May 10, 2018
Advancing Transparency, Equity, and Accountability for California in 2018
It’s been a busy year for civil rights non-profits. Despite the president’s efforts to stymie us, we’ve been fully engaged in driving reform across a broad range of policy arenas, and at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, a joint project of Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, we’re getting ready to take on the second half of our 2018 policy agenda.
Our priority issues cover a lot of ground. We selected them based on strict criteria to ensure our efforts are focused on policies critical to Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities throughout the state. We’re working to promote a transparent, equitable, and accountable future for California, and we hope you’ll join us in asking our representatives to support these four key efforts.
Here’s what we’re fighting for in the 2018 legislative session:
1. AB 2291 (Chiu): School Bullying
Co-Sponsors: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, Advancement Project California, Council on American Islamic Relations – California, and Equality California
Schools are meant to be safe environments where students and educators can focus on learning, teaching, and developing California’s next generation of leadership. Bullying and harassment disrupt that process and instead turn these institutions into sites of fear and discrimination. We believe that schools have a responsibility to guarantee that educators and staff are adequately equipped to combat bullying and harassment on school campuses.
Under current law, the California Department of Education (CDE) is required to develop an online training module on the dynamics of bullying and cyberbullying. AB 2291 would expand these efforts to:
- Require public schools to share this training module with certificated staff and all other school employees that interact with students every year;
- Require CDE to post this online training module along with other available online trainings to its website; and
- Direct local educational agencies to adopt procedures for preventing acts of bullying.
Bullying isn’t an isolated issue, nor does it affect individuals alone. Every student will benefit from prevention measures against discrimination and harassment, leaving our children free to focus on school’s real purpose: education.
2. AB 2845 (Bonta): Pardon and Commutation Reform Act of 2018
Co-Sponsors: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, Asian Prisoners Support Committee, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, PICO California, Root and Rebound, and Youth Justice Coalition
With a sharp increase in immigration arrests under the Trump administration, many of those seeking gubernatorial pardons are trying to obtain potential relief from deportation. Individuals with convictions may spend years turning their lives around to become productive and law-abiding members of our communities, only to face the risk of return to countries where they have few or no ties – in many instances, places where they have never even set foot in. For such individuals, pardons are the last available option.
AB 2845 aims to depoliticize and increase transparency in the pardon and commutation process. The bill would establish a Pardon and Commutation Panel to:
- Make recommendations on applications for pardons and commutations to the Governor’s office;
- Develop a timeline for recommendations on pardon requests, including an expedited process for urgent requests like those with pending deportation orders; and
- Provide notice to applicants upon receipt of the pardon application, throughout the investigation process, and upon issuance of a recommendation.
AB 2845 would also:
- Allow individuals to apply for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, a court order declaring that a person convicted of a crime is rehabilitated, in the county where the person resides or was convicted.
- Make it unlawful for an employer with 5 or more employees to consider, distribute, or disseminate information related to conviction history in the employment application of individuals that have been pardoned or received a Certificate of Rehabilitation.
This country was founded on principles of opportunity and equity. Unfortunately, we too often forget about those who have had their opportunities withheld, even after they’ve demonstrated their commitment to our communities. AB 2845 is a chance to give everyone the fair shot they deserve.
3. Census 2020: Increased Funding for 2020 Census Planning and Outreach
Census Policy Advocacy Network (CPAN) Partners: Advancement Project California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, California Association of Nonprofits, California Calls, California Native Vote Project, Children Now, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Council on American Islamic Relations – California, Disability Rights California, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Equality California, Housing California, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, and PICO California
Traditionally, certain populations in our nation have been disproportionately undercounted in the decennial census. These populations include but are not limited to: Black Americans, Asian Americans, Latinxs, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) people, low-income communities, children, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people who are homeless. As a result, countless individuals have been denied an equal voice in our government and many communities continue to be underfunded for schools, crime prevention, health care, and transportation.
Because of the considerable social and economic diversity among the AANHPI community, one-fifth of Asian Americans and one-third of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live in hard-to-count census tracts. Notwithstanding the many challenges AANHPIs already face in census participation, our community faces several obstacles that could further deter AANHPIs from participating in the 2020 Census, including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ directive to add an untested and unnecessary question regarding citizenship status to the 2020 Census form.
Expanding outreach for the 2020 Census is critical to ensure the inclusion of all communities, particularly those who have been historically undercounted. Governor Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal allocates $40.3 million for a statewide 2020 Census outreach program, but we believe that the state can and should do more to achieve an accurate count, especially of Californians who are difficult for the Census Bureau to enumerate.
We’re working with partner organizations in the Census Policy Advocacy Network to advocate the legislature for additional funding for 2020 Census outreach and planning, specifically for funding to community-based organizations. We believe working with these groups is the best way to improve the accuracy of the 2020 Census, as community organizations are trusted messengers and leaders who have the knowledge and expertise to meaningfully engage with hard-to-reach populations and ensure our communities are counted.
4. Health for All Adults: Full-Scope Medi-Cal for Low-Income Undocumented Adults
Partners: Health for All Coalition
Working with our partners in the Health for All Coalition, Advancing Justice – CA is engaging in budget advocacy to expand full scope Medi-Cal to undocumented adults who meet the 138% Federal Poverty Level income eligibility criteria. Making Medi-Cal inclusive of all income-eligible Californians builds on our state’s leadership in advancing universal coverage and ensures that Californians are not unjustly denied access to health care due to their immigration status. Recently, the Assembly announced a major budget package on health care reform that includes a proposal to extend Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults ages 19-25. The Assembly took an important step towards long-term goal of removing unjust exclusions to health care, but we need to do more to ensure coverage for those most in need, including older adults.
Our state can continue to champion bold and inclusive policies that challenge xenophobic policies by the president and support a health care system that works for everyone. This can be accomplished – today – without the need for federal approval. We’re also proud to support SB 974 (Lara) and AB 2965 (Arambula), which remove the immigration status eligibility exclusion from full-scope Medi-Cal for undocumented Californians.
Investing in Health4All is an investment in the health of our state, as immigrants make up a fundamental part of our workforce and communities. By removing this discriminatory eligibility barrier to Medi-Cal, we bring California closer to ensuring that all low-income Californians have access to comprehensive and accessible care, regardless of immigration status.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California is honored to work alongside strong coalition partners in developing these policy priorities: we know that community-building is key to achieving meaningful solutions at a time when the country feels more divided than ever.
We hope that you’ll join us in our efforts to expand health services, improve schools, protect immigrant communities, and ensure a complete 2020 Census count. Send a letter to your representative today urging them to support our 2018 legislative priorities as we fight for a more transparent, equitable, and accountable California.