2005 to 2008 was a tumultuous time for the immigrant rights community. In 2005, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Border Protection, Ant-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. This legislation would not only criminalize undocumented immigrants but those who helped them including teachers, religious leaders and community organizations. This racist and xenophobic effort catalyzed the marching and organizing of millions of immigrants, labor union members, faith leaders and allies around the United States for immigrant rights. Serious negotiations in Congress to pass just and humane Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation that would potentially provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants began. Then, in 2007, Illinois U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced his bid for the U.S. Presidency. All of these events inspired the formation, programs and activities of the NAKASEC Action Fund. During its first year, NAKASEC Action Fund outreached to over 20,000 community members through a “Immigrant Justice Dollar Per Person Campaign.” This campaign facilitated year-round active education, participation and leadership of AAPI immigrant community members in community forums, town halls, legislative visits, and mobilizations to Washington DC.
Moreover, historically Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have the lowest voter registration and turn out rates. In addition to community organizing, public policy advocacy and grassroots leadership development towards strengthening and diversifying the immigrant justice movement, NAKASEC Action Fund also views civic engagement as a key strategy towards building AAPI progressive power at the local and federal levels. For example, in 2019 in Virginia, a state that now has the fifth largest Korean American population and one of the fastest growing AAPI communities in the country, NAKASEC Action Fund was able to recruit and train 24 AAPI volunteers who canvassed 7,231(out of 13,485 attempts), texted 500 and sent 4,131 bilingual (Korean English) mailings across 8 districts. Through these efforts, NAKASEC Action Fund was able to educate the community about in-state tuition and drivers licenses for all. Some of the community members NAKASEC Action Fund had engaged participated in NAKASEC and NAKASEC Action Fund’s ongoing campaign around these issues. As a result of NAKASEC Action Fund’s and other coalition members’ organizing and advocacy, in-state tuition for the undocumented and drivers card privileges were signed into state law this year.