NCAPA Letter to House Leaders on Policy Priorities for 116th Congress

January 4, 2019


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
United States House
H-204, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515


The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader
United States House

H-107, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515


Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,


On behalf of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 33 national nonprofit organizations working to represent millions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), congratulations on your election to serve in the 116th Congress. As you consider your legislative agenda for the term, Asian Pacific American organizations from across the country have compiled priorities for your consideration. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to engage you and share our diverse perspectives on issues that impact our community.


Who We Are


The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of national Asian American and Pacific Islander community organizations who work to advocate for, and to elevate the visibility of all the diverse groups within the AAPI community. Our member organizations work within the East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander American communities; and our collective networks of hundreds of affiliates and chapters span across the country and into 3 territories. Our member organizations represent over 30 different ethnic groups and work in-language in over 60 different languages.


Originally founded in 1996 as a convening body that relied on the shared staff capacity of just a few member organizations, NCAPA has evolved to support full-time staff that now help coordinate the activities and work of the coalition and its individual members. In addition to our general membership body, we are organized into 5 policy committees (civil rights, immigration, healthcare, education and housing/economic justice) and a civic engagement committee, which help to organize our work, with member organizations’ staff participating in the committees.



The AAPI Community is Growing


The AAPI community is the fastest growing demographic group in the country, growing to over an estimated 20 million people in 2015. Despite our story being rooted in immigration, it is easy to forget that the majority of our community was born in another country. In fact, according to research done by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of adult AAPIs were born abroad. This population growth is projected to continue as AAPIs are estimated to be the largest immigrant group in the country by 2055.


The Economic State of the AAPI Community


When we consider AAPIs in the aggregate, we have a rosy picture of the economic status of the community as a whole. However, by breaking down the data, it is clear that while many AAPIs are thriving, millions continue to struggle.


Today, income inequality in the U.S. is greatest among AAPIs. From 1970 to 2016, the gap in the standard of living between Asians near the top and the bottom of the income ladder nearly doubled, and the distribution of income among Asians transformed from being one of the most equal, to being the most unequal among America’s major racial and ethnic groups. 


Almost 2.2 million AANHPIs lived below the federal poverty line in 2017—a 35% increase from 2009. This rising trend is nearly twice the next highest rate of increase for any racial or ethnic group, and was five times the rate of increase for Whites. In addition, AAPIs living in poverty also are disproportionately concentrated in metro areas with the highest housing costs. These areas account for nearly half of poor Asian Americans and 40% of poor Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, compared to 17% of the total U.S. poor population.


AAPI Policy Priorities for the 116th Congress


Through a collaborative process with our policy committees, NCAPA would like to share our policy priorities for the new Congress. Please note that our policy committee co-chairs come from the following NCAPA member organizations:


  • Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
  • Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)
  • Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA)
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)
  • Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIA Scholars)



Civil Rights


  1. Promote racial justice by:
    • Challenging islamophobia – including speaking out against hate crimes, discrimination, harassment, and incendiary political rhetoric.
    • Challenging racial and religious profiling, generally, and support enforcement and enhancement of anti-discrimination laws.
  2. Improving data collection by:
    • Removing the “Citizenship” question from the 2020 Census.
    • Oversight of the Department of Commerce to ensure an accurate count of all communities through the American Community Survey & Census 2020.
    • Encouraging all federal agencies to disaggregate data for better understanding of AA, NH, and PI populations.
  3. Protect and expand voting rights through legislation to:
    • Restore the Voting Rights Act post-
    • Helping more to naturalize, register to vote, and cast ballots.
  4. Ensure language access by:
    • Addressing linguistic barriers to accessing government programs and services across all federal agencies, by including interpretation services and translation of materials, with oversight, compliance, and enforcement.




  1. Combating negative framing of immigrants by:
    • Ensuring that myths about immigration are debunked, and that immigration debate is not unduly influenced by falsehoods and misinformation
  • Ending usage of the term “chain migration” or attempts to frame good versus bad immigrants.


  1. Protecting the immigration process/immigrant status by supporting:
    • Undocumented Immigrants
      • Create a broad, simple and fair process that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, especially undocumented immigrant children.
    • Family Reunification
      • Support the policy solutions in the 2018 Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 4944, 115th Congress) to keep American families together, including same-sex households, and reduce the family immigration backlog.
      • Create the opportunity for temporary visitation and/or stay in the United States for individuals currently waiting in line.
    • H-4 Work Authorizations
      • Oppose attempts to revoke the work authorization provided to H-4 visa recipients
    • Refugees
      • Provide refugees with an automatic green card without the need to adjust their status.
      • Increase the number of refugees admitted into the United States
    • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforcement Departures (DED)
      • Allow all TPS and DED beneficiaries to adjust to permanent residency, and eventually a pathway to citizenship.
      • Ensure all TPS and DED beneficiaries are granted work authorization, public benefits such as health care, advance parole, and a process to acquire residency without having to leave the United States.
      • Allow TPS and DED beneficiaries to petition their children and immediate family members to adjust status.
    • Diversity Visas
      • Preserve the Diversity Visa system and oppose any efforts to compromise it.


  1. Expand immigrant benefits and supporting immigrant integration through:
    • Naturalization
      • Support the full integration of immigrants and refugees, including removal of barriers to naturalization and encourage broader civic participation.
        • Decrease or eliminate the residency and age requirements for translators for the civics exam.
        • Eliminate the English language requirements for naturalization - INA Section 312 (a)(1).
      • Worker Rights
        • Improve and strengthen avenues and protections for immigrant workers and their families to live and work in this country, along with a pathway to citizenship or simplification of the green card process.
        • Ensure that immigrant workers have the right to organize and collectively bargain without fear of retaliation.
  1. Ensure legal protections and civil liberties for immigrants through:
    • Access to Counsel
      • Ensure that all immigrants, regardless of legal status, are provided access to counsel if they are in detention or in the deportation process.
    • Protections for Immigrant Women
      • Ensure protections for immigrant survivors of abuse and violence, such as those under the protection of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
    • Restoring Judicial Discretion
      • Restore the judicial discretion of immigration judges through the repeal or amendment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).


  1. Oppose unfair and inhumane enforcement, detention, and deportation standards:
    • Criminality
      • Amend the retroactive status of IIRIRA.
      • Update the sentencing requirements triggering deportability for aggravated felonies and crimes of a moral turpitude.
      • Amend the definition of conviction to exclude expunged, deferred, annulled, invalidated, withheld, or vacated judgements.
    • Detention
      • Support alternatives to detention. Individuals who are not a flight risk or whose flight risk can be mitigated by an alternative to detention, including release on recognizance, community support, bond, or a formal monitoring program, should not be detained, regardless of available bed space.
      • Require that deportable immigrants whose country of origin does not have a repatriation agreement with the United States be provided an alternative to detention.
    • Enforcement
      • Reject enforcement-only approaches to immigration, including anti-immigrant proposals and initiatives that scapegoat refugees, separate families, or increase the vulnerability of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes.
      • Prohibit profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity in immigration enforcement, including in the DHS Secure Communities program.
      • Oppose tiers for enforcement, detention, and deportation that prioritizes one group of immigrants over another.
  1. Fund a just immigration system:
    • Department of Homeland Security
      • Reduce funding for DHS Denaturalization Task Force
      • Oppose funding to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for excessive detention, enforcement, and removal operations, including the transportation of unaccompanied minors.
      • Oppose funding for the hire of additional ICE or Border Patrol agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
      • Oppose any funding to maintain a minimum number of ICE detention beds.
      • Fund United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for naturalization services.
    • Department of Health and Human Services
      • Support the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program and increase funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.





  1. Improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities by:
  • Supporting adequate funding and opposing cuts for the following priority agencies/programs for AA and NHPI communities:
    • Office of Minority Health
    • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program
    • Federally Qualified Health Centers
  1. Advance health equity by:
  • Tackling barriers to access and quality of health care by passing:
    • The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA)
    • The HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act (HEAL)
  1. Protect AAPI access to healthcare by:
  • Opposing attempts to limit access to coverage, quality of coverage, and civil rights protections under the Affordable Care Act
  • Conducting Congressional oversight hearings and investigations.
  1. Protect the integrity of the Medicaid program by:
  • Fighting any attempt to cut funding or fundamentally alter the program.
  1. Recognize that the AAPI population is disproportionately impacted by Hepatitis B by:
  • Supporting funding for legislation aimed at addressing Hepatitis B, particularly support for a National Adult Hepatitis B Vaccination Campaign.
  1. Strengthen and reauthorize the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act:
  • This important law aims to address the disparate rates of death and illness amongst Native Hawaiians.
  • While numbers related to the health of Native Hawaiians are improving, this community continues to suffer from high mortality rates and significantly higher rates for chronic diseases compared to other groups nationally.
  • Native Hawaiians have higher prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, depression, adolescent suicide and other risky behaviors. Other social factors that impact Hawaiian health and well-being include high rates of incarceration, public assistance, unemployment, and low educational achievement.





  1. Support full funding for education programs that support and expand the educational opportunities for AAPI Students:
    • K-12 Programs including but not limited to: Title I (supports for historically underfunded schools that serve low-income students), Title II (grants to local and state educational agencies for educator professional development), Title III (state grants to support English Learners), Title IV (after school and summer learning programs), Title VI (Native Hawaiian Education Program).
    • Higher Education Programs including but not limited to: Title IV (Federal TRIO Programs, GEAR UP, AANAPISI), Pell Grants, Perkins CTE, and work study.
    • Adult Education Programs including but not limited to: Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014.


  1. Reinforcing implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):
    • Stakeholder Engagement: Ensuring meaningful outreach and engagement of all education stakeholders, including parents and educators, when it comes to important school decisions including but not limited to assessments, accountability measures, discipline, school closure and restructuring, supports of special student populations, etc.
    • School Climate: Enforce federal law that ensures all students to feel safe regardless of ethnicity, immigration status, gender or sexuality, language ability, and other protected classifications. Ensuring school officials are knowledgeable and able to reinforce federal civil rights protections of students.
    • Data Accessibility: Promote access to meaningful data on our communities that is accessible to community stakeholders. For example, incentivizing institutions to disaggregate data on education outcomes and enrollment for AAPI subgroups, using the decennial Census categories, at minimum, but including additional AAPI populations that reflect the local and state context. Also, ensuring technical assistance to local education agencies and state education agencies to cross tabulate student data as required by law.
    • Data Protection: Also, protect against misuse of data that could result in removal of students and families from an educational setting and/or the U.S.
    • Advancing Public Education: Ensure that there are adequate regulations that promote and advance public education for all students, as voucher and school choice programs tend to increase disparities by further concentrating poverty and/or removing funds from high poverty areas.


  1. Permanently authorize funding of minority-serving institutions
  • And ensure robust funding of AANAPISIs to meet the needs of AAPIs, the fastest-growing ethnic group


  1. Reauthorize Higher Education Act in a comprehensive package, particularly to take into account the priorities of AAPI students and families.
    • Strengthening Institutions that Support our Most Underserved Students and Communities:
      • Full funding for Minority Serving Institutions that support our community each fiscal year: 
        1. Fund Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions at $32 million.
        2. Fund AANAPISIs at $30 million.
      • Allow Minority Serving Institutions with dual designations to access federal grants to appropriately serve each community of students for which they have designation.
    • Increasing College Access to the country’s most marginalized, underserved students
      • Increase funding for college preparation programs that assist low-income students and students of color to gain access to higher education opportunities.
      • Require federally funded institutions to allow undocumented students to enroll with tuition prices that reflect state resident rates.
    • Improving College Affordability
      • Expand eligibility for federal financial aid to include non-traditional, part-time, formerly incarcerated, and undocumented students.
      • Increase the per student award for Pell Grants, matching inflation rates.
    • Supporting College Attainment
      • Require the collection of data at the institution level to assess the reasons for college dropout and/or students who fall behind schedule for on-time degree attainment.
      • Incentivize institutional support for non-academic services that support the ability for non-traditional and part-time students to persist in degree attainment.
    • Providing Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Access to Federal Financial Aid
      • Translate the FAFSA and other supporting documents into the top ten languages spoken by English learners in U.S. public schools.
      • Fund youth and family centered programming that engages diverse stakeholders on the topics of college access and affordability, financial aid, and post-secondary financing options.
    • Strengthening Data Access and Transparency
      • Incentivize institutions to disaggregate data on education outcomes and enrollment for Asian American & Pacific Islander subgroups, using the decennial Census categories, at minimum, but including additional AAPI populations that reflect the local and state context.
      • Improve public accessibility of and to data collected on student outcomes, including access to cross-tabulated data that would shine a light on equity issues within the institution.
    • Enforcing Civil Rights Protections
      • Provide stronger guidance and clear regulations on sexual assault and transgender students.
      • Expand non-discrimination policies to include admissions, employment, educational programs, athletics, student health insurance coverage, and gender-inclusive facilities.


Housing and Economic Justice

  1. Support funding and protections for policies that support expanding access to homeownership and housing finance through:
    • Linguistically and culturally appropriate homeownership assistance and counseling programs delivered by community organizations that assist potential and current homeowners in navigating mortgage transactions.
    • Defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so that it can continue enforcing strong consumer protections, ensuring the availability of fair and sustainable mortgages and other consumer products.
  • Enacting positive and equitable reform of Government Sponsored Entities (GSE) to ensure the availability of affordable and sustainable mortgage products to all qualified home buyers and owners.
  • Continue expansion of collecting disaggregated data on AAPIs on mortgage originations, successful loan modifications, refinances, principal reductions, short sales and other foreclosure prevention efforts.
  1. Strengthening and expanding protections in employment by:
    • Addressing discrimination in the workplace, including harassment based on sex, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability; prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; protecting older workers and pregnant workers against discrimination; and protecting women and people of color against pay discrimination:
    • Passing legislation that reflects the needs of the current and future workforce, including raising the minimum wage and expanding access to overtime pay, guaranteeing workers’ right to organize, and addressing work and family obligations, including providing paid family and medical leave for workers, access to paid sick days, and fair and predictable schedules.



  1. Support funding and protections for policies that support expanding access to affordable housing through:
  • Linguistically and culturally appropriate housing counseling programs delivered by community organizations that address fair housing, tenant’s rights, homeless/displacement counseling, and rental search and assistance.
  • Expanding and enforcing tenant protections for renters in hot markets.
  • The full and immediate capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund that will generate resources for the production, rehabilitation and preservation of rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low-income households.
  • Funding federal programs such as: the HOME Investment Partnership, Community Development Block Grant, Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, Section 202 elderly housing, public housing, and housing vouchers programs.
  1. Support small business and access to capital through:
  • Increasing federal funding and eligibility of United States Pacific Island territories for economic development programs to better serve AA & NHPIs, including the Community Services Block Grants, community development financial institutions (CDFI) fund, Small Business Association’s (SBA) Microloan Program, 7(a) and 504 guaranteed loan programs, Social Services Block Grants, the Office of Community Services’ Economic Discretionary grants, the Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals program, and the Workforce Investment Act program.
  • Establishing a set-aside within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Native Americans program to support the impact of the federal government’s plan to place 4,000 marines in Guam on the cultural, social and economic well-being of the Chamorro peoples.
  • Strengthening AAPI participation in public minority contracting programs like the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program and build a record of evidence that accurately depicts AA & NHPI participation in these programs and include technical assistance resources and other improvements to increase the economic and small business success of eligible AA & NHPI organizations.
  • Supporting increased federal funding for programs that support minority entrepreneurs, including the Minority Business Development Agency at the United States Department of Commerce and the SBA’s PRIME, Microloan and Women’s Business Centers programs.
  • Supporting access to capital for alternative financing entities such as community development corporations (CDCs), CDFIs, credit unions, and nonprofit loan funds to invest in small business and social ventures.
  • Supporting rural development and outreach programs that will assist AA & NHPIs enter the farming industry, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts, and the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.




The Asian American Pacific Islander community is rapidly growing and one of the most diverse groups in the country. This diversity, while a source of strength and vibrancy, also presents challenges when considering policy solutions. The federal government cannot assume a one-size-fits-all approach when considering the AAPI community, and as such, it must recognize that the challenges we face can vary greatly.


We appreciate the opportunity to share the perspectives of the AAPI community with you as you shape your legislative agenda. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact NCAPA National Director, Gregg Orton at [email protected]. Thank you for your consideration and we welcome opportunities to work together in the new Congress.







Gregg Orton

National Director

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 34 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.


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