History has shown that during times of national anxiety, Asian Americans and other immigrants are viewed as foreigners in their own land, and become targets for blame and hate.
The Exclusion Act of 1882 barred immigration of Chinese laborers, denied citizenship to all resident Chinese, and prompted angry mobs to attack and destroy Chinese American communities across the West. In 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 and stripped of their civil liberties more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry as they were forced into ten "relocation centers." After September 11, 2001, the civil rights of Americans who looked "Middle Eastern" -- including South Asians, Filipino Americans, Latinos, as well as Arab Americans and Muslim Americans - have been violated by Americans who made no distinction between the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and people who look like them.
Exclusionary immigration policies and national security interests give authority to the notion of immigrants as second-class Americans. In turn, racial prejudice, war, economic competition and media stereotypes frequently trigger acts of hate. As the Asian American community continues to grow in population and profile, it is imperative that the scapegoating of Asian Americans and Asian immigrants does not increase as well.
Access to the legal system and knowledge of civil rights have been essential ingredients in preventing and educating others about anti-Asian violence. AALDEF advocates for and represents victims of racial violence and calls for government actions and policies that prevent racial violence. AALDEF also provides trainings and community education to inform Asian Americans about their legal rights and what to do if they are the victims of racial violence.
Currently, AALDEF has focused on providing legal assistance, advocacy and training for Muslim, Arab or South Asian individuals who feel that they may be targeted as a result of their nationality or ethnicity. To read more about these AALDEF activities, please see our Immigrants' Rights program page. After a rise in racial violence against immigrant students at large urban high schools. AALDEF has also intensified its outreach to the legally underserved Asian American youth population. Read more about these activities at our Educational Equity program page.