Advancing Justice | Chicago Joins AARP, the Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project on New “Disrupting Disparities” Initiative

Monika Wnuk, AARP Illinois / (773) 742-3743

Waiting for Vaccines, New Data Shows Black, Latino and Asian American Seniors Dying of COVID-19 at Alarmingly Higher Rates

State Lawmakers, Racial Justice Advocacy Groups Call for Solutions to Deep Disparities in Health, Economic Security and Connectivity in Illinois

CHICAGO – As older adults anxiously await vaccines to protect them, African American/Black, Latino and Asian American older adults in Chicago and statewide are getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at rates much higher than their share of the population, according to new data from AARP Illinois, the Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago released today.

The sobering statistics – evidence that longstanding inequities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – have prompted the creation of a collaboration to urge officials and influencers across the state to find ways to create systemic policy changes on behalf of, and with, older adults of color.

“The disproportionate number of Illinois’ older adults of color dying from COVID-19, while heartbreaking, is not an anomaly,” said Rosanna Marquez, AARP Illinois State Volunteer President. “It is evidence of longstanding inequities, from the social conditions that lead to poor health to unequal access to quality care, to limited economic resources, which have existed for years.”

During a press conference, Marquez and leaders from the groups pledged to do their part to “Disrupt Disparities” in Illinois and create an Illinois where older adults across communities can age with the economic stability, health care resources, and digital connectivity they need to lead healthy, stable, and rewarding lives. They were joined by Illinois Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, Senator Robert Peters, Representative Theresa Mah, and other elected officials.

“We’ve seen that racial economic disparities can accumulate over the course of someone’s lifetime to create widening wealth gaps in communities of color,” said Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins. “This study of the experiences and needs of older adults of color is an essential first step in creating an Illinois where older adults can age with financial security, healthcare that meets their needs, and the digital resources they need to lead healthy, productive, and rewarding lives.”

“The COVID-19 public health crisis has wreaked havoc on our older adults of color, and has brought to the forefront the deep disparities that exist in these communities in the areas of health, economic security, and connectivity,” said Illinois State Senator Robert Peters. “It has never been more important or more urgent to bring about the systemic and structural change needed to promote equitable solutions for older adults of color and their families.”

“Older adults of color have suffered from the effects of disparities that lead to health problems, unequal access to reliable health care, and limited economic resources for far too long,” said State Representative Theresa Mah. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all the devastating impact of these inequities, and that urgent action must be taken to ensure that our adults of color can live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Collaborators on the “Disrupt Disparities” initiative called for immediate action and recommended policy solutions for many of the disparities outlined in the report.

“We’re proud to be a collaborator on this groundbreaking report that shows how structural inequities are impacting older adults across communities of color, including the Asian American community,” said Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. “Asian Americans are often left out of conversations regarding racial disparities due to the ‘model minority’ myth, when in fact, many are suffering due to economic disparities, lack of resources, and other factors. This report emphasizes the need not only for more data on Asian American communities, but more disaggregated data, to really understand the impact of these disparities on our communities.”

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Asian American History Curriculum Bill Introduced

Asian American History Curriculum Bill Introduced

New initiative spearheaded by Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago calls for the inclusion of an Asian American history curriculum in Illinois public schools

SPRINGFIELD — February 3, 2021 —  Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago and a coalition of over 20 Illinois organizations applaud the introduction of the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act (HB376). Sponsored by Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, the bill would add an Asian American history curriculum to the Illinois School Code and in all public schools across the state.

“I’m proud to sponsor the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act. The perspectives and contributions of Asian Americans are invaluable to understanding American history,” said Rep. Gong-Gershowitz. “The TEAACH Act helps create a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of American history for all students in Illinois and helps fight anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. For the 100,000 Asian American K-12 students in Illinois, it ensures they see themselves accurately represented. Asian American history is American history.”

“Students from all backgrounds need to learn about the history of people from different cultures and ethnicities to help them understand the systemic inequities that exist today,” said Sen. Villivalam. “The TEAACH Act will build on the inclusive curriculum measures we passed last year and ensure that Asian American history will be taught alongside the history of other historically marginalized groups.”

Americans have seen racial tensions come to a head over the last year, including the violent white supremacist attack on the Capitol in early January, the summer of uprisings in response to the murder of George Floyd, and COVID-19 related racism against Asian Americans. Young people are trying to make sense of what is happening in the world around them. Implementing an inclusive and diverse history curriculum such as TEAACH will help bridge the racial divide by giving young generations of Americans a deeper understanding of communities other than their own. 

“In combatting xenophobic and racist narratives about our communities, we must ensure that our students understand the role that our communities have played in the United States and the broad spectrum of who Asian Americans are, have been, and could be,” said Justin Valas, policy director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago.  

Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, yet they are often overlooked in history books. The TEAACH Act would ensure that Illinois students learn a more complete picture of our country’s history that includes the many legacies and contributions of Asian Americans, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the contributions of Filipino farm worker organizing in the 60s, the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees after the Vietnam War, and other important stories.

“When you think about U.S. History, nobody thinks about Asian Americans, but we have been in this country for centuries,” said Melody Sok, a leader with the Cambodian Association of Illinois. “We have built essential infrastructure, been a part of social movements, organized for civil rights, and contributed to art and culture. Knowing these stories allows us to connect with our communities, and to be proud of being Asian Americans.”

“The lessons taken from Asian American history will empower students to question our past to make a better future,” said Lisa Doi, president of the Japanese American Citizens League Chicago Chapter. “In teaching Japanese American history, we get to explore a moment where lack of public understanding and racism led to mass incarceration based on ethnic identity. The TEAACH Act will help to ensure that Asian Americans are no longer missing in history and that this history does not repeat itself.” 

To learn more about the TEAACH Act or submit your testimony about why you support the bill, visit (more…)

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Welcoming City Ordinance Amendments Pass

STATEMENT from the Chicago Immigration Working Group upon passage of amendments to the Chicago Welcoming City Ordinance

In today’s session of the City Council, Aldermen passed amendments to Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance. The Chicago Immigration Working Group issued the following statement after the passage: 

Today we celebrate five years of community work. It has been five years of countless meetings with our City Council members, rallies, protests, calls, petitions, and undocumented people sharing their experiences with the Chicago Police. Five years ago, the Chicago Immigration Working Group (CIWG) launched our campaign to amend Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance to remove carve outs that undermined the ordinance’s goal of severing ties between Chicago Police and ICE. Chicago cannot claim to be a sanctuary for all while also categorizing immigrants as either deserving or undeserving, valuable or disposable.  Tired of waiting for then-Mayor Emanuel’s administration to act, in 2017 the CIWG worked with Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa to introduce these amendments in the Chicago City Council.  During the 2019 mayoral elections, then-candidate Lori Lightfoot joined the call to remove the carve-outs.  With today’s vote, we have finally won this victory. 

For too long, immigrants have been subjected by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to the additional punishment of deportation after coming in contact with a racially biased criminal legal system. Immigrants faced the nightmare of simultaneously navigating both the criminal legal system and the immigration system. For five years, the CIWG has worked to end this nightmare and ensure that immigrants have the same protections and rights as all Chicago residents. Today we are happy to see that our collective actions have moved us a step closer to truly being a sanctuary for all. 

Today, our immigrant, Black, and brown communities have won a majority vote of affirmation from City Council. The Welcoming City Ordinance will now ensure that under no circumstance will the Chicago Police or any other city agency obey ICE detainers or warrants or collaborate with ICE on immigration operations. Today the city of Chicago is closer to assuring constitutional protections for everyone regardless of immigration status. We celebrate this victory, and we will continue to fight for safe, thriving communities so that one day we can say that Chicago is a true Sanctuary for All. 

The coalition of organizations involved in the Chicago Immigration Working Group advocating for changes to the Chicago Welcoming City Ordinance includes Access Living, AFIRE Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, Beyond Legal Aid, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, Chicago Jobs with Justice, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, Enlace Chicago, Grassroots Collaborative, HANA Center, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Latino Union of Chicago, National Immigrant Justice Center, Organized Communities Against Deportations

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice Applauds Presidential Memorandum Countering Anti-Asian Racism

Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Applauds Presidential Memorandum Countering Anti-Asian Racism

Washington, DC —On racial equity day, President Biden issued a presidential memorandum acknowledging the harm caused by harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and condemning anti-Asian bias and discrimination. This memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to issue guidance on cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that federal agencies avoid discriminatory language. The memorandum also directs the Department of Justice to engage with AAPI communities on issues related to hate crimes, hate incidents, and harassment.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, releases the following statement:

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing that our communities have suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, political leaders including the former President and current members of Congress have repeatedly used racist rhetoric such as the “China virus,” “China plague,” and “kung flu” when referring to COVID-19, which has stoked xenophobia and led to increased racism and discrimination against Asian Americans who are being wrongly blamed for COVID-19.

The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and faced higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths than white Americans. Many of our community members are working as frontline essential workers to keep our country safe and our economy in motion, and yet at the same time, Asian Americans are being targeted by hate incidents at unprecedented levels.

Racist and xenophobic language should have no place in our government documents or policy. It should have no place in our society at all. The presidential memorandum, announced today, will begin the process of accountability that we need to address the anti-Asian racism and xenophobia our communities have suffered during COVID-19, as well as the deep structural racism that has manifested itself throughout U.S. history.

The Biden-Harris Administration took note of our campaign to identify anti-Asian hate as a priority issue and to examine how the federal government collects data and addresses the hate incidents, hate crimes, and harassment our community is experiencing. While it is important to recognize the rise in these incidents and collect data in a robust manner, we must also prioritize community-centered solutions, including restorative justice approaches to hate violence.

This COVID-19 memorandum is a first step in what we believe will be a longer road to stopping racist attacks against our community and building toward greater equity and we look forward to working with the Biden Administration to ensure the best outcomes for our communities.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to push for more work to be done to ensure the concerns and experiences of our communities are actively incorporated into this administration’s race and equity priorities and to reverse the consequences of hatred endured by communities of color.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to amplify and address this hatred by tracking reports of racist incidents on where victims and witnesses can tell their stories, find legal assistance, and resources. (more…)

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice Lauds Inauguration Day Actions on Immigration by New Biden Administration and Calls for a Comprehensive Moratorium on Deportations

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Lauds Inauguration Day Actions on Immigration by New Biden Administration and Calls for a Comprehensive Moratorium on Deportations

Washington, DC — January 21, 2021 — After tireless advocacy of immigrant communities and advocates, President Biden fulfilled several campaign promises by sending an immigration bill to Congress and issuing executive orders and memoranda on immigration-related actions. The immigration bill provides a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants and includes the Reuniting Families Act to modernize our immigration system and the No Ban Act — both priority bills for Asian Americans Advancing Justice and authored by Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair, Rep. Judy Chu.

The executive orders include rescinding the Muslim and African Bans, a reinstatement of the DACA program a repeal of the previous administration’s interior enforcement executive order, a 100-day pause on most deportations, and an extension of protections for Liberians. What is missing in the executive actions is needed relief for the 15,000 Southeast Asian refugees with final orders of removal. 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, releases the following statement:

This year’s Inauguration Day is historic in many ways. We congratulate and celebrate the 46th President Joseph R. Biden and the first woman, Asian American, and Black Vice President in U.S. history, Kamala Harris. 

Advancing Justice applauds President Biden’s swift actions on immigration, which begin to undo the white supremacist and xenophobic policies of the former administration. The announcement is a significant step toward healing the damage of the Trump Administration’s cruel and unjust immigration policy. 

But our immigrant communities need more than a return to the status quo. We are calling on the Biden Administration to issue a comprehensive moratorium on deportations, including for our incarcerated communities, an end to immigrant detention, and a fairer, more humane system. 

The bill provides much-needed relief for our communities, which no longer have to live under the discriminatory Muslim Ban or the threat of DACA termination. President Biden’s bold immigration legislation aims to provide a path to citizenship for  undocumented people, offering relief to our loved ones, neighbors, and allies, including the workers who have been in essential jobs long before the pandemic highlighted how essential they truly are to our communities and to our country. It’s time for Congress to pass legislation that creates a roadmap to citizenship for every immigrant who calls this country home – without tradeoffs on enforcement or family sponsorship. (more…)

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