Asian Americans Win Big In National, State and Local Elections

Posted on December 14th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Some 150 Americans of Asian cultures won impressive victories in the November 6 midterm elections at the federal, state and local levels – even making history along the way.

In the national races, Asian American lawmakers in the U.S. Congress handily won reelection, helping the Democratic Party retake the House of Representatives. Representatives Judy Chu, Ted Lieu, Doris Matsui, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, and Mark Takano, all Democrats in California, posted victories.

Other Democrats who cruised to reelection in the U.S. Congress were Representatives Bobby Cortez Scott (Virginia), Grace Meng (New York), Stephanie Murphy, a member of the Executive Board of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus or CAPAC, (Florida), Pramila Jayapal (Washington), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Illinois), and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).

Andy Kim (D) made history as New Jersey’s first Asian American Congressman in winning the tightly-contested race. In California’s 45th district, in another close race, CNN/CBSLA reported on November 16 that rising star Young Kim (R), who has led the vote tally since Election Night, has been overtaken by former Navy officer Gil Cisneros (D). Cisneros was leading by a mere1,000 votes, but the remaining votes are in Latino counties, which could favor Cisneros.

Kim would be the first Korean American woman to become a member of the U.S. Congress if elected. She is running for the seat left open by Ed Royce, who retired rather than run for reelection. She is a former staffer of Royce, who endorsed her candidacy.

In Hawaii, seasoned U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D) easily won reelection.

When the 116th U.S. Congress opens on January 3 next year, the nation will see a divided government in the legislative branch, and factor in the executive branch. Democrats will take control of the 435-member House of Representatives. Needing only 23 seats to retake the House, the Democrats are poised to win 39 seats.

The Republicans, who easily prevailed in the contest for the 100-seat Senate, also expanded their majority by two seats, probably three. The final tallies for both chambers are still up in the air. At press time, some races are still too close to call, or are subject to runoff or recount.

Political experts are already predicting gridlock in passing legislation. Mix in the 2020 presidential elections, and it gets more complicated. However, hope springs eternal, and there are the usual calls for both parties to work together in Congress, quite probably on infrastructure legislation.

Asian Americans Made History

“This election, Asian Americans made history,” the Democratic National Committee posted on its website on November 15.  The Asian American Action Fund (AAAFund), an American Democratic political action committee, ran this posting in its website, elated over the first-ever winning candidates and others who triumphed in the midterm elections.

AAAFund congratulated all its endorsees who ran for office last November 6, and noted significant wins, including Andy Kim as New Jersey’s first Asian American Congressman.

Remarked AAAFund Endorsements Co-Chair Irene Bueno: “The Asian American Action Fund board is incredibly proud of Andy Kim and the incoming elected officials, and we look forward to them representing our community well on issues including education, health care, the economy, and immigration. Their lived experiences add so much value to crafting policy and decision-making.”

Founded   in 1999,   AAAFund’s goal is “to increase the voice of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in every level of local, state and federal government in the U. S.”

The AAAFund congratulated other candidates who made history. Two immigrants became the first Asian Americans elected to New York State Senate. They are former New York City Comptroller John Liu (D), born in Taiwan, and Indian American attorney Kevin Thomas, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 10 years old, beat out Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon. In Connecticut, William Tong became the first Asian American to win a statewide office with his election as Attorney General.

Kentucky elected its first Indian American as state representative. Democrat Nima Kulkarni is an attorney and community activist who wants “to protect public education and fight for better healthcare.”

In other news, Lily Qi made history as “the first Chinese-born state legislator in Maryland” in her first foray in politics. She will represent District 15 in the General Assembly. Delegate-elect Qi joins a stellar group of other Asian American lawmakers: Kumar Barve, Mark Chang, Susan Lee, Kris Valderrama, Clarence Lam, Jay Jalisi and David Moon.

Vietnamese Americans

Madalene Mielke, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) President & CEO, congratulated “the Vietnamese American community, which has built strong representation in Southern California, Washington, and across the nation.”


CALIFORNIA: Xavier Nguyen, Westminster School District board; Khanh Nguyen, incumbent re-elected to Westminster School District board; Janet Nguyen, a California state senator 34th District was re-electedTyler Diep, vice mayor of Westminster elected to the 72nd Assembly district;


Michael Vo, Fountain Valley mayor who was re-elected to the City Council; Phat Bui, an incumbent re-elected to the Garden Grove City CouncilThu-Ha Nguyen, incumbent re-elected to the Garden Grove City CouncilLan Quoc Nguyen, Garden Grove school board memberDina Nguyen, a former Garden Grove council member re-elected to the Orange County Water Districtand Andrew Nguyen, a former Westminster School District board member elected to the Midway City Sanitary District board


WASHINGTON: Joe Nguyen, elected to State Senate, WA34 and My-Linh Thai, elected as state representative in the 41st legislative district


Hmong Candidates Elected to Office

APAICS expressed “special congratulations to the Hmong Community for electing 11 candidates to office in Minnesota, California, and across the nation!”


The 11 elected candidates are: Samantha Vang, MN House District 40B; APAICS Alumnus Jay Xiong, MN House District 67B; Kaohly Her, MN House District 64A; Tou Xiong, MN House District 53A; Fue Lee, MN House District 59A;  Adam Yang, MN Second Judicial District Court House 11 and P. Paul Yang, MN Second Judicial District Court House 20; Thai Vang, NC District Court 20A; Sheng Thao, Oakland, CA City Council, and Kou Thao, Tracy, MN City Council.


APAICS is “a national non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office.”



Advancing Justice/Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) Executive Director John Yang stressed that the victories of all Asian American candidates who ran in the midterm elections were at the national, state and local levels. “And that’s an important message to carry to the Asian American community,” he stressed. “Because we need to run for office at every level so we can reflect not only the diversity within our community, but also the diversity within our country.”


APAICS leader Mielke also noted this: “On behalf of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), I’d like to congratulate the extremely diverse spectrum of candidates from the Asian American Pacific Islander community that ran and won in the midterm elections.”


“We’re proud of the candidates that ran on local, state, and federal levels – whether they were elected or not,” she added. “At APAICS, we are working to build a government that represents the diversity in our country, and we’re getting closer each day.”


“APAICS would like to congratulate all the Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates that won their respective races, as well as those that ran strong campaigns,” she said.


Indeed, even those who ran and fell short deserved congratulations, said community leader Bing Branigin, noting their strong showing. She emailed on Nov. 7 that Filipino American Gina Ortiz Jones (D) nearly prevailed against incumbent Rep. Will Hurd (R, Texas). “In her first foray in politics, Gina was able to raise a staggering $2 million and what’s more, she almost toppled an incumbent,“ she pointed out. “We are proud of what she has achieved.”


Hurd won 49.1 percent of the vote (102, 903). Ortiz Jones won 48.8 percent (102, 214). Branigin also said Christopher Cabaldon won as Mayor of West Sacramento, in California 52%-48% against his opponent.


List of Asian American Winners

Below are the Federal, Statewide, and State office Asian American and Pacific Islander winners, 150 officially known at press time, listed alphabetically. For more details, visit



Jo-Ab M. Chung, Local 3rd district



Kimberly Yee

Amish Shah



U.S. Representatives Judy Chu, Doris Matsui, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Ted Lieu (APAICS Alumnus) and Mark Takano

Steve Ly

Betty Yee

Fiona Ma

David Chiu (D)

Robert Bonta

Phillip Ting

Kansen Chu

Ash Kalra

Evan Low

Vince Fong

Ed Chau

Sydney Kamlager-Dove

Phillip Chen

Al Muratsuchi

Steven S. Choi

Tyler Diep

Richard Pan

Janet Nguyen



William Tong

Tony Hwang



Stephanie Murphy

Anna Eskamani



Bee Nguyen

Sam Park

Sheikh Rahman



Lou Leon Guerrero

Michael San Nicolas



U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono

Governor David Ige

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Mark M. Nakashima

Richard H.K. Onishi

Joy San Buenaventura

Troy Hashimoto

Kyle T. Yamashita

Lynn DeCoite

Nadine Nakamura

James Kunane Tokioka

Dee Morikawa

Mark J. Hashem

Bertrand Kobayashi

Calvin K.Y. Say

*Scott Y. Nishimoto (APAICS Alumnus)

Tom Brower

Dale Kobayashi

Della Au Belatti

Sylvia Luke

Scott K. Saiki

Takashi Ohno

John M. Mizuno

Daniel Holt

Romy Cachola

Aaron Johanson

Linda Ichiyama

Sam Satoru Kong

Gregg Takayama

Roy M. Takumi

Val Okimoto

Ryan I. Yamane

Henry J.C. Aquino

Ty J.K. Cullen

Rida Cabanilla

Sharon Har

Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli

Cedric Asuega Gates

Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto

Sean Quinlan

Lisa Kitagawa

Scot Matayoshi

Noe Galea’i

Kaiali’i Kahele

Dru Kanuha

Lorraine R. Inouye

Jamie Kalani English

Sharon Moriwaki

Breene Harimoto

Clarence K. Nishihara

Michelle N. Kidani

Maile S.L. Shimabukuro

Jarrett Keohokalole



Susan “Sue” Chew



Raja Krishnamoorthi

Theresa Mah

Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

*Ram Villivalam (APAICS Alumnus)



Nima Kulkarni



Jay Jalisi

Lily Qi

Kumar Barve

David Moon

Kris Valderrama

Mark Chang

Clarence Lam

Susan Lee



Tackey Chan

Donald Wong

Tram Nguyen

Rady Mom

Sonia Chang-Diaz

Dean Tran



Padma Kuppa

Stephanie Chang



Tou Xiong

Fue Lee

Kaohly Her

Jay Xiong

Samantha Vang



Latha Mangipudi

Julie Radhakrishnan

Aboul Khan



Andy Kim



Jacky Rosen



U.S. Representative Grace Meng

Yuh-Line Niou

State Senator-elect Kevin Thomas

State Senator-elect John Liu

Ron Kim



Nasif Majeed

Jay Chaudhuri

Mujtaba Mohammed



Niraj Antani



Cyndi Munson



Patty Kim



Angie Chen Button

Gene Wu

Hubert Vo



Karen Kwan

Jani Iwamoto



U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott



U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal

Cindy Ryu

Mia Gregerson

Sharon Tomiko Santos

State Representative-elect My-Linh Thai

Vandana Slatter

Monica Jurado Stonier

State Senator-elect Joe Nguyen

Steve Hobbs

Manka Dhingra



Josh Kaul

With a new crop of Asian-American officials, Berkeley sets a new record

Posted on December 14th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Rashi Kesarwani, Rigel Robinson, Jenny Wong and James Chang: four newly elected representatives for Berkeley. Photos: Courtesy

When Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson sit down at the City Council dais tonight, it will be the first time in 41 years that there has been an Asian-American city councilmember in Berkeley.

The new representatives are just two of four recently elected Asian-American officials in Berkeley. James Chang was reelected in November to a second term on the Rent Stabilization Board. Jenny Wong was elected city auditor. Nicky Gonzáles Yuen, who lives in Berkeley, is a member of the Peralta Community College District board. He was last re-elected in 2016.

This appears to be the highest number of elected Asian-American officials serving Berkeley at one time. It also reflects the nationwide electoral gains of 2018 when there was a large bump in the number of women and people of color elected to office for the first time.

“This is significant and an important moment for Berkeley,” Wong, who moved to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was young, told Berkeleyside. “We need diversity in our leadership and representation.”

Wong added that she hoped her appointment would encourage other Asian Americans, as well as women, to run for office.

“I want people to be informed and involved.  Hopefully I can bring people in and they will become civically engaged,” she said.

The first and last Asian-American city councilwoman was Ying Lee, who served from 1973 to 1977. Lee, who emigrated from China with her family when she was 13, was elected as part of a coalition that was against the Vietnam War. Berkeley had citywide, not district, elections then.

There have been at least two other elected Asian-American politicians over the years:  Gene Roh, a Korean American probation officer, served on the Berkeley Unified School District Board from 1973 to 1977. Howard Chung was elected to the Rent Stabilization Board in 2006.

When Lee was elected, about nine to 11% of the Berkeley population was Asian, she said. Few people back in the 1970s used the term “Asian-American,” she said. People from South Asian, East Asia, and Southeast Asia were just known as Asians, she said. The largest groups were Chinese American and  Filipino Americans.

Berkeley’s population is now 19.7% Asian-American, according to U.S. Census figures. Whites make up 60.2% of the residents, Hispanics make up 11%, African Americans make up 8.6%, and Native Americans make up 0.5%.

Kesarwani, whose parents emigrated from India to southern California, and who refers to her background as South-Asian, said part of the reason so many Asian Americans were elected was the fact there were three open seats. Longtime City Council members Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington retired, as did City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan.

Kesarwani said not only did many Asian Americans run for office, people of other backgrounds did too. There were LBGTQ candidates, people who were gender queer, old and young office seekers.

“It speaks to the inclusive culture in Berkeley,” said Kesarwani. “People of marginal communities felt empowered to run.”

Diversity matters in all its forms, not just racial diversity, she said.

“I think it’s important for people with diverse backgrounds to shape public policy.”

By speaking badly about immigrants, Trump inadvertently pushed many political newbies to run, said Kesarwani. Both she and Wong got training in electoral politics through Emerge America, a program that assists women in running for political office.

“When the current president makes statements that are insulting to immigrant communities, it does light a fire in you,” she said. You think “It’s my country too and I have a right to run for office and to shape the decisions being made.”

Robinson, whose mother is Korean, said the election of four Asian Americans is “immense.”

“It’s really exciting,” he said. “It’s an Asian wave which is really beautiful to see in a city that’s as diverse as ours. Berkeley has a deep and rich history of Asian-American activism in the East Bay. The fact we haven’t seen that many Asian elected officials here, especially when such a big share of the population is Asian-American, is disappointing.”

The surge in diverse candidates winning so many seats in 2018 still has people talking, about now and future elections, said Robinson.

Chang, who identifies as Taiwanese American, said he was delighted that other Asian Americans now hold elected office.

“For the last four years, it’s been lonely being the only Asian American official in Berkeley,” he said. “It’s nice to see a 300% increase.”

Asian-Americans Sue New York City Over School Desegregation Plan

Posted on December 14th, 2018 by imprentacomm

A GROUP OF Asian-American parents, civil rights groups and a parent teacher organization are attempting to block changes to the admissions process for New York City’s competitive entrance exam schools that would make the schools more racially diverse.

The group filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan on Thursday against New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and Richard Carranza, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, arguing that the plan to reserve 20 percent of seats for low-income students who barely miss the cut-off score for admission discriminates against Asian-American children.

“We all have the American dream of equal opportunity,” Yi Fang Chen, who moved to the U.S. from China with her parents in 1996, said in a statement. “I was able to achieve what my parents came to this country for. But by using race preference to determine student enrollment at these excellent schools, it’s like the mayor is taking someone else’s dream away.”

At issue is access to the city’s vaunted eight specialized schools, which include nationally-recognized schools like Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Technical High School. Each year, the eight schools admit about 4,000 freshmen from a pool of nearly 30,000 eighth-graders who take the Specialized High School Admission Test. As it stands, students are admitted purely based on test scores.

A Community Divided

The schools are competitive, especially among low-income families, because they’re considered one of the only ways to access an elite education that virtually guarantees a pathway to college outside of enrolling in a private school.

But the schools are hyper-segregated: Asian-Americans make up 16 percent of the city’s public school population, but account for nearly 75 percent of students enrolled in Stuyvesant, for example, 66 percent of students at Bronx Science and 60 percent of students at Brooklyn Tech. Alternately, black and Latino students account for less than 11 percent of students in the specialized high schools despite accounting for more than 70 percent of students in New York City public schools on the whole.

In an effort to increase the diversity at the specialized high schools, the city operates what’s known as the Discovery Program, where low-income students who score high on the admission test but below the required cut-off can complete a summer program administered by the specialized high schools in order to gain admission.

Spots were offered based on availability and fewer than 6 percent of seats were awarded that way for the 2018-2019 school year, and it’s made virtually no impact on the racial makeup of the student body despite growing the program in recent years.

De Blasio has long called for the specialized schools to better reflect the city’s student population, and in one of his first major bids to do that, announced a plan to overhaul the Discovery program.

The new plan requires 20 percent of each specialized high schools’ incoming class would come from the Discovery program, an expansion that would come over the course of two years. The program would also be limited to certain middle schools where 60 percent or more of its students are poor.

When Snow and School Segregation Collide

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that many schools with large Asian-American student populations fall just below that 60 percent cutoff, and the new plan would render their students ineligible for the program, despite the fact that many of them are poor.

As it stands, 67 percent of students admitted through the Discovery program were Asian-Americans.

The plaintiffs argue that the new plan will effectively lock out Asian-Americans and restrict equal access to the specialized high schools of tens of thousands of poor Asian-American children who don’t live in the high-poverty school districts. Moreover, they consider the move the first step in a slow walk toward eliminating the exam altogether.

“Governments have no business fiddling with admissions requirements to public schools in order to obtain their desired racial balance,” said Chris Keiser, attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Asian-American parents, the Asian American Coalition for Education, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York, and a parent teacher organization of a high-performing public middle school in a low-income section of Brooklyn where almost two-thirds of students are Asian-American.

The Asian American Coalition for Education is also a plaintiff in the ongoing lawsuit against Harvard University, in which it’s also arguing the school’s race-conscious admissions policy discriminates against Asian-Americans.

Despite Successful Minority Stereotype, Asian-Americans Face Worse Retirement Crisis Than Whites

Posted on September 24th, 2018 by imprentacomm

America’s families face a looming retirement crisis and it is worse for Asian-Americans and other communities of color than for whites. Millions of Asian-Americans work in low paid jobs located in high priced communities, but without benefits. Older Asian-Americans rely more on public assistance than any other population groups. Income and wealth inequality among Asian-Americans have also been rising over the past three decades. Many low-income and middle-income Asian-Americans then face a more dire prospect in retirement than their white counterparts.

News reports and research items often portray Asian-Americans as economically successful and secure. Yes, many Asian-Americans have substantial income and wealth, similar to that of whites. But using one number such as an average or even a median obscures the tremendous economic diversity of the Asian-American community and leads observers to ignore the widespread hardships that many older Asian-Americans face.

Asian-Americans, as the fastest growing racial group in the country, are also a very diverse population with a large and possibly growing share facing economic hardships in retirement. Asian-Americans come from many different cultural, social and political backgrounds. Some came to the US for economic opportunities, others to join their families and yet others fled persecution, war and violence at home. These varied experiences contribute to large economic differences across groups. Moreover, some families have been in the US for generations, while a large share are recent immigrants. Each generation, even within the same cultural and ethnic group, arrives in the US under its own unique circumstances, facing obstacles and discrimination for some but also good job opportunities for others. Economic experiences – income and wealth – can thus be different within the same group. Policymakers interested in promoting measures for greater retirement security will do well to understand the diversity and struggles within the Asian-American community.

In fact, many older Asian-Americans already face substantial financial insecurity. For example, a larger share of older Asian-Americans, 65 years old and above, relied on public cash assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2014 — more than any other demographic group. In 2014, 12.6% of older Asian-Americans received some public cash assistance and it amounted on average to 9.0% of their income. In comparison, only 3.5% of older whites got some public cash assistance for an average of 1.7% of their income that year.

Even with this greater reliance on public cash assistance, poverty among older Asian-Americans was more pronounced than among white. One-in-seven, 14.7%, of Asian-Americans 65 years old and older lived in poverty in 2014, compared to only 8.7% of whites– a gap of nearly 70%.

The outlook is not good for Asian-Americans seeking a secure retirement. Income inequality has risen faster for Asian-Americans than for any other group from 1970 to 2016. By 2016, Asian-Americans in the top 10% of the income distribution earned 10.7 times the income of those in the bottom 10% of the income distribution. For whites, this ratio has also increased, but amounted to only 7.8 times in 2016.

The growth in the income disparity is partially due to decades of stagnation in income levels for Asian-Americans in the bottom income brackets. The incomes of Asian-Americans at the 10th percentile grew by only 11% from 1970 to 2016, which is equal to an annual increase of less than 0.3%. These gains are less than for any other racial, ethnic and income group. This slow growth of incomes at the bottom of the income scale results from more immigration and fewer opportunities to get ahead for people with limited resources  in the forms of education, savings and networks. Many new immigrants, especially from countries such as Myanmar and Bhutan end up working in low paying jobs with no benefits for long periods of time.

The lack of good labor market opportunities means that many Asian-Americans have fewer retirement benefits than is the case for whites. Looking only at families in the bottom of the income distribution, only 10.4% of Asian-Americans had a defined benefit (DB) pension from 2010 to 2016, compared to 34.9% of whites.

This massive gap in pension coverage is not offset by more savings in 401(k)s or IRAs for Asian-Americans. On the contrary, lower-income Asian-Americans were slightly less likely to have a retirement account from 2010 to 2016 – 32.5% compared to 33.1% for whites — and had smaller balances — $15,349 compared to $19,976 for whites . The likelihood of financial insecurity in old age will thus continue to be greater for Asian-Americans than for whites.

The term Asian-American captures a very diverse and dynamic community. Massive income and wealth inequality already reflect this diversity. Many older Asian-Americans already suffer in retirement and  this retirement income insecurity will get worse in the future

New York’s likely first Asian-American state senator

Posted on September 24th, 2018 by imprentacomm

ALBANY — John Liu, best known for his former role as New York City comptroller, is poised to become New York’s first Asian-American state senator.

It is something of a comeback for the trailblazing ex-city councilman, who ran for New York City mayor in 2013 and came in fourth place in that crowded Democratic primary after his campaign faced a fundraising scandal

Liu is accustomed to being the first, having already made history as the City’s first Asian-American Council member in 2002 and the first in his ethnic group to hold a citywide office, but he shrugs off the distinction.

“Yes, I’m the first Asian American, but as I often say, I wish I were the ninth or 10th,” Liu said. “I mean, for goodness sake, it’s 2018.”

Liu unseated Sen. Tony Avella, of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, in the September 13 primary, in a campaign fueled by the anti-IDC movement that took down six of the eight former breakaway Democrats. As the Democratic nominee, he must still take on Republican nominee Vickie Paladino in the overwhelmingly Democratic Queens district in November, but Liu said he is already undertaking his first battle: finding a caucus.

“When you are Asian American in government, even in 2018, you just have to build coalitions to get anything done,” Liu said. “You are in the minority of minorities.”

While caucuses have no formal power, the ability to vote as a block carries weight. Currently, there is a joint legislative Conference Of Black Senators, a Women’s Caucus, the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, and each chamber has its own Latino caucus/task force.

Liu, always the jokester, said he has already chatted with Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, about possibly joining the Latino Caucus.

“His reaction was a polite ‘hm.'” Liu said, laughing.

Liu’s quirky sense of humor sometimes makes it hard to tell how seriously he takes caucus membership. When “Asian” was added to the City Council minority caucus name to accommodate Liu, he said he petitioned to have the words listed alphabetically.

“It should really be the Asian, Black and Latino Caucus, right?” His idea to put Asians first didn’t pick up any support, he said.

Liu was born in Taiwan and moved to Queens as a child. He had a very successful career in City politics before becoming a municipal finance professor at Baruch College and Columbia University. He had previously challenged Avella for the 11th Senate district seat in 2014, but lost in the primary by 800 votes.

Liu’s move to state government is significant as it may give Asians the critical mass needed in Albany to influence the policy agenda. New York’s 1.8 million Asian-American population, while making up almost 10 percent of  the state’s residents, have long been underrepresented in government.

Ron Kim, a Korean American from Flushing, Queens, knows this well, having succeeded former Assemblywoman and now-Rep. Grace Meng in 2013. Meng’s father, Jimmy Meng, was elected to the same seat in 2004, becoming the first Asian-American member ever to serve in the Legislature.

Kim said joining the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian caucus has been the most effective way to have a voice in Albany.

“That’s the largest caucus in Albany and it holds the most influence and clout,” Kim said. “Finally we can have these conversations where minorities and ethnic groups are not pitted against each other, but can work together to make sure we all get a bigger piece of the pie.”

In 2017, the caucus of one grew to two. Kim and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who was elected to the lower Manhattan Assembly seat previously held my ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2016, formed the Asian Pacific American Task Force last year. They were granted an annual budget of $40,00 for staff and research on issues impacting Asian-American communities, though it may take a few years to get off the ground.

“Now that we would have another member on the Senate side, I believe we qualify to have a caucus,” Kim said. “It is still semantics at this point, but it is symbolic to have Asian Americans on both sides of the house.”

Liu’s primary win, he said, “is encouraging not just for Asian Americans, but all immigrants… hopefully it will signal to members of South Asian communities and Muslim communities communities that they too can run for office.”

Caucus or not, Liu says he has a few more ideas for building coalitions with fellow legislators. He received his pilot licence two years ago and plans to avoid the traffic and fly from New York City to Albany for weekly legislative sessions if elected this fall. Several of his likely future colleagues have already asked him for a lift, Liu said.

“Hey, if a plane ride can gain co-sponsorship on an important bill, why not?” he said.



‘Crazy Rich Asians’ box office success led to a massive spike in book sales

Posted on September 20th, 2018 by imprentacomm


NEW YORK — “Crazy Rich Asians” isn’t just a hit at the box office.

Kevin Kwan’s novel and its two follow-ups have sold 1.5 million copies this year, Knopf Doubleday announced Monday. “Crazy Rich Asians,” along with “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems,” have occupied the top three slots on The New York Times’ paperback fiction bestseller list.

Kwan’s trilogy is a rare bright spot for fiction in a year dominated by Trump-related nonfiction such as Bob Woodward’s “Fear.” The film version of “Crazy Rich Asians,” starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding, has made more than $140 million in the United States alone. It’s the first major film production in years to feature an Asian-led cast.

Imprenta Communications Group: Reaching Diverse Audiences Since Inception

Posted on September 20th, 2018 by imprentacomm



Communication is an art. In a world that grows smaller every day, the ability of a company to convey its message clearly to an increasingly diverse demographic is one of the bedrocks – and clear indicators – of success.

Transcending language is but a small part of the challenge; there is no substitute for genuine familiarity and an understanding of the myriad cultures that constitute a business’s potential audience and client base. In this challenging environment, more smart businesses are turning to Imprenta Communications Group. Where communication is the art, Imprenta is the artist.

Imprinting a New Approach

Operating out of California from Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco, Imprenta Communications Group, Inc. is a marketing and campaign strategy firm that focuses on connecting companies and causes with diverse ethnic and language communities.

By creating this nexus of communication between these two segments of society that have traditionally overlooked each other, Imprenta has unlocked a world of mutually-beneficial potential. It strives to enable clients to foster meaningful bonds with millions of people across the United States and across the world.

However, Imprenta does not work exclusively with enterprise. Instead, they are equally eager to empower candidates, causes, and initiatives to break the barriers that have consistently marginalized large swathes of the population.

By participating in and, indeed, driving this essential course correction, Imprenta has established itself as one of the U.S.’s most forward-thinking and powerful media influencers. In 2016 and 2015, Inc. 500 Magazine named it the “Fastest Growing Company in America” and Imprenta was ranked by L.A. Business Journal as the tenth largest PR firm in Los Angeles.

The term ‘seismic shift’ has a tendency to be overused. In the case of what Imprenta and its founder, Ronald W. Wong have achieved, though, it is entirely appropriate.

A Bedrock of Personal and Community Achievement 

Mr. Wong is one of the most prominent leaders in the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. Not only as an entrepreneur but also as a voice of the people, he has made significant contributions to the advancement of people of color and given them a platform to make their voices heard.

Today, Mr. Ronald Wong is the President and CEO of Imprenta Communications Group, which is a multi-million dollar entity. His role includes the development and implementation of marketing initiatives, communications strategies, and community outreach programs for the firm’s largest and most powerful clients.

While he established Imprenta in 2001, Mr. Wong’s role as an advocate for underrepresented communities precedes the new millennium by many years. He has spent over three decades helping Fortune 500 companies, government bodies, and elected officials with public relations, political, and communications strategies centered on reaching out to ethnic minorities.

Advocating for and protecting the ideals of communities of color has long been one of Mr. Wong’s main passions. He was involved in ethnocentric marketing even before Imprenta in his role as a founding partner at Lang, Murakawa & Wong, one of the first strategic communication PR firms in the U.S. that was wholly APA-owned.

Immediately prior to founding Imprenta, Mr. Wong served the state of California as the chief deputy appointments secretary to Governor Gray Davis for three years. In that time, he was instrumental in filling over 3,000 positions in the state’s administrative services, including commissions, boards, and exempt positions.

This was neither the first nor the most prominent position that Mr. Wong held in the public domain. He also collaborated with Speaker of the Legislature Willie Brown, State Senator Art Torres, L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman, and was a political appointee in President Clinton’s Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Services (CRS).

In 2012, he was part of President Obama’s Administration as a member of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Regulatory Fairness (RegFair) Board. Locally, Governor Davis appointed Mr. Wong to the L.A. County Metro Board of Directors and the Board of Governors for the California Community Colleges.

He is also the former co-chair of the Asian Business Association, and Secretary of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of Center of Asians United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE) and Member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Mr. Wong holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He also completed the Management Development for Entrepreneurs program at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Business. He was awarded the Sloan Foundation Fellowship at the University of Washington, Graduate School of Public Affairs.

These achievements have laid the foundation for Mr. Wong’s work at Imprenta, which has already garnered nearly 100 individual awards. He has guided the firm to recognition as Boutique Agency of the Year by Bulldog Reporter, as well as commendations for the design of creative ads and the execution of several successful campaigns.

In 2013, the Los Angeles Business Journal recognized him as the Asian Business Advocate of the Year and he was a semi-finalist for Ernest & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and 2016.

Mr. Wong’s efforts to draw the focus of both government and enterprise to the APA community has been honored by the California State Senate, State Assembly, Los Angeles City Council, Organization of Chinese Americans, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Chinese American Elected Officials, Asian Business Association, and the Organization of Chinese Americans, among many others.

The Journey and the Destination 

Mr. Wong reveals that one of the key factors to the success of his company is an unwavering commitment to its vision of giving a voice to communities of color. This focus does not only dictate how they approach a campaign but also how they choose which clients to work with.

However, Mr. Wong does point out that this adherence to the mission is malleable enough to adapt to the unique needs of clients and their intended audience. It is this versatile methodology that has made success a hallmark at Imprenta.

While the firm is certainly on an upward trajectory today, that was not the case when the company was established. Mr. Wong shares some of the hiccups they experienced. “The biggest challenge in our early years was to keep up with global markets and trends. We always aimed to compete on a global scale but that means that you constantly have to identify and adopt the newest services, techniques, and technologies together with staff who can address that need.” Rather introspectively, he also adds,

“Then, and even now, the biggest personal challenge has been my lack of understanding of millennials. I have an incredibly difficult time relating to, and understanding what drives them. It is a disconnect that I’ve tried to bridge for years, but perhaps I’m just too old.”

The teething stage has its pitfalls but Mr. Wong alludes to the reality that maintaining a stellar reputation is harder than establishing one.

“When you start, you have to prove yourself with every project and establish a trusted brand and reputation that is trusted. Then, clients expect you to deliver at the same level every day, every hour. Successes are minimized while failures are highlighted. Companies are remembered for the things they failed at, not for things they succeeded at.”

Sage Advice 

Entrepreneurial advice from an individual as personally accomplished as Mr. Wong is invaluable. When we asked him to share what he believed were the key principles to building and running a successful business, he summarized his views into five points:

  • Have a strong mission and stick to it 

Our mission has been the guiding principle that has allowed Imprenta to maintain its integrity as a team and as a brand. Sticking to one’s mission clears away the smoke and things are much clearer when the mission is immovable.

  • Find the right team 

I often ask staff at gatherings and retreats to raise their hand if they feel they are the best at what they do. I expect every hand to be up. Good teams are primarily about trust. We are all accountable and that means taking everything to the finish line, every time.

  • Know your role, master it, and stick to it 

A team works best when everyone stays in their lanes. Everyone should excel at their own role and minimize interference, regardless of intention, in anyone else’s. Deviation from that model throws a spanner in the works.

  • Deliver for your friends 

The strength of relationships forged over decades of trust is priceless. I tell all my staff to tend to clients’ needs, anticipate pitfalls, give informed advice, and make them look good at all times. This is how we treat our friends; when you deliver for your friends, they deliver for you.

  • Have fun 

Every new employee gets a manual affectionately called “The World According to Ron”. Part of what I outline there is that none of the work we do is worth it unless we have fun in the process. Work should not be perpetual toil. We relish our work and we relish our wins. Fun is what it’s all about.

Mr. Wong also touches on conflict management in the workplace. He has seen from experience that the bulk of such conflicts arise not from genuine hostility but a competitive streak.

“I am proud to have a competitive staff but competition can beget bad energy. They must remember that they are on the same team and their goals are the same. I think it’s a good idea to remind staff that we should not undercut each other to win the battle when the war is far from over.”

He personally seeks staff input and feedback because it reveals whether they are on the same page, their propensity for critical thinking, and an indication of how to nurture their potential. Mr. Wong encourages autonomy and relishes the order that emerges from the chaos when talented people are allowed to thrive.

The Climb Continues 

Many ethnically- and linguistically-isolated individuals tend to live within geographically-limited areas, and Imprenta is using technology to bridge that divide.

It has already begun to use proprietary digital ad technology that lowers investment cost and maximizes ROI for their clients. Part of this plan includes digital marketing campaigns with micro-targeting capabilities that narrow targeted ads down to one’s IP address.

Whereas an observer may say that Imprenta has almost reached the zenith of what is possible, Mr. Wong feels that they have barely scratched the surface of what they can accomplish as a team.

Source :-The 10 Most Creative PR Agencies 2018

The Layup Drill

Posted on September 11th, 2018 by imprentacomm

Welcome to another edition of the Layup Drill. In this edition, we take a look at the rising star of Washington football, Jordan Clarkson’s summer vacation, and a soccer star’s crucial game to determine his future.

All-American Rapp leads Dawgs Secondary

Taylor Rapp (Photo from Rapp’s Instagram)

The University of Washington football team began its 2018 season this month and has lofty expectations of a national championship. If the Huskies meet their goals, safety Taylor Rapp will be one of the big reasons why. Rapp, a pre-season Associated Press and Sports Illustrated All-American, is likely a first-round pick in the NFL and is one of the pillars of the defense.

Rapp grew up in Bellingham. His mother, who is Chinese, met his father while his dad was in Shanghai for work. The two moved to Toronto and then to Atlanta, where Rapp was born. They eventually moved to Bellingham, where Rapp and his brother were raised. His mother’s parents moved from China to live with the Rapps and helped raise him. That’s how he learned Mandarin.

But in Bellingham, the Asian population is small. He claimed that aside from his brother, he was the only Asian at his high school. He and his brother played football for Sehome High School.

Unlike most areas, Rapp’s high school did not embrace the “Friday Night Lights” of football, where the whole town comes to support the football team. Instead, Sehome football was a perennial loser and it was hard to field a football team due to the lack of interest. In addition, Rapp was taunted because of his race — he was called names and made fun of due to the shape of his eyes.

A Chinese American in the NFL is very rare. Several years ago, Ed Wang, an offensive lineman out of Virginia Tech, was drafted by the Raiders. He was the first Chinese American ever to be drafted. Wang’s career was short-lived, although he is now the president of the Chinese Arena Football League. Wang recalls not seeing another Chinese face playing with him or across the line from him. Wang’s brother also played football at Virginia Tech, but did not go on to the NFL.

As many Asian Americans that play sports these days, one of Rapp’s role models while growing up is NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin. The Harvard-educated point guard, who became a literal overnight sensation when he burst on the scene while playing for the New York Knicks, is a revered star among Asian American youths. Lin, who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks, recalls how other players would look down on him and discount his ability. Rapp believes this happens with him all the time.

At Washington, Rapp is one of the hardest hitting safeties in years. He was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on Defense. In the Pac-12 Championship game, Rapp made two interceptions, including one for a touchdown. His play earned him MVP of the Pac 12 Championship Game.

Not only is Rapp good on the field, he is doing well academically. In 2017, he gained acceptance into the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Only a junior, it would be a surprise if Rapp returns for his senior year at the UW. His size and ability make him a prime candidate to play in the NFL. Some NFL talent evaluators believe he may be one of the first at his position to be drafted, and may be a first-round pick.

Jordan Clarkson reps the Philippines at Asian Games

Jordan Clarkson (Photo from Clarkson’s Instagram)

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson was honored when he was asked to be the flag bearer for the Philippines during the Asian Games opening ceremonies. Clarkson, whose mother is Filipino, played for the national team in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Asian Games is similar to the Olympics — it is an exhibition of different sports amongst Asian countries. Like the Olympics, it occurs every four years.

The 26-year-old compared being the flag bearer to the NBA Finals he played in this past June, when the Cavaliers came up short against the Golden State Warriors.

“It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in my career, in my life,” Clarkson said in a recent interview.

Clarkson was given a one-time exemption to play with the Philippines, thanks to the NBA and the International Basketball Federation. In general, current NBA players are not allowed to play. Initially, the NBA prevented Clarkson’s participation. There was social media pressure from Filipino fans who wanted him to play.

Clarkson, who was traded to Cleveland from the Los Angeles Lakers last year, was the star for the Philippines National Basketball Team. He was a focal point for most countries that faced Team Philippines. Although Clarkson’s presence helped the team, they ended up finishing 5th in the men’s tournament and missed out on a medal. Nevertheless, Clarkson had the experience of a lifetime.

The inclusion for Clarkson to play in the Asian Games was more than just an attempt to get a good player to bolster a country’s efforts to win. Clarkson has embraced the Filipino fans who have rallied around him since he entered the NBA. When I interviewed him several years ago with the Lakers, Clarkson did not know too much about the rabid base of Filipino fans. He’s embraced them, as well as his Filipino culture. It’s a great testament to how sports can open up different worlds for people.

Win and South Korean soccer star can forgo draft

Son Heung-min (Photo from Son’s Instagram)

As Jordan Clarkson enjoyed his experience at the Asian Games, South Korean soccer player Son Heung-min faced at choice: helping his team win the gold-medal match against Japan or head to the military. Son, who plays for the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, may be required to serve two years of mandatory service in South Korea’s military.

South Korean males must serve 21 months in the military before the age of 30. The 26-year-old cannot delay his service beyond the age of 27. However, the law also allows athletes to discount their time from service if they bring home top prizes at international sports competitions. Exemptions are given for winning any medal at the Olympics or a gold at the Asian Games. With a win against Japan, Son will be able to complete his service to the military in a relative short span with just a month of basic military training and then community service.

The draft does not discriminate even if you are a high-level athlete. UFC fighter Chan Sung Jung had to depart his career to serve in the military for two years. Jung returned to action after his two years away and won his first fight back. However, Jung was away from the sport of mixed martial arts for almost three years in the prime of his career.

Son’s fans have lobbied the South Korean government to ease the draft commitment for him. One fan went so much as to volunteer himself to serve in Son’s place. That is a very dedicated fan.

From an outsider’s perspective, the South Korean law seems to be a remnant of the Cold War to keep its country ready in the event of international or domestic conflict. It does build pride in the country, but also disrupts young people in the midst of their careers.

New generation of Asian-American women are fighting to normalize mental health treatment

Posted on September 11th, 2018 by imprentacomm

When Kristina Wong’s mother told her if anyone finds out she went to therapy she would never be able to get a job, it became crystal clear just how taboo discussions of mental health were in her family.

“That made it clear that my joy had a monetary value, and it was that shameful to go about seeking help or even talking to someone about your problems,” Wong, a third-generation Chinese-American, told “GMA.” That mentality reflects a broader sentiment within the Asian American community.

PHOTO: A still from Kristina Wong’s “Boss Lady” music video shot in Gulu, Uganda.K. Levis
A still from Kristina Wong’s “Boss Lady” music video shot in Gulu, Uganda.

While Asian-Americans have a lower reported rate of psychiatric disorders and suicide compared to Caucasians within the U.S., they are three times less likely to seek mental health help, according to the data collected by the National Latino and Asian American Study.

There are a number of reasons why, according to experts. Discussing mental health concerns is “taboo” in a variety of Asian-American communities where seeking help is stigmatized, explained Koko Nishi, a licensed psychologist on the counseling staff at San Diego State University. As a result, many Asian Americans often dismiss, deny or neglect their symptoms.

I remember my parents saying, ‘We know you need to go to therapy. We will pay for it, but we’re not comfortable talking about it at home.’

The idea that a person can be hampered by something that can’t be seen by the naked eye is unacceptable in some Asian cultures, Nishi said.

“There’s a lot of shame involved,” especially among elderly Asian-Americans who are afraid of losing face, said Wesley Mukoyama, a clinical social worker and former director for Yu Ai Kai, a senior center for Japanese-Americans.

Even though Asian-Americans, who came as immigrants and refugees and are at higher risk of depression and suicide due to trauma from their past, when they do seek help, they often report the physical symptoms that are results of psychological problems, according to Nishi.

That’s why organizations like Yu Ai Kai focus on less traditional treatments, ones that don’t require residents to directly address their feelings, Mukoyama said.

With 59 percent of all Asian-Americans born in a different country, according to Pew, language barriers, cultural stigma and lack of understanding of mental health resources are factors that contribute to the issue as well.

Many come from countries without accessible mental health care and in certain cultures some of the terms for mental health don’t even exist in the language, said Nishi.

There is a word, however, for shame in the Filipino language called “hiya.”

It’s a “particular kind of shame” when one has failed to live a “happy and harmonious life” that is in conjunction with society’s norms and expectations, Tess Paras, a Filipino-American actress and writer, told “Good Morning America.”

3 Asian-American women share their stories to combat stigma

Years ago, Paras said she was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and was sexually assaulted, leading to depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Paras said she felt more comfortable calling friends, or a crisis hotline, than she did approaching her own parents, who emigrated from the Philippines.

PHOTO: Actress Tess Paras.Genevieve Marie
Actress Tess Paras.

“I remember my parents saying, ‘We know you need to go to therapy. We will pay for it, but we’re not comfortable talking about it at home,’” Paras recalled.

There is a deafening silence in her family surrounding the subject of mental health.

It’s a silence Emily Wu Truong also knew all too well.

Growing up, Truong, a Taiwanese-American, started to experience feelings of depression and isolation when her family moved from Arkansas to California. She wasn’t able to articulate her feelings as she was taught sharing problems will bring shame to oneself and one’s family.

Throughout the years, she continued to keep her struggles and emotions bottled up well into adulthood.

At one point, Truong said she told her family she wanted to end her life, but her family told her that she “was selfish for thinking that way.”

Truong was eventually diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and in 2013 she had a mental breakdown. After finally finding a center offering affordable therapy options, she began to work with organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Recovery International and Each Mind Matters as a public speaker to raise awareness.

PHOTO: Emily Wu Truong, speaks at a National Alliance on Mental Illness presentation at Temple City Library in Temple City, Calif.Courtesy Emily Wu Truong
Emily Wu Truong, speaks at a National Alliance on Mental Illness presentation at Temple City Library in Temple City, Calif.

For Wong, she first started feeling depressed when she was pressured to excel in Chinese school and carried guilt because she couldn’t communicate with her grandparents.

Her grandparents, who supported her family, spent all their time working in a butcher shop and raised the family to deal with things “by not talking about it,” she said.

She hid her feelings from her family for years before seeking out a therapist, all the while isolating herself from her Chinese-American community because people shunned talk about anything that might be perceived as weakness.

Shining a light on mental health in their own ways

Now as a comedian and performance artist, Wong decided to take mental health right to the stage.

In her one woman comedy show, “Wong Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which she toured for eight years, Wong explored the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian-American women.

In the show, Wong used the “dramatic arc of fiction” to point out the danger in the fictional narrative Asian American women are fed about what their lives are supposed to look like. After her character failed to save these women, she has a mental breakdown on stage.

Paras also dove into her experience with mental health, but through a different comedic vehicle – music.

After Paras ended a relationship with someone who was also going through depression, one of her writing partners from Quick and Funny Musicals suggested using her breakup as inspiration for their new music video, which had to be “Frozen”-themed.

In the video, they said they tried to make fun of certain aspects of depression “in order to have a laugh” and open up a conversation, Paras said.

“It really means a lot when I post this video then I get some Filipina teens who are experiencing this and saying ‘I needed this’ I’m not able to talk about this at home either,’” Paras recalled.

Wong recounted similar responses to her show when people who have also struggled with depression and attempts at suicide reached out to her.

“I was just like, ‘where were you when I was in high school?’ Where were any of us? Why do we have to sit on our pain and try to save face?” Wong exclaimed.

A reason why many Asian-Americans feel the need to “save face” and avoid confronting their mental illness is possibly due in part to the misperception that Asian-Americans do not have such needs, Nishi told “Good Morning America” — a fallacy fueled by the model minority myth.

It’s a myth that perpetuates the image that Asian-Americans represent the positive qualities that all immigrants or minorities should have in order to assimilate.

Having lived the unrealistic social and familial expectations, Paras is well aware of the stereotype.

“Asian America is not a monolithic thing — it’s filled with all kinds of nuanced experiences and stories that are not widely represented, and mental health is a huge part of that.”

And that’s why Truong, who often dresses head-to-toe in lime green, a color for mental health awareness, works hard to dismantle those myths.

Over the past five years, Truong has spoken in numerous venues and at events, helped facilitate mental health programs and last year pushed to establish May 10 as as Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day in Los Angeles County.

She saw this being done in other cities and by asking for recognition in her own community she hoped to shine a light on people’s struggles but more importantly their resilience.

“I want to share my story and let people know they’re not alone,” Truong said.

Through her experience working at various colleges, Nishi has seen a shift towards awareness of mental health resources among young Asian-Americans. She also noticed many students “are going against the grain of what they were taught growing up about mental wellness” and are focusing more on self-care.

Being able to talk about these issues is the first step, Paras said, as she and others like Wong and Truong continue to incorporate their stories in their creative work to bring awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health.

“The more we talk about this issue the more we can normalize this topic the more we talk about it then it’s not such a scary topic to talk about,” Truong said.

If you or anyone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386

DOJ sides with Asian-American students in affirmative action suit against Harvard University

Posted on September 5th, 2018 by imprentacomm

The Department of Justice sided with Asian-American students and their families Thursday in a lawsuit alleging that Harvard University discriminates based on race in its admissions process. The case, Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President And Fellows Of Harvard College, was brought to the District Court in Massachusetts by students and parents who believe that the prestigious university’s admissions process negatively impacts Asian-American applicants.

The families brought the lawsuit under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.” Since Harvard receives millions in federal funding, the Justice Department weighed in with a statement of interest in the case.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, “No American should be denied admission to school because of their race. As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements.” 

An official for the Department of Justice said that admissions officers for the university admitted in depositions that race does play a factor in admissions, though they do not explain how. The university measures the strength of applicants by giving them a subjective “personal rating.” Admissions officers weigh factors like “human qualities” and “likeability” in the rating. A review of this practice showed that Asian-Americans rate lower than white applicants, as well as other minorities.

Harvard University said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” with the DOJ’s decision, claiming it was “recycling the same misleading and hollow arguments that prove nothing more than the emptiness of the case against Harvard.”

“This decision is not surprising given the highly irregular investigation the DOJ has engaged in thus far, and its recent action to repeal Obama-era guidelines on the consideration of race in admissions. Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years. Colleges and universities must have the freedom and flexibility to create the diverse communities that are vital to the learning experience of every student, and Harvard is proud to stand with the many organizations and individuals who are filing briefs in support of this position today.”

The Department of Justice finds that there is ample evidence to show that Harvard has had consistently diverse demographics over the past few years because it has directly controlled the racial makeup of incoming classes. According to the DOJ, the Supreme Court has found such actions to be “patently unconstitutional.”

The department also says that over the past 45 years, Harvard has never sought any alternative means to come up with a diverse group of incoming students.

The civil rights division of DOJ has filed a brief in the case in opposition to Harvard’s motion for a summary judgment. A summary judgment would allow the court to rule that the other party has no case, so the suit would not go before a jury trial. The trial in this case is scheduled for October.

A Justice Department official denied any allegation that the administration is averse to helping secure diversity in university admissions.

“The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people,” Sessions said. “This case is significant because the admissions policies at our colleges and universities are important and must be conducted lawfully.”