New report details the changing demographics of the AAPI community

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A heat map of California’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. courtesy of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice

The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice released a new demographic report, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California,” Feb. 4. The report provides data on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, other minorities and the general population of California, with respect to topics including health, income, education and civic engagement.

The report aims to give community nonprofit organizations, businesses and lawmakers reliable data for their constituents and customers. It provides both data and statistics and proposals with respect to key issues among Asian Americans and the Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in California.

The report breaks down the data by region as well as the whole state.

The growth of Asian American immigration has outpaced Latin American immigrants, according to Hyeon-Ju Rho, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus. The ALC, a member of Advancing Justice, held a launch event at San Francisco’s Main Library to discuss the report’s findings.

“Untold is the incredible diversity among the communities,” said Rho. “Those who have achieved the American Dream … and those that haven’t.”

Rho said California has the largest Asian American population and second largest Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population after the state of Hawai‘i.

Joanna Lee, senior research analyst and one of the co-authors of the report, introduced the report and its key findings. She said housing, immigration and health care are reoccurring issues that need attention.

Lee and her team compiled data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 and 2010 Census, and other organizations including the California Department of Social Services, Center for Economic and Policy Research, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The report includes such populations as Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Cambodian, Hmong, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Mongolian, Okinawan and other Asian and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnicities.

Overall demographics
The report said the 2010 Census reports nearly 5.6 million Asian Americans and 286,000 Native Hawaiian Pacific and Islanders living in California, or 15 percent Asian Americans and 1 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders of the total population respectively. In the San Francisco Bay Area, more than a quarter of the population is Asian American, which is more than Latinos and only second to whites.

Meanwhile, the population of Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders grew by 34 percent and 29 percent respectively between 2000 and 2010. Overall the population of California grew by 10 percent and whites decreased in population by 5 percent.

Lee noted that the Bay Area contains some of the highest concentrations of Asian Americans, with Santa Clara, Alameda and San Francisco counties having the largest concentration of Asian Americans, and being home to several Asian American majority cities such as Fremont, Daly City, Milpitas and Cupertino. Lee said Asian Americans are making real contributions to the state’s economy and hold some political clout.

Overall, Asian American-owned businesses contributed to the economy by hiring nearly 910,000 people and paying $26 billion in payroll. This statistic, however, overshadows other issues. While Asian Americans as a whole are a growing and powerful demographic, some populations are disproportionately affected by health issues and unemployment, Lee said. Between 2006 and 2010, unemployment for Asian Americans increased by 196 percent, whereas the total population saw an increase of 157 percent, most out of any minority.

The report also states more than 3.1 million Asian Americans or 59 percent are foreign born; furthermore, 34 percent of Asian Americans are “Limited English Proficient.”

Housing issues
Omar Calimbas of the Asian Law Caucus spoke about housing issues. Calimbas said the government has made some progress in protecting homeowners with last year’s federal mortgage relief and California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights.

However, Calimbas said room for improvement remains. “The policy is pretty basic. The government has not done what it needs to do,” he said. “They track the relief, but are not tracking race, gender, languages and other criteria.”

Without access to services in languages other than English, Calimbas said the relief would fail to reach minorities.

Calimbas also discussed tenants facing overcrowding in the cities. According to the 2010 census, households of recent immigrants tended to have issues with overcrowding.

“Local jurisdictions should not devalue the issue of overcrowding,” he said. Where the public sector ignores the needs of low income or affordable housing, Calimbas said a shadow market thrives in the form of illegal in-law units. “That opens up the door to tenant abuses.”

The report, according to Calimbas, will help the city, community and private developers make sound decisions and effective outreach to develop future plans.

“Everyone should think about the links between public health, quality of life, housing and immigrants,” Calimbas said.

Immigration Reform
Antoinette, a San Francisco State University nursing student, spoke about her status as an undocumented immigrant at the presentation. The report states an estimated 1.3 million undocumented Asians live in California. In Antoinette’s case, her family lost their visa after her father lost his job. She spoke about growing up in fear of being caught and being separated from her friends and family.

“Although I lived in fear, each victory is what defined me as an American.”

Antoinette, a member of Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), said APIs are the fastest growing segment of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

“We pay taxes, make jobs, share our culture,” she said in an impassioned presentation. “Yet … everyday we face the possibility of detention and deportation.”

With Asian Americans becoming the fastest growing segment of immigrant populations, Antoinette said the current visa restrictions are outdated and in dire need for reform. The young student from the Philippines called for a permanent solution to immigration, rather than patchwork reform and not of criminalization.

Health Care
Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, spoke about what these data mean in terms of health care.

“The Affordable Care Act is the most sweeping reform in the last 40 years,” said Chin. “In 2014, it will insure 32 million of the 50 million uninsured people in the United States.”

Citing language barriers and the high rate of uninsured among some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California, Chin said organizations must especially reach out to those underserved communities.

“We must impress the importance of language barriers in acquiring coverage,” she said.

Chin also said health care is heavily tied to immigration issues as well. She outlined four major concerns for immigration and health care. Whereas the original Affordable Care Act included deferred action for young adults, they are no longer covered.  She also said Marshallese are entitled to free entry into the United States and were assured health care after the Marshall Islands signed a compact of free association following the U.S. nuclear testing, but are not yet covered in the new law. While the insurance policies would be purchased with private funds, the Affordable Care Act bars undocumented immigrants from buying health insurance.

Finally, Chin said even legal permanent residents do not all have access to Medicaid across the United States.

In closing the presentation, Lee stressed the importance of disaggregated data. She called for more research from government bureaus and easier access to it for communities, businesses and politicians to make better informed decisions.

“A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California” is available online.

Japanese Americans in California
Statewide, 428,014 Japanese Americans live in California. More than 250,000 live in Southern California and more than 100,000 live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among other Asian Americans, Japanese Americans are the most multiracial. In respect to immigration, 27 percent of Japanese Americans are foreign born, which is on par with the total population. Nearly one-fifth of Japanese Americans were reported to be “Limited English Proficient.”


Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area

Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders in nine Bay Area counties

Santa Clara County: AA: 618,242 / NHPI: 14,468
Alameda County: AA: 440,869 / NHPI: 22,322
San Francisco County: AA: 288,529 / NHPI: 6,173
San Mateo County: AA: 199,294 / NHPI: 15,069
Contra Costa County: AA: 180,773 / NHPI: 10,153
Solano County: AA: 74,750 / NHPI: 7,727
Sonoma County: AA: 25,180 / NHPI: 3,244
Marin County: AA: 18,750 / NHPI: 1,132
Napa County: AA: 11,116 / NHPI: 820

Source: Asian American Center for Advancing Justice

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