350 Asian American Community Leaders to Rally at the State Capitol Demanding Language Justice For All

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, May 1, 2024
CONTACT: Grace Pai – gpai@advancingjustice-chicago.org

350 Asian American Community Leaders to Rally at the State Capitol Demanding Language Justice For All

CHICAGO – On May 1, hundreds of Asian American community leaders with the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment (PAVE) Coalition kicked off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a rally at the Illinois State Capitol. The rally featured community testimonies calling on lawmakers to pass the Language Equity and Access Act (SB3762), fully fund immigrant services, create progressive revenue streams to generate new funding solutions for the state, and invest in the implementation of K-12 inclusive history requirements.

Asian immigrant communities disproportionately face difficulties accessing public health and government services due to language barriers, an issue only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Americans continue to be the fastest growing racial demographic in Illinois and the country and are flexing their growing political power to address issues like language access facing Asian, immigrant, and other marginalized communities.

Phong Nguyen, a community leader with the Vietnamese Association of Illinois, gave a testimony in Vietnamese that was interpreted into English. He called on lawmakers to pass the Language Equity and Access Act (SB3762), saying, “Almost 50 years after my community built a livelihood for themselves in the U.S., we are still demanding basic rights to language access – because that is how we build real inclusive communities!”

Mohammed Siddique Gandhi, a community leader with the Indo-American Center, shared, “At Indo-American Center, we have over 200 English and Citizenship students like me. Our classes have students who speak Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, Pashto, Bangla, French, Spanish, and many more languages. The Immigrant Services Line Item funds immigrant-serving organizations like Indo-American Center and others here today to connect immigrant communities to critical resources. We need it fully funded at $40 million this year!”

Jayaraj Lobo, a youth leader with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, highlighted the need for funding for K-12 inclusive history implementation, saying, “The textbook my high school uses for US History has two sentences about Asian Americans. Knowing that my family, who worked so hard to come here and give us a better life, aren’t being seen – it hurts. That’s why I’m here today to urge our lawmakers to support the appropriations request of $2 million per year for the next five years for all inclusive history mandates. This funding is not just about numbers; it’s about investing in the future of our children and our communities.”

State Representative Theresa Mah, state Senator Ram Villivalam, and state Representative Nabeela Syed also spoke in support of the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment Coalition’s 2024 legislative agenda.

Interviews, photos, and videos available upon request. View Facebook and Instagram livestreams.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago builds power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity

PAVE Coalition Members: Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), Apna Ghar, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, Cambodian Association of Illinois, Chinese American Service League, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago, Hamdard Health Alliance, HANA Center, Hanul Family Alliance, Indo-American Center, Japanese American Citizens League – Chicago, Japanese American Service Committee, Lao American Organization of Elgin, Muslim Civic Coalition, South Asian American Policy and Research Institute, Vietnamese Association of Illinois