Divest from Institutions of Hate; Invest in the HEROES Act
In light of the tragedies of the past few weeks, we the undersigned Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations write to express concerns about the United States’ continuing investments in institutions of hatred. Investments in domestic and overseas militarization have culminated in serious harms against immigrants and communities of color, compounded by the simultaneous lack of investment in our most vulnerable communities. As immigrants and communities of color, we look towards your office in leading the United States Congress to divest from institutions that perpetuate hate, and invest in our communities, notably by ensuring the passage of the HEROES Act in the U.S. Senate and legislating the #WeAreEssential policy platform.
- Divest from Institutions of Hate
The murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other unnamed Black individuals reinforce the urgency of divesting from institutions that perpetuate hate against immigrants and communities of color, including law and immigration enforcement agencies. As Asian Americans and immigrants, we recognize our collective work and responsibility to support and follow the leadership of Black communities during this time, and fight in solidarity against institutionalized racism. In addition to asking you vote “YES” on Senator Schatz’ “End Military Equipment Transfers to Police Act” that would defund the 1033 program, we uplift the following demands from the Movement for Black Lives:
- A reallocation of funds at the federal, state and local level from policing and incarceration (JAG, COPS, VOCA) to long-term safety strategies such as education, local restorative justice services, and employment programs.
- The retroactive decriminalization, immediate release and record expungement of all drug related offenses and prostitution, and reparations for the devastating impact of the “war on drugs” and criminalization of prostitution, including a reinvestment of the resulting savings and revenue into restorative services, mental health services, job programs and other programs supporting those impacted by the sex and drug trade.
- Real, meaningful, and equitable universal health care that guarantees: proximity to nearby comprehensive health centers, culturally competent services for all people, specific services for queer, gender nonconforming, and trans people, full bodily autonomy, full reproductive services, mental health services, paid parental leave, and comprehensive quality child and elder care.
- A cut in military expenditures and a reallocation of those funds to invest in domestic infrastructure and community well-being.
These demands mirror our immigrant communities’ longstanding demands to divest from a detention system that has expanded by 60% in just over three years and skyrocketed from 1994 to 2019 in the number of detained individuals by over 600%. The Defund Hate Coalition, which advocates for divestment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), stated: “The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and far too many others were a result of the country’s decision to prioritize the militarization of law enforcement agencies over investments in the health, economic security, and wellbeing of Black communities. These are the same choices that have led to the deaths of dozens of immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.” The crisis that the country is facing in this moment demonstrates the exigency of divesting from overly militarized law and immigration enforcement agencies, including by defunding the 1033 program through a “YES” vote on Senator Schatz’ “End Military Equipment Transfers to Police Act.”
The Movement for Black Lives’ fourth demand is particularly salient in this moment that the U.S. Senate is considering a $38 billion allocation to Israel (S. 3176) for defense and security purposes. This expenditure is lofty and wasteful, considering we are in a global pandemic and undocumented individuals in the United States are excluded from almost all forms of relief. As immigrants and people of color, we oppose this untimely, insensitive, and improper use of taxpayer dollars that sends significant resources abroad at a time when the U.S. should be taking care of its own residents.
- Invest in Our Communities; Pass the HEROES Act
The time has come for Congress to invest in our communities. In addition to legislating the Movement of Black Lives’ demands for community investment, the U.S. Senate must support the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) Act, which passed the House of Representatives on May 15, 2020. As the fastest rising group of immigrants, we Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders realize firsthand the urgency of the #WeAreEssential policy platform, including:
- Direct Economic Stimulus to All Workers, Including ITIN Filers and Dependents
- Expand Access to Testing and Treatment for COVID-19
- Expand Eligibility to Unemployment Insurance for All Workers, Regardless of Immigration Status
- Automatically Extend Work Permits and Status for Immigrants with Employment Authorization
- Suspend Immigration Enforcement and Release Immigrants from Detention
- Suspend the Implementation of the Public Charge Rule
Your office can take the following concrete actions to support our communities:
- Lead the passage of the HEROES Act in the U.S. Senate
- Lead the inclusion of the Movement for Black Lives’ demands in legislation concerning policing and law enforcement
- Vote “YES” on “End Military Equipment Transfers to Police Act” sponsored by Sen. Schatz
- Vote “NO” on “ United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020” (S. 3176)
Our lives are at stake, as people of color and immigrants. We will no longer stand for the allocation of taxpayer money to institutions that perpetuate hate, such as domestic and overseas militarization projects that harm our communities. Namely, Congress has a moral and fiscal responsibility to defund law and immigration enforcement, defund the 1033 program, and stop the transfer of $38 billion abroad at a time when the U.S. should be taking care of its own residents. We call instead for financial investment in our communities- Our undocumented communities, consisting of 11 million individuals in this country, have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and excluded from almost all forms of congressional relief thus far. Now more than ever, as we are suffering from a global pandemic and racial crisis, the time has come for Congress to reorganize its priorities and show its solidarity for all people of color and immigrants. As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we call upon your office to be a leader in divesting from institutions of hate and investing in our communities.
If you have any questions or need further information, please feel free to contact Michelle Liang, Policy & Communications Associate (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium. Please find attached copies of the legislation referenced in this letter.