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Asian American Civil Rights Groups Applaud Exclusion of Harmful Amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023

December 8, 2022 News

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Asian American Civil Rights Groups Applaud Exclusion of Harmful Amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Asian American civil rights groups applaud the exclusion of Senate Amendment #5810, the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY23. Introduced by Senator Rob Portman, this amendment would have had long standing impacts and ramifications for the broader Asian American and immigrant communities, particularly those of Chinese descent. If included, this amendment would have criminalized disclosures on federal grant applications and subjected immigrants, scientists, researchers and their families to imprisonment, steep civil fines, immigrant visa restrictions, and enduring damage.

A coalition of Asian American organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC (Advancing Justice – AAJC), Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus), Asian American Federal Employees for Nondiscrimination (AAFEN), APA Justice, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, and United Chinese Americans (UCA) took action to oppose this amendment and object to its inclusion in the NDAA or any other future legislation. Supported by dozens of other immigrant rights groups, Asian American advocates, and professional organizations, the coalition submitted a formal letter to the offices of House Speaker Pelosi, House Minority Leader McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

“We commend the exclusion of this harmful amendment to the proposed NDAA. If adopted, the bill would have perpetuated further harm against the Asian American and immigrant community at a time when systemic racism, and anti-Asian hate are still prevalent in our society,” said John C. Yang, the President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice – AAJC. “Even now, Asian American and immigrant scientists, researchers, and scholars, particularly of Chinese descent, face unjust investigations and prosecutions. Advancing Justice – AAJC vows to remain vigilant against all forms of racial profiling, surveillance, and overcriminalization of issues related to research integrity and national security.”

Gisela Perez Kusakawa, Executive Director of AASF
said, “We are very pleased that Congress listened to the concerns from our communities and did not include this harmful amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act. By opposing this amendment, Asian American Scholar Forum sought to provide a voice to the many academics, researchers, and scholars who reached out to us concerned about the consequences of this amendment on the scientific and academic community, particularly Asian Americans and immigrants. The amendment would have further criminalized Asian Americans and immigrants in this country who are living in fear of retaliation and scapegoating as they try to simply do their jobs and participate in routine academic activities at their institutions. AASF captured these fears in a report that shows that a growing number of Chinese American academics have left the U.S. as a result of fear of conducting routine research and academic activities in the current environment. Our communities should not have to live with the worry of being discriminated against and we all must work toward a more inclusive environment for all.”

"Following a surge of community advocacy and concern, the Justice Department announced an end to the controversial China Initiative in February, an important step to ending the profiling of Asians, Asian Americans, and immigrants on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion,” said Hammad Alam, Staff Attorney and National Security & Civil Rights Program Manager at Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. “In the NDAA or any other legislation, Congress should continue to reject any harmful language that would deny admission or revoke visas of Chinese nationals and others based on innuendo, bad information, and racial targeting. Such language would not only prevent the DOJ from dismantling the initiative but also reestablish its harmful and biased tactics. We're calling on members of Congress to continue to reject any legislative language that subjects Asian American communities to discrimination and profiling that only serves to increase our lived experiences of racism and hate violence.”

"We are relieved that the ill-advised Portman Amendment 5810 failed to be added to the FY 2023 NDAA. It would have targeted persons based on race and national origin, especially scientists of Asian descent and specifically Chinese origin. The amendment would irreparably harm American leadership in science and technology." said Dr. Jeremy Wu, Co-organizer of Asian Pacific American Justice Task Force.

Gregg Orton, National Director of NCAPA
stated, “As a coalition of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) organizations, who have been advocating to combat anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, we commend the work that was done to ensure this harmful amendment was not included in the NDAA. Congress got it right in this case that U.S. China policy must be carefully considered and not result in driving narratives that put targets on the backs of Asian Americans.”

"Harmful rhetoric that demonizes groups of people by race and ethnicity does not advance our national security interests,” said Linda Ng, OCA National President. “We can do better as we face the real challenges in the national security realm."

"United Chinese Americans represents thousands of Chinese Americans across the country who have faced rising hate over the past decade, heightened scrutiny, and unjust prosecutions in our own country. Although we commend that this harmful amendment was not included in the NDAA, we remain deeply concerned with the ongoing criminalization of Chinese Americans and immigrants that is exemplified in attempts by those in power to legislate provisions that would result in racial bias and bigotry against Chinese American communities. For far too long the burden for change and prevention of these harmful provisions have been on our shoulders. We call on our policymakers and allies to fight against anti-Chinese sentiment and hate against our communities in all its various forms and iterations," said Haipei Shue, President of UCA.

Read the letter to Congressional leadership.