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As 2012 comes to a close, take a look back at AALDEF's year in civil rights...
10. We Honored Three Asian American Leaders
We began the year by honoring the 2012 Justice in Action Award recipients, Fareed Zakaria, Jean Koh Peters, and Parkin Lee, with co-emcees Sree Sreenivasan and ABC's Juju Chang, the hilarious standup of The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, and an audience of over 800. Join us for the Year of the Snake at our Lunar New Year Gala on Feb. 19 honoring 2013 JIA recipients Congressman John Lewis, Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American, and Simone Wu of Choice Hotels.
9. We Won $400,000 for Chinatown Small Businesses
The NYC Department of Finance charged struggling Chinatown small business and property owners thousands of dollars in Business Improvement District (BID) fees for four months before a Chinatown BID was even in place! While officials ignored these claims, AALDEF spoke up and prepared to file a lawsuit. As a result, the City admitted its mistake, and is returning $400,000 to the property owners.
8. We Challenged Anti-Asian Slurs and Media Stereotypes
From Pete Hoekstra's Superbowl ad featuring an Asian actress speaking broken English to Marion Barry's offensive remarks on Asian American businesses, we protested the use of racist language and stereotypes that further anti-Asian bias. After ESPN used the derogatory headline "Chink in the Armor" to describe the performance of New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin, we issued a statement calling its coverage "an insult to all Asian Americans." ESPN responded with an apology.
7. We Won Over a Million Dollars in Unpaid Wages for Exploited Workers
Our legal victories on behalf of exploited workers this year include a Nepali nail salon worker, a Chinese hotel worker, one Latino and two Korean-Chinese former kitchen workers, a Filipina domestic worker, and a South Asian-Caribbean housekeeper. The work continues: with pro bono counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, we are helping 22 former Chinatown waiters and bussers seek over $100,000 in damages. Through our Anti-Trafficking Initiative, we are representing an Indonesian woman who, along with her daughter, was forced to work in a former embassy couple's home.
6. We Fought for Asian Americans in NY Redistricting
The redistricting process gives only one chance a decade to put Asian American political interests on the map. As part of a multiracial coalition of civil rights groups that drew the Unity Map, we persuaded a federal judge to adopt a fair Congressional map - including a 40% Asian American district in Queens. On November 6, Grace Meng was elected in that district, becoming the first Asian American to represent New York in Congress.
5. We Fought for a National Response to the Sikh Temple Massacre
On August 5, in a year of tragic incidents of gun violence, a horrific mass shooting occurred at the Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Six members of the Sikh community were killed. We condemned the act of terrorism, spoke for tolerance, and joined the Sikh Coalition in asking the Senate to conduct a hearing on hate crimes and hate groups. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was held on September 19.
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4. We Sued the NYPD for Disclosure of Racial Profiling Policies
The NYPD spied on hundreds of innocent Muslim Americans, and kept the surveillance hidden for years. We helped people find out if the NYPD was spying on them with our mass Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) campaign Go FOIL Yourself. When the NYPD claimed turning over public information would interfere with ongoing criminal investigations (even though it admitted spying had not generated a single lead), we joined forces with several co-counsel and took them to court.
3. We Are Defending Equal Educational Opportunity in the Supreme Court
We filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the use of affirmative action in college admissions. As the Court determines the future of equal opportunity in Fisher v. UT-Austin, we continue to speak out against opponents who seek to use Asian Americans as a wedge group or misrepresent the benefits of diversity for all students.
2. We Are Protecting Undocumented Youth from Deportation
Since the Obama Administration announced its deferred action ("DACA") policy to protect eligible undocumented youth from deportation, we have been providing free legal clinics and resources for undocumented Asian Americans. We're proud to announce that members of our youth group attended a convention with over 600 immigrant leaders in Kansas City and are setting the agenda for real immigration reform.
1. We Put the Asian American Vote in the Spotlight on Election Day
On Election Day, we were joined by hundreds of volunteers at poll sites across the country, investigating reports of discrimination against Asian American voters and collecting data on how our diverse community votes. After our exit poll and election eve poll results revealed that 72% of Asian American voters supported Obama, the political power of our community entered the national spotlight.
Founded in 1974, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) 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.
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