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Barbara Lee, D-CA 9th
Ms. LEE. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his leadership of the Asian Pacific American Caucus and our tri-caucus, actually, because it is really a privilege to belong to the tri-caucus, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus. We join the gentleman today in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In my district, the Ninth Congressional District of California, the east bay of Northern California, Asian Pacific Americans have
long played a very crucial role in the life and in the history of the east bay and the region's identity has been deeply shaped by its place on the Pacific Rim. I am proud again to join him tonight in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The contributions to
our country by Asian Pacific Americans are numerous, and we are a much better country as a result. However, today Asian Americans confront a wide variety of challenges, including access to educational opportunities, language access issues, and health problems and disparities.
Specifically, I would just like to talk this evening about health care issues, immigration and civil liberties issues and about the work being done in my own district by the Asian Health Services organization and the Asian Law Caucus. Asian Health Services is a comprehensive community health center based in Oakland, California. It provides medical care, health education, insurance counseling, and client advocacy. They reach out into the underserved Asian and Pacific Islander population in Alameda
County. Its staff members offer its services in nine languages. They provide almost 60,000 medical visits to some 14,000 patients each year. And they are doing this on minimal resources. In the process, they are helping to tear down language and economic barriers that separate far too many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from quality health care.
As we all know, there are vast health disparities in this country. Asian and Pacific Americans are disproportionately affected by cancer and other serious diseases. Asian and Pacific Americans have a tuberculosis rate that is 15 times higher than that of whites. They have cervical and liver cancer rates that are five times the national average. These disparities we must erase, and we must commit ourselves to do that tonight as we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Recent immigrants also face many challenges from language barriers to medical bureaucracy. Organizations like Asian Health Services are helping their clients conquer their challenges through community outreach, education, and patient care. In recent years, AHS has also opened a very badly needed dental clinic. As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I want to salute the contributions tonight of the Asian Health Services. In this age of State and Federal budget deficits and Federal tax
cuts, their commitment is needed now more than ever. Immigrants are especially at risk during these perilous times.
As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I believe that it is very important to call to the attention of the country a hero for many of us who I am privileged to say lives in my district and is a constituent, Mr. Fred Korematsu. During World War II when thousands of Japanese Americans were unjustly interned in camps, Fred Korematsu refused to go and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Mr. Korematsu stood up not only for his own rights but for civil liberties for all of us.
Racial profiling really was not a word or a concept in 1942, but it was practiced with vengeance. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II represents one of the darkest chapters in our Nation's history. Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned not because of disloyalty, but because of ethnicity; and the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court all conspired in this act of fear and prejudice.
When Fred Korematsu took his case to the Supreme Court in 1944, the Court ruled in favor of the government and thus in favor of racism and oppression. But by exposing the truth, Fred Korematsu exposed for all of the world to see the utter hypocrisy of fighting for democracy abroad while rationing it here at home. And although it took many, many decades, Fred Korematsu finally won when President Reagan apologized for the internment and Congress finally offered compensation.
I am very proud to say that the Asian Law Caucus fought for Fred Korematsu as it has fought for many Asian Americans. For 31 years, the Asian Law Caucus has advanced the legal and civil rights of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Now those communities and our society unfortunately as a whole need that advocacy even more. As attorneys and as legal professionals, we need the skills and the energy and the commitment of lawyers associated with the Asian Law Caucus. Educational opportunities
and legal support services are both shrinking under this current administration.
The representation provided to hundreds of low-income clients and the advocacy of the caucus is really making an impact in both high-profile litigation and in the lives of families and individuals each and every day. By fighting for housing, fairness in employment, and the rights of seniors; by stopping unlawful evictions and helping immigrants navigate, and really they have to navigate, the citizenship process, the Asian Law Caucus is strengthening democracy and carrying out the legacies of
the civil rights movement of the last century.
So as a proud member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am proud to join with the gentleman from California (Mr. Honda) tonight to make sure that our entire country understands why we are celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Let [Page: H4237]
us make sure that we represent Asian Pacific Americans every month, each and every day as we develop our policies and our legislation that ensure liberty and justice for all.