Quyen Dinh and SEARAC – Giving voice to the Southeast Asian American community and its economic security concerns

Quyen picA conversation with Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

May was AAPI Heritage Month and this year’s theme was “I Am Beyond.” It is a phrase meant to evoke the rich and complex diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. What does AAPI Heritage mean to you personally and as the ED of SEARAC?

I grew up in Orange County, California, and San Jose, California, homes to two of the largest Vietnamese American communities in the nation. Growing up in these communities to me meant seeing a lot of Asian faces everyday everywhere: at school, at the grocery store, at the library, and driving down the street looking at cars passing by. So for me, every day was a celebration of Asian Americans being integrated in local communities. I didn’t know that AAPI heritage month existed. I got to live AAPI heritage month every day if what AAPI heritage means is celebration of AAPI culture and identity. Read More

As Parents Age, Asian-Americans Struggle to Obey a Cultural Code

This article by Tanzina Vega originally appeared in the New York Times

Savan Mok, a home health aide, assisting Oun Oy, 90, right, who had a stroke in 2012. Ms. Oy is from Cambodia and lives in Jenkintown, Pa., with her son and his wife, at rear. Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

Savan Mok, a home health aide, assisting Oun Oy, 90, right, who had a stroke in 2012. Ms. Oy is from Cambodia and lives in Jenkintown, Pa., with her son and his wife, at rear. Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

SOUDERTON, Pa. — Two thick blankets wrapped in a cloth tie lay near a pillow on the red leather sofa in Phuong Lu’s living room. Doanh Nguyen, Ms. Lu’s 81-year-old mother, had prepared the blankets for a trip she wanted to take. “She’s ready to go to Vietnam,” Ms. Lu said.

But Ms. Nguyen would not be leaving. The doors were locked from the inside to prevent her from going anywhere — not into the snow that had coated the ground that day outside Ms. Lu’s suburban Philadelphia home, and certainly not to her home country, Vietnam. Read More

Deportation: A Human Rights Issue

Deporting Americans: A Community United Against Deportations

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece entitled “Caught in the Deportation Machine …” about how deportation affects elders – both those who are detained and deported, and those who suffer trauma from losing children or grandchildren. This photo montage, “Deporting Americans,” was created in Philadelphia by 1Love Movement when the tight Cambodian American community in that city was hit by a deportation crisis. Dozens of Cambodian folks with green cards, including Chally Dang and Mout Iv, were suddenly rounded up because of old convictions. Many had been rebuilding their lives for years after making the mistakes that had originally made them deportable. Many left behind U.S. citizen children, parents, and grandparents. Entire neighborhoods were devastated. Read More

Caught in the Deportation Machine: Elders, Family Separation, and Immigration Reform

This year, the Obama administration will surpass the 2 million mark – this is, it will have deported 2 million people since 2008, more than any other administration in history. The largest numbers of people being deported are those without legal status, but many Green card holders are also among the 2 million deportees. Since 1998, over 13,000 Southeast Asians (from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) have been deported, including many Green card holders who arrived in the U.S. decades ago as refugees fleeing war and genocide. The majority of those deported are under the age of 35, but many elders also get caught in the deportation machine. Even more elders who remain in the U.S. suffer emotionally and financially when their adult children are taken away.

Despite official Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance that agents should not “expend detention resources” on those who are elderly, many immigrant elders are detained and deported. According to information gathered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Immigrant Defense Project, and Families for Freedom, between 2005 and 2010 the New York City ICE Field Office apprehended 1,275 noncitizens over the age of 55, and of these, at least 141 were subject to mandatory detention. Seniors struggle more than most in detention – they are more likely to be Limited English Proficient, and are more likely to suffer from health problems and dementia.

Huyen Thi Nguyen, an elderly Vietnamese woman, was detained in an immigration detention center for 16 months after serving her sentence for cash-for-food stamp fraud. She continues to fight her deportation, while suffering from mild dementia. Claudette Hubbard escaped LGBT violence in Jamaica in 1973 and became a U.S. Green card holder. She has been detained by ICE for over two years because of a 20-year-old conviction from a drug charge, even though she has fully rehabilitated and is mother and grandmother to U.S. citizens.

Claudette Hubbard with her U.S. citizen daughter and granddaughters

Claudette Hubbard with her U.S. citizen daughter and granddaughters

Read More

Not All Asians Are the Same: Diversity within the AAPI Older Adult Population

When our nation talks about Asian Americans, it often groups together people from different cultures and those who speak different languages. Someone from China faces different challenges than a refugee from Cambodia, yet research typically wouldn’t show this. As a group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are the fastest growing population in the United States. Despite the large and rapidly growing population, research and data on AAPI elders is limited and often presented in aggregate (i.e. grouped together). Aggregate data belies the diversity and the challenges faced within the AAPI older adult population.

The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) recently published five reports that paint a fuller and more accurate picture of the challenges many APPI older adults face. The reports divide the population into three groups (aged 55 & older, aged 55-64, and aged 65 & older) and highlight the language, economic, and employment characteristics of AAPI elders. NAPCA used publically available sources from various government agencies, and disaggregated (or separated) the data to better depict the realities of the AAPI older adult population (55+). See an example below.

Percent Below Poverty Level

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates

Demystifying the “Model Minority” Stereotype Read More

Addressing the Needs of LGBT Hispanic Older Adults in the U.S

Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair

Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair

With the rapid growth of our diverse population, our country is becoming more beautiful than ever. But unfortunately, there are still some groups that are not well understood by the nation’s service providers, or by local, state and federal governments. One of those groups is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) older adults. And in order to better understand the reality of this diverse community, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) conducted an analysis through a literature review, focus groups (one was held at The SAGE Center; SAGE is fellow member organization of the Diverse Elders Coalition) and in-depth interviews with LGBT Hispanic older adults, including the service providers who work with them. Read More

Untold stories of Asian & Pacific Islander LGBT Elders: “I think the need to be accepted overcame their need to be themselves.”

Three things to know as May ends and we look towards June:

  1. May is Older Americans Month.
  2. It’s also Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
  3. And I work for the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults.

So, what does this mean?

Well, for me, it made me really think: What are the stories being told about older LGBT AAPI people? Are they even being told? Outside of the amazing George Takei, I can’t think of another prominent openly gay Asian American older person. Can you?

I am Puerto Rican, gay and not yet 30 years old, so the stories of older LGBT AAPI people are not my personal story. Therefore, it was important that I find individuals who could tell and share these stories… And that was difficult. Read More

Immigration Reform Moves Forward! Now, We Need Your Stories!!

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

Thank you to everyone who called your Senators to tell them to vote NO to deportation based only on suspected gang membership and NO on detaining immigrants in deportation proceedings indefinitely. Your voice made a difference! The Grassley amendment on gangs FAILED thanks in part to your advocacy, and Senator Grassley chose NOT to put forward his amendment on indefinite detention. Thank you for helping to protect basic human rights and due process in our immigration system! Read More

Immigration Reform: Reducing Barriers to Naturalization for Older Immigrants

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

The Senate recently introduced a bill on immigration reform. The bill is extensive, and covers many issues. Here, we wanted to highlight a few provisions on naturalization for older immigrants.

The bill includes promising pieces on reducing barriers to naturalization for older immigrants. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are more than 5 million immigrants over the age of 65 in the United States. Immigration reform presents a new opportunity—the best in years—to allow older new Americans to fully participate in American society and life, legally as well as civically.

Read More

Immigration Reform: Key Issues for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) works with many organizations advocating for immigration reform.  However, not many advocates are considering the effect reform could have on older adults.  I am happy that NHCOA was able to partner with the National Council on Aging and Caring Across Generations to develop the issue brief Immigration Reform: Key Issues for Older Adults and People with Disabilities.  Aging advocates have a large role to play in immigration reform and this resource will help inform them on the varying issues faced by older people and people with disabilities.

Read the full issue brief here.

And don’t forget to come back on Wednesday April 10, right here on diverseelders.org as NHCOA’s president Dr. Yanira Cruz will blog about Immigration Reform and Politics in an Aging America.

Five Reflections on Advocacy with Southeast Asian American Elders

“Will immigration reform help me reunite with my grandchildren?”

 “My husband passed from cancer I wish there were more support services.”

 “We want to take care of our family in harmony.”

An elder at Cannon House Office Building

An elder at Cannon House Office Building

On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 60 youth and elders spoke up with these comments and questions. SEARAC, alongside the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, held an advocacy day where the group met with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the federal agencies, and Congressional offices in Washington, DC.

It was incredibly inspiring this week to see elders speaking up, with local impact through the group of Cambodian-American elders we hosted, as well national as I followed coverage of the Supreme Court arguments on United States v. Windsor. Check out our fellow DEC partner SAGE’s blog for more great insights on the issue and more about Edie’s own amazing story.

The week isn’t even over yet, but I wanted to contribute five reflections on advocacy with Southeast Asian American elders: Read More

The Re-launch is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced that we would be re-launching the Diverse Elders Coalition Blog.  Read here to find out more.

We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers.  We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.

You can bookmark this page or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated. Check back on Wednesday to read our latest post, courtesy of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). Until then, enjoy some highlights from the blog’s history:

1) Watch Our Story

2) The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

3) 10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

We are Re-launching On March 18!

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.

In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18.  Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:

  • In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
  • Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
  • More news and original content from coalition members
  • And more!

 

As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.

See you on the 18th!

To learn more about DEC members, click here.

10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

Effective outreach begins with a plan and developing a plan requires research. Yet, anyone trying to develop an outreach plan for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Latinos can quickly feel as if he or she is hitting one brick wall after another—there is simply a lack of resources dedicated to this community.  Sure, you may be able to find strategies on how-to engage seniors, LGBT youth or the Latino population at large, but these strategies do not speak to the unique experiences and challenges faced by older LGBT Latinos.

For those of you whose organizations are trying to better engage this community, you may simply need a place to start. You may wonder, “What are the most effective outreach techniques to reach Older LGBT Latinos?” As the former Outreach Coordinator for SAGE Harlem (a program for LGBT older adults serving a significant Latino population), I have asked myself the same question. Through trial and error, I have been able to identify the top ten considerations for working with the diversity of older LGBT Latinos.

Read More

Interview with Chum Awi from the Chin community in Burma

SEARAC provides technical assistance to a number of Burmese and Bhutanese community organizations in the US to build strong, local ethnic community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. For this blog post, we interviewed Chum Awi, a key leader and elder in the Chin community, an ethnic minority from Burma. Chum is based out of Lewisville, Texas and works with the Chin Community of Lewisville. Read More

Celebrating Grandparents Day

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

In anticipation of Grandparents Day, which is September 9, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center is celebrating elders through our “Grandparent Wisdom Project.” In recognition of the wonderful contribution of grandparents—and all elders—to our families and communities, we are asking individuals to submit photos of important elders in their lives and share with us what their elders have taught them.

Read More

In-Language Assistance and AAPI Elders

BY SCOTT PECK, DIRECTOR OF POLICY, NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC CENTER ON AGING

One of the most difficult challenges of low-income AAPI elders is the ability to access programs and services designed for their specific needs.  Critical is the ability to access in-language assistance to elders who are limited-English-proficient (LEP).  Limited English proficiency has profound effects on AAPI elders to access essential services and understand their rights and obligations.

For example:

A 2007 study conducted by the National Senior Citizens Law Center found that foreign language translators that assist with health plan inquiries, as required of health plan sponsors by law, were only able to serve limited English proficient AAPI beneficiaries in their primary language 37% of the time

Read More

Reflections on Social Security from a Young Person

Earlier this summer, I participated in the National Academy of Social Insurance’s seminar for young people, “Demystfying Social Security.” It was a great experience to engage with summer interns and learn from other young people on the Social Security program, and it’s reaffirmed my deep appreciation for Social Security as a key tenet of the our social safety net.

Social Security is so often thought of as a program for the elderly and those who are retired. But as a young person who hopes to be able to retire one day, I am struck by the broad impact of the program to reach nearly every American at every age, every income level, able-bodied as well as differently-abled. More than 6.5 million American children receive family income from Social Security. Specifically, more than 1 million children are kept out of poverty from Social Security benefits. And, unfortunately, a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching the normal retirement age, making Social Security Disability Income an important asset.

Much of the negative press around Social Security has accused the program of running out of money, paying out poor returns, and being an overall poor investment. In actuality, Social Security is incredibly stable. Social Security is fully financed until 2033, and even if Congress takes no action, Social Security will still be able to pay about 85% of obligations until 2086. If the future still seems uncertain, refer to Social Security’s track record: it has never missed a payment since its inception in 1935, and has consistently paid out benefits on time and in full. Social Security has outlasted wartime turmoil, Wall Street booms and busts, and political fluctuations. But most importantly, Social Security is insurance that has been there to support individual Americans through our personal life events.

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‘Elders Support Families in Economic, Emotional, and Spiritual Ways’

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

My grandmother helped raised almost all of the grandchildren in our family at some point or another. My grandmother had nine children and because my family came to the United States as refugees, most of our parents had to work multiple jobs. My parents, aunts, and uncles were grateful to have her support.  At the federal level, we separate the issues of elders from the rest of the population in policy discussions. Sometimes, those issues are even pitted against each other, and we are made to think that providing for elders means that there is less for young people. On the ground in communities, however, the lives and well-being of elders are closely intertwined to the well-being of communities and families. Like my grandmother, elders support families in economic, emotional, and spiritual ways.  And yet, their contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated.  Southeast Asian American elders, have become invisible to the mainstream.

As they age, many Southeast Asian American elders (who arrived as refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) face numerous barriers and challenges to attaining long term care. As a community, over 90% of Southeast Asian Americans 65 and older in California live in family households, as opposed to institutional alternatives.  There are limited services that allow elders to remain in their own homes, and there are even fewer opportunities for culturally and linguistically-specific services that would support the independence and living choices of elders. SEARAC works toward ensuring that there is adequate and stable funding and resources for programs that support elders who choose to maintain independent lifestyles in their homes and their communities and to ensure that provisions of the Affordable Care Act preserve and improve existing community-based and in-home care programs. Additionally, SEARAC works to ensure that aging policies address language access provisions and culturally specific needs of elders so that English language learners have access to vital information and resources.

Read More