After a historic election saw the number of Asian Pacific legislators triple in Minnesota, we formed the first-ever Minnesota Asian Pacific (MAP) Caucus. We have focused our attention on four main issues during the 2019 session: immigration, agriculture, education, and voting rights.
It is our goal to bring solutions to issues facing our communities forward. Deportation is an issue disproportionately facing Southeast Asian communities. It first impacted Cambodian Americans — a record 126 Cambodians were deported from the U.S. to Cambodia in the last year alone. Then, following the President’s recent announcement that he will reinterpret a 2008 immigration agreement to allow him to deport thousands of Vietnamese refugees, Vietnamese populations have begun facing deportation as well. These issues aren’t going away, and it’s not going to stop with any particular ethnic or cultural group. We’re here to stand against these hateful policies.
One of the things we can do as legislators is look at the arduous process of pardoning in Minnesota, and work to simplify it. We currently need three people to approve a pardon: the State Attorney General, the Governor, and the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Asian Americans – many of whom are coming with the trauma of war, and who come here at a very young age -- shouldn’t have to jump through these hoops to stay in their homes, as gainfully-employed and contributing members of our society. They are sent packing for crimes they’ve already paid for.
The second issue we’ve begun to focus on is agriculture. Southeast Asian farmers are an important part of farmers’ markets and the agricultural economy in Minnesota. Yet they experience issues accessing land, and the capital to purchase that land. We are meeting with farmers and working to address some of those issues.
Many of our priorities, such as climate change, impact not only Southeast Asian farmers but all farmers in Minnesota. Many farmers who rent land don’t have a say in how the land is taken care of. When their crops are impacted by climate change there is little or nothing they can do. Many people don’t realize that what’s happening to our environment has a great impact on our agriculture here, and we’re working to change that. Our farmers are some of the first to see and feel the impacts of climate change.
We believe that all students deserve access to a great education, and that a language barrier shouldn’t prevent someone from getting the tools they need in school to be successful in life after the classroom. We are working to make sure multi-lingual learners get the support and the resources they need. For example, we brought forward and are collectively advocating to significantly increase funding for English Language Learners programs.
Language barriers don’t stop at the classroom. And if we are going to make sure we have a truly representative democracy, we need to make sure all people can vote. We are moving bills to improve our election process to allow more assistance to those with disabilities and language needs, along with requiring competent multi-lingual election judges.
We know that there are a diverse number of issues facing Minnesotans that we are not yet aware of, which is why we will hold listening sessions to hear the issues that Minnesota’s Asian communities are experiencing. We want to lead in partnership with the community.
We have goals that are both tangible, and intangible. We are working to secure funding for programs to help our communities, but also to raise visibility and awareness of issues facing Minnesota’s Asian Pacific communities. It is an honor to represent Minnesotans. As a historic number of Hmong Americans elected to public office, we are called to serve our fellow Minnesotans. We are putting your concerns on the map.
Representative Samantha Vang (DFL – Brooklyn Park) is chair of the MAP Caucus. She can be reached at email@example.com or 651-296-3709. The other MAP Caucus members include Assistant Majority Leader Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis), Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL- St. Paul), Rep. Tou Xiong (DFL - Maplewood), Rep. Jay Xiong (DFL- St. Paul), and Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL - St. Paul).