SEARAC Responds to President Biden’s Build Back Better Framework

For Immediate Release:
November 2, 2021

Media contact:
Jenna McDavid
Communications and Development Manager
Washington, DC – On Oct. 28, President Biden released his Build Back Better framework. SEARAC welcomes the many initiatives that would improve the lives of Southeast Asian Americans. In particular, SEARAC supports the following education, health, and immigration related proposals:

While SEARAC is pleased with the BBB framework, we are disappointed that the framework excludes debt-free two year college; decreases homecare support from the original $400 billion proposal to $150 billion; excludes dental and vision from Medicaid expansion; and does not include lower prescription drug pricing.

“President Biden’s Build Back Better framework is a significant step forward in addressing many of the challenges faced by Southeast Asian Americans,” said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC. “This plan will improve care provided to our elders and their ability to access culturally and linguistically appropriate services, while increasing support for their caregivers. Likewise, the education investments would increase the ability of our students to access higher education while also supporting efforts to diversify our nation’s teachers. As Congress continues to negotiate the text for Build Back Better, we urge our elected officials to include language providing citizenship to as many immigrants as possible while also including language that will decrease the years-long wait many Asian Americans endure while their family members languish in the family visa backlog. We remain committed to working with the White House and Congress to pass a bill that will significantly improve the lives of Southeast Asian Americans.”

The House Rules Committee recently released the text of the bill, and the House is expected to vote on the bill this week. Additionally, the bill is expected to reach the Senate floor by late November.


UPDATE 11/3/2021: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated today that Paid Family and Medical Leave will be included in the Build Back Better framework. Additionally, Speaker Pelosi shared the following yesterday regarding lowering prescription drug costs: “Democrats will deliver strong drug price negotiations to lower prices for our seniors and halt Big Pharma’s outrageous price hikes above inflation, not just for seniors but for all Americans. For seniors, we have also reduced out-of-pocket co-pays and created a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit for seniors’ expenses in Medicare Part D.”

2022 ACA Open Enrollment Period Begins!

Nov. 1 marks the beginning of the 2022 Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare marketplace open enrollment period. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the United States, SEARAC encourages uninsured individuals and those seeking to renew or change their healthcare coverage, to enroll as soon as you are able. Residents of most states can enroll at If you live in one of the below states, you should enroll through your state’s marketplace:
If you are concerned about the financial costs of coverage, you and your family may qualify for tax credits that can reduce insurance premiums. can give you an estimate of the financial support available to you and your family.
If you have questions about signing up or want to talk through your options with a trained professional, you can visit the federal marketplace website or make a one-on-one appointment for free assistance.
You can reference our FAQs for more information regarding ACA and Covered CA enrollment, including eligibility requirements and state enrollment deadlines.

SEARAC Statement on the Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Header photo by Fibonacci Blue

For immediate release
October 27, 2020
Media contact:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970
Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52-48 along mostly party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) as the sole Republican no vote. SEARAC denounces this rushed confirmation process, which occurred just eight days before the election, and at a time when more than 60 million people have already cast their votes.

With COVID-19 currently reaching new daily record numbers of cases in the United States and more than 200,000 lives lost, it is shameful that Senate Republicans would prioritize a rushed confirmation of Justice Barrett to the Supreme Court rather than a much-needed financial aid package for the millions of Americans who are feeling the impacts of this pandemic. Further, Justice Barrett’s confirmation occurring so close to the election flies in the face of statements made previously by Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and others, who declared that they would not vote on Judge Merrick Garland in 2016.

In addition to our concerns about the process of this confirmation, SEARAC also opposes Justice Barrett’s confirmation because of her ideology. “The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court threatens civil rights in this country for a generation,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of SEARAC. “Her previous decisions all signal her willingness to rule regressively on immigration, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ issues, and the Affordable Care Act in the highest court of the land. Southeast Asian Americans will be profoundly impacted by her confirmation, and we are heartbroken over this process and this confirmation vote.”

We share our communities’ rage, grief, and anxiety around this confirmation, but we urge action: by voting in the 2020 election, we can ensure that our representatives in Congress and in the White House reflect the will of Southeast Asian Americans.

Honoring Marny Xiong’s Legacy in Our Fight for Culturally Competent Healthcare

By Kham S. Moua

COVID-19 has killed over 220,000 Americans, including my cousin. At 31, Marny had just started her tenure as Chair of the Saint Paul School Board. She was intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious, but most of all, she was kind and compassionate. While I was often a wallflower, Marny always dazzled the room. At family reunions and community gatherings, she would easily maneuver between Hmong and English, bring the young and the old together in conversation, and discuss why our communities needed to work within and without to progress the rights of all students. 

In the days leading up to her death, she was a shell of her former self. She could not speak or laugh; the only sounds emitting from the screens of our laptops were the cries of our family and the humming of the ventilator breathing for her. Her death devastated my family. Marny and her father were admitted to the emergency room at separate hospitals on the same day, and while he survived, my uncle continues to experience complications from the virus. His COVID-19 treatment cost over $200,000. While his health insurance covered his treatment, many uninsured Americans will survive this pandemic, endure prolonged health effects, and face an insurmountable financial hurdle. 

On Nov. 10, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in California v. Texas, a case seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) led by 20 Republican state attorney generals with the backing of the Trump Administration. If the Court decides to repeal the ACA, 20 million people will lose their health insurance, and millions more will be at risk of losing or being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, which may eventually encompass COVID-19. 

According to the Census Bureau, the uninsured population in the United States increased from 8.9% in 2018 to 9.2% in 2019, meaning an additional one million people became uninsured last year. Similarly, the uninsured Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese population also increased in 2019, with a 0.8% uptick among Cambodians, 0.6% among Hmong, and 1% among Vietnamese Americans. In spite of this data and the pandemic, the Administration continues to support the repeal of the ACA. Officials even shortened the open enrollment period for 2021 from 90 days to 45 days, which opens on Nov. 1 and ends on Dec. 15, 2020. This pandemic has taught us that our country needs to protect the ACA and expand healthcare access, not strip insurance from millions of people. 

Isolated, unable to speak English, and recovering from a speech impediment due to a prior stroke, our grandmother could barely ask for water and couldn’t even request food or to use the restroom. We created spreadsheets and staggered video calls to make sure that someone who spoke English and could understand Hmong was always present.

However, for Southeast Asian and other minority communities, increasing healthcare access alone is not enough. Culturally and linguistically competent care is also necessary to ensure that our communities thrive. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, 32% of Southeast Asian Americans are limited English proficient (LEP), while only 8% of the general US population is LEP. It’s imperative that our healthcare services have robust language access support.

While Marny’s family prepared for her funeral, our grandmother was also hospitalized for COVID-19. To my family’s pleasant surprise, she survived. But because of her condition, she was transferred to one of two hospice care centers in the Twin Cities that accepted COVID-19 positive patients. There was no Hmong interpreter provided. Isolated, unable to speak English, and recovering from a speech impediment due to a prior stroke, our grandmother could barely ask for water and couldn’t even request food or to use the restroom. We created spreadsheets and staggered video calls to make sure that someone who spoke English and could understand Hmong was always present. My extended family and I were online with her from the moment she woke until she fell asleep. We weren’t allowed to properly grieve the loss of Marny before being forced to move on because our systems are not properly designed to help LEP and minority patients. 

That is why Congress must move beyond just expanding healthcare but ensure that our healthcare services are culturally and linguistically competent. Supporting the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2020 in the House and Senate is a start. HEAA would create more support for in-language services so that other families do not have to simultaneously be victim, survivor, and interpreter in times of crises. The bill would also disaggregate health racial data, allowing more targeted support of communities affected by specific illnesses. 

This pandemic has irreparably harmed my family. I will never hear Marny laugh again or share another drink with her as we discuss the educational needs of Southeast Asian students. When I return to Minnesota, I will be greeted only by the empty seat that should have been reserved for her. But I know that if she were still alive, she would say that it is unconscionable for Senate leadership to prioritize a Supreme Court nominee to dismantle the ACA instead of providing COVID-19 relief to Americans. But she is not, so we must speak in her place and preserve her memory, not in our words, but in our actions and bend the arc of justice toward a more just and equitable future for everyone. 


Kham Moua is SEARAC’s Director of National Policy. Email him at



1 According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, current federal support for COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured individuals do not provide “comprehensive access and protection from high medical bills as traditional insurance.”

SEARAC Condemns Operation Rise and ICE Arrests in California

For immediate release
October 9, 2020
Media contact:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970
Sacramento, CA – On Oct. 7, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that 128 arrests were made in three California cities after a week-long operation targeting jurisdictions that uphold the state’s sanctuary policies. California’s sanctuary laws limit cooperation between law enforcement agencies and ICE, and they have prompted major, politically motivated ICE operations just weeks before the presidential election. Sheriff’s departments in California have a long history of collaboration with ICE, including allowing ICE officers access to jails to question those imprisoned and publicly releasing the names and release dates of inmates who have served their time in order for ICE to make an arrest.
Most of the 128 arrests were community members with old criminal convictions or simply pending charges. These arrests have a profound impact on the targets and their families and put community members at severe health risks, as unsanitary and inhumane ICE detention facilities continue to foster the spread of COVID-19 and more recently, reports of forced sterilization of immigrant women and hysterectomies without consentIn a criminal legal system that disproportionately targets communities of color in policing, incarceration, and immigration detention, many immigrant and refugee families continue to live their lives in fear of incarceration trauma, health risks, deportation, and family separation.
In the United States, Southeast Asian American (SEAA) communities are 3 to 4 times more likely to be deported for past convictions than any other immigrant group. Eighty percent of the more than 17,000 SEAA deportation orders are linked to old criminal records. Nearly 1 million SEAAs live in California, many of whom came from refugee and immigrant families that fled war, genocide, and persecution, holding intergenerational trauma and resettling into areas of concentrated poverty that led to criminalization. SEAA and other immigrant communities continue to be deeply impacted by the prison-to-deportation pipeline that fails to support community safety and creates adverse socio-economic and health outcomes.
“It is wrong for ICE to be able to come into a community, create panic and chaos, and break up families, especially for political gain during a worldwide pandemic. Gov. Newsom must stand up to the harmful and inhumane immigration policies of the Trump Administration and protect the rights, health, and safety of our communities. He has a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable communities are treated with dignity and respect and protected from detrimental health and safety risks during this time,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director of SEARAC.
“We call on Gov. Newsom to halt all ICE transfers from California prisons and jails, and to stop deportations by granting pardons and commutations to immigrants with old criminal convictions who have served their time. The governor can demonstrate his commitment to criminal justice reform and the human rights of criminalized communities through clemency and by leading with mercy and compassion. We urge Gov. Newsom to use his power and exercise responsible leadership to protect California communities.”

October 2020 Policy Recap

In this issue:

  1. Teaching APA History Act
  2. Increase in USCIS Fees Halted
  3. Refugee Cap at Historic Low
  4. Condemning ICE Abuses
  5. Noncitizens: Know Your Rights
  6. Updated HEROES Act


Introduction of Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act

SEARAC applauds the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act, a bill, introduced by Rep. Grace Meng, that would uphold Asian Pacific American history as an integral part of American history. It would require some federally funded American history and civics programs to encompass Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history and encourage its inclusion in national and state history tests.

The bill is a critical recognition of AAPI people in the development of the United States, the injustices and marginalization we have endured because of racism and xenophobia, and our contributions to the country’s social, economic, and political fabric, especially as ethnic studies comes under attack by the Trump Administration. Recently, the Administration attempted to ban diversity training and restrict the teaching of history to the limited history of white America. Additionally, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 331, which would have made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement.

“Southeast Asian American history is American history,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director at SEARAC. “The relationship between the United States and the people of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam began decades before they even arrived in this country, when Southeast Asians worked alongside the US military in the Vietnam War, Cambodian Civil War, and Secret Wars in Laos. Southeast Asian Americans today are a vibrant, diverse, and growing community of refugees, immigrants and their children, whose trajectories were shaped by American political influence and whose past, present, and future are inextricably tied to the country they now call their home. SEARAC thanks Congresswoman Meng for the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act and proudly endorses this legislation.”

We also condemn efforts by the Trump Administration and California Gov. Newsom to deny students the true, multifaceted history of America. Fighting systemic racism requires us to lift up marginalized communities and confront painful truths about the divisions baked into our country’s foundations. And while we are especially disappointed in Gov. Newsom’s veto, we look forward to continuing our work to ensure all students in California will have access to strong ethnic studies programs.

Court temporarily halts increase in USCIS fees

On Sept. 29, a federal judge granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee rule. The rule would have increased naturalization fees from $640 to $1,170. USCIS’ rule also would have changed fee waiver rules that makes it much more difficult for applicants to obtain such waivers. This rule was scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 2. Although USCIS has publicly announced that it will “continue to accept USCIS forms with the current editions and current fees and use the regulations and guidance currently in place to adjudicate applications and petitions,” SEARAC continues to urge noncitizens who want to naturalize to apply as soon as they are able.

Trump sets refugee cap at record low of 15,000

On Oct. 1, the Trump Administration announced the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Presidential Determination (PD) on refugee admission is 15,000. The 15,000 refugee cap is a new historic low and a 3,000 refugee admission decrease from Trump’s already record low of 18,000 from FY 2020. It represents a continued abdication of the United States’ history as a global leader in refugee resettlement. Since passage of the Refugee Resettlement Act, the average PD has been 95,000 refugees per year. This proposal will next be presented to select House and Senate offices for consultation and approval.

Condemning ICE’s non-consensual medical procedures

On Saturday, Sept. 26, President Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Gingsberg, despite the elections happening in less than 35 days. Judge Barrett has a long history of conservative and anti-immigrant rulings. Advocates have raised concerns that confirming Judge Barrett would enable the Trump Administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act, potentially eliminating healthcare coverage for over 20 million people. SEARAC maintains our position that Southeast Asian Americans and the American public deserve a fair and just Supreme Court. The next Supreme Court Justice must reflect the will of the people and happen after the 2021 inauguration.

Noncitizens: Know your rights

Given the continuous attacks on immigrants, knowing your legal options prior to detention will help you and your family create an emergency preparedness plan of action to help ease the effects of possible separation. Please refer to the below resources for more help:

House passes updated HEROES Act

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed an updated version of the HEROES Act, a bill that would provide $2.2 trillion in COVID-19 relief. While SEARAC supports the bill and encourages the Senate to work off the momentum of the new HEROES Act given the necessity of relief for Southeast Asian Americans, we are disappointed in the continued inclusion of language dividing immigrants into those deserving and undeserving of support. The bill retains text prioritizing discretionary release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention utilizing an arbitrary mandatory detention standard, despite 70% of detained immigrants being subject to mandatory detention because of overzealous immigration enforcement laws.

SEARAC Honors the Legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Washington, DC — A statement from Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this past weekend:
“SEARAC mourns the loss of civil and human rights champion Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman ever to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Before and during her 27-year tenure on the Court, Justice Ginsburg dedicated her entire career to a core value that grounds SEARAC’s work: that equal protection under the law should be applied to everyone, regardless of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion. Justice Ginsburg was a fierce defender of rights for women and LGBTQ individuals, and advanced justice for millions of Americans, including Southeast Asian Americans. SEARAC vows to honor her legacy by holding our country’s leadership accountable and by fighting for the integrity of the bedrock American principles of ‘liberty and justice for all.’”

ACTION ALERT: Contact Your Senators Today and Demand That the US Public Decides Justice Ginsburg’s Replacement

Senate Republicans are moving quickly to fill the vacancy opened by Justice Ginsburg’s passing, potentially threatening access to health care under the Affordable Care Act and women’s reproductive rights under Roe v. Wade. With six weeks left until Election Day, we call on the Southeast Asian American community and our allies to demand a Supreme Court that is just and fair. As shown by President Trump’s past attacks on refugee and immigrant communities, we know he is incapable of picking a nominee who would provide equal justice under law. We must defend our democracy and say loud and clear, a rush to replace Justice Ginsburg’s seat will not be tolerated by the American public.
Take a few minutes to call or email your senator NOW
1. Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your Senate member. You can also click here to find the direct lines to your senator.
2. Find your senator’s email here.
3. Find sample language below:
Hi, my name is _______, and I am your constituent from (City, State). I am calling/writing to ask you to Vote No on a hearing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during our current election year. Justice Ginsburg’s passing is a national tragedy, but instead of respecting her wishes to have her seat filled by the next president, the current administration and Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell are preparing to jam through a replacement. In 2016, Sen. McConnell consistently made one argument for not filling the seat after Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing: It was an election year, and voters should decide which presidential candidate should pick the next justice. Not following this precedent would be hypocritical, a brazen power grab that will strip Americans of our voice and vote. Stand with the American people and uphold democracy, Vote No on a rushed hearing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Thank you!

Whistleblower Reports Horrifying Allegations of Abuse at ICE Detention Facility

For immediate release
September 17, 2020

Media contact:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970

Washington, DC – On Sept. 14, allegations of medical neglect and abuse were reported by a former licensed practical nurse of the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. The whistleblower, identified as Dawn Wooten, filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General regarding the lack of adequate medical care, unsafe work practices, and absence of adequate protection against COVID-19 for detained immigrants and employees at the facility. Wooten also detailed the alarming rate at which hysterectomies were performed on Spanish-speaking immigrant women under ICE custody at ICDC, some of whom did not consent to the procedure or may not have understood what they were agreeing to.
“These allegations are incredibly disturbing. We demand a detailed in-person investigation of the facility and these practices by the Office of the Inspector General, as requested by the complaint, and we echo the call from local advocates to immediately shutdown ICDC,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of SEARAC. “Throughout Trump’s presidency, ICE has continuously failed to provide detained immigrants with basic human dignity, such as sufficient medical care. The revelation that this Administration may be practicing mass hysterectomies — a form of eugenics and ethnic cleansing — through the U.S. deportation system is shocking but not surprising, given all that we’ve seen over the past four years. SEARAC condemns the continued gross negligence and violence inflicted by ICE and urges the Department of Homeland Security to release all detained immigrants. We remain committed to fighting for an end to detention and deportations.”

ICE Detains and Transfers Two Community Members

For immediate release
September 3, 2020

Media contact:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970

Washington, DC  On Aug. 31, it was announced that Tien Pham, a Vietnamese refugee, and Patricia Waller, a Belizean domestic violence survivor, will be transferred from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to ICE detention. Although both individuals were found suitable for parole, instead of being released to the safety of their families and communities, they were transferred to an ICE facility in Colorado during a global pandemic.

Despite growing concerns over unsanitary and overcrowded ICE facilities, as well as ICE’s persistent under-reporting of COVID-19 cases among detained populations, Gov. Newsom continues to ignore these warning signs by allowing prison transfers to ICE. Having served their time and granted parole by the governor, Tien Pham and Patricia Waller deserve to be released to their communities and reunited with their families.

“As ICE continues to detain members of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear that the Trump Administration has a complete disregard for the humanity of immigrants and refugees,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director of SEARAC. “ICE habitually punishes our community members even after they have served their time by separating them from their families, forcing them to face deportation proceedings, and putting their lives at risk amidst a global health crisis. The prison-to-deportation pipeline must be stopped. Gov. Newsom has the power to intervene but has yet to heed the advice of advocates, public health experts, local and state officials, and community leaders who call for an end to ICE transfers from prisons. State and federal governments have an obligation to exercise responsive leadership and halt transfers to protect the rights, health, and safety of  our communities. SEARAC will continue to push to stop prison-to-ICE transfers nationally and in California.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus shared, “The families and communities of Pham and Waller are devastated and anxious because their loved ones are now in ICE custody. Pham’s family waited for him outside of San Quentin State Prison on Monday morning but could not embrace Pham on what was supposed to be his first day of freedom. Patricia Waller and Tien Pham will be transferred thousands of miles from their family and community to be detained in an ICE detention facility in Colorado.”
We encourage SEARAC’s community members to send notes of support to Patricia and Tien as they now fight their deportations using this link.


SEARAC Demands Preservation of the USPS, Encourages Absentee Voting

For immediate release
August 28, 2020

Media contact:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson
(202) 601-2970

Washington, DC  SEARAC denounces the Trump Administration and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s efforts to dismantle the US Postal Service. Since his appointment, DeJoy has throttled mail delivery as part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing sabotage of the Postal Service, harming communities across the country that rely on timely mail. In fact, President Trump has admitted publicly that he opposes funding for the USPS because he wants to prevent voting by mail.

The US House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation last Saturday that would preserve the ability of the USPS to deliver mail. This includes critical services such as absentee ballots cast for the general election in November, information sent by government agencies about the Covid-19 pandemic, prescription medicines, government assistance checks, and more. The bill would block operational changes that would result in reduced services from taking place until after the end of the pandemic. It would also provide the USPS an additional $25 billion, an amount previously recommended to Congress by the USPS board of governors. Unfortunately, the bill faces strong opposition in the US Senate and a veto threat by the White House.

“The US Postal Service is essential for Southeast Asian American communities, especially during a health crisis in which the mail may be the only way for families to access critical services,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director of SEARAC. “This includes voting by mail, which is the safest way for Southeast Asian Americans who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus to participate in the general election. Unfortunately, the USPS continues to be interrupted, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent actions remain far from reassuring. We thank the House for their bill and call for its immediate passage by the Senate and the White House to ensure that the USPS can continue to operate in all communities.”
SEARAC encourages SEAAs to cast their votes this November via vote by mail, absentee ballots, and/or early voting to ensure our communities’ civic power and our health and safety. Absentee and early voting laws vary by state, and eligible citizens should check with their local election office’s website for important rules and deadlines or additional resources, like If allowed in your state, you can also drop off your ballot at a drop box or polling place instead of returning it by mail.