a series of attacks on immigrant rights seen under the current Administration. DHS is attempting to renege on a 2008 agreement that bars the deportation of Vietnamese immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who arrived in the United States before 1995. According to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), this reversal would leave about 8,600 Vietnamese immigrants, many of them refugees from the Vietnam War, subject to deportation. The Administration’s actions again signal an abdication of its responsibility to protect our most vulnerable community members. This move by DHS is particularly appalling because of the role the United States played in creating the conditions that led to thousands of asylum seekers from the Vietnam War.

National CAPACD’s Executive Director Seema Agnani states “We are angered by the Administration’s efforts to undermine the right of thousands of Vietnamese immigrants to live in this country. It is another example of the Administration’s regressive immigration policy, most recently seen in the public charge rule and the threat of a government shut down if Congress does not fund a border wall. As contributing members of American society, immigrants have the right to live without fear in our neighborhoods. National CAPACD stands in solidarity with our Vietnamese communities and will continue to advocate for just and inclusive immigration policies.”

Stand in solidarity with Vietnamese refugees today! Click here to take action.