NCAPA 2008 Presidential Survey

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October 10, 2008

Dear Friends,

On August 5, 2008, the National Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Presidential Questionnaire was sent to the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. The candidates were notified that their responses would be distributed by member organizations of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, including NAKASEC. The Presidential Questionnaire seeks to educate AAPI community members across the country on where the presidential candidates stand on important issues such as civil rights, education, healthcare, housing and community development, and immigration.

Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 250 words and to respond within one month. Consistent and equal communication was extended to each candidate, with reminders being made via email, phone and in-person communication with the AAPI representatives of each campaign.

This questionnaire was produced in collaboration with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA). Founded in 1996, NCAPA is a coalition of twenty-six organizations that advocate for the interests of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders on the national level. It is united by a vision of tomorrow that empowers and engages AAPI community members into the political and electoral process. NCAPA is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. NCAPA neither supports nor opposes any political party or any candidate for public office.


EunSook Lee

Executive Director, NAKASEC

Attached are the responses to the questionnaire, printed verbatim. In no instance did NAKASEC alter, change, or edit the responses. For any questions or comments on the presidential questionnaire, please contact HyunJoo Lee at 323-937-3703 or


Senator John McCain

Response to the 2008 National Asian American & Pacific Islander Presidential Questionnaire

No response was received for this questionnaire.

Senator Barack Obama

Response to the 2008 National Asian American & Pacific Islander Presidential Questionnaire

The following are the unedited responses received for this questionnaire.

Civil Rights

Language Rights
What is your position on language access and English language acquisition for limited English proficient communities, such as the AAPI community? What policies would you enact to support your position?

As president, I will support efforts that help prevent discrimination against minorities and that ensure that language minorities have access to critical governmental services, such as post-disaster relief services. I will vigorously enforce laws requiring federal agencies to ensure language access for all Americans they serve and will ensure Title VI requirements ensuring language access are implemented across the federal government. Joe Biden and I will reverse the trend that has led to agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency still not having guidelines for how it will communicate with Limited English Proficient populations during disasters and public emergencies, despite the barriers faced by thousands of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. Joe Biden and I believe that government programs should be accessible to hardworking immigrant populations. In 2003, I helped pass a bill making it mandatory to provide language assistance in health care facilities. I also helped passed a law that prohibits employers from restricting an employee’s ability to speak a foreign language in communications unrelated to the employee’s duties. At the same time, Joe Biden and I also believe that we must invest in education programs to help immigrants learn English so they can participate fully in American society.

Census 2010
Do you believe that undercounting minorities is a real challenge to Census data collection? Why or why not? Can you describe what policies you would enact to impact Census 2010?

There is insufficient information on the many diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, making it difficult to assess and adequately address needs. Moreover, the lack of disaggregated data showing the particular needs of diverse ethnic subgroups results in invisibility in the national policy arena of the most vulnerable. As president, I will:

  • Advocate for increased data collection, analyses, and dissemination about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders;
  • Support the implementation of the revisions of the Office of Management and Budget Directive No. 15, which requires federal agencies to disaggregate and report separate data on Asian American and Pacific Islander groups;
  • Direct the Census Bureau to ensure the availability of disaggregated data within Asian American and Pacific Islander communities; and
  • Work to ensure that the Census Bureau has the resources necessary to conduct an accurate count of the Asian American and Pacific Islander population in the 2010 Census.
Affirmative Action
What is your position on affirmative action programs? Please include specific steps you will take to support your position.

When there is strong evidence of prolonged and systemic discrimination by organizations, affirmative action may be the only meaningful remedy available. Affirmative action programs, when properly structured, can open up opportunities otherwise closed to qualified minorities without having an adverse impact on the opportunities for whites. For example, a scholarship program for underrepresented students interested in getting advanced degrees in mathematics and the sciences won't keep white students out of such programs, but can broaden the pool of talent that we need to prosper in the new economy.

The Bush administration has made challenging affirmative action and scholarship programs one of the core missions of the Department of Justice. As president, I will rid the Department of ideologues and political cronies, and for the first time in eight years, the Civil Rights Division will actually be staffed with civil rights lawyers who prosecute civil rights violations, employment discrimination, and hate crimes. Even as we continue to defend affirmative action as a useful, if limited, tool to expand opportunity to underrepresented minorities, we should consider spending a lot more of our political capital convincing America to make the investments needed to ensure that all children perform at grade level and graduate from high school?a goal that, if met, would do more than affirmative action to help those minority students who need it the most. And while Joe Biden and I support affirmative action for minorities, we also support efforts to increase opportunities for qualified students from low-income backgrounds to attend colleges and universities ? regardless of their race.


Data collection
What steps would your administration take to increase research and disaggregated data collection on the education achievement levels and challenges of individual AAPI groups?

No Child Left Behind left many behind due to lack of adequate funding and a failure to take into account the complexity of student needs. There needs to be adequate attention to the diverse needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander students requiring disaggregated data on AAPI ethnic, linguistic, and economic groups so as to target programs to meet their needs. As president, I will provide for more complete assessments of student need, including of Asian American and Pacific Islander students, and greater accountability for appropriate measures of success.

Programs and Services in Public Education
What is your position on programs and services for AAPI students of immigrant families in public schools, specifically support for English language learner students?

Among the needs that my administration will prioritize would be transitional bilingual education and other programs to assist Limited English Proficient students, with schools being held accountable for helping these students graduate. There would be appropriate assessment of English Language Learners and programs that would monitor their progress in learning English.

AAPI Higher Education Serving Institutions
What is your position on the new Asian American and Pacific Islander Higher

Education Serving Institution Program? What are the specific steps you would take in the area of funding to support your position?

As president, I will support funding and resources, including the program now offered by the Department of Education, for AAPI serving institutions of higher learning. By strengthening and expanding these institutions, we can provide for the education of our nation’s growing diversity.


Universal health coverage and access
What is your position on adequate and affordable health coverage and access that includes mental health services for all individuals, including native born and immigrants? What policies would you enact to support your position?

Joe Biden and I believe that every American has the right to affordable, comprehensive, and portable health coverage. The Obama-Biden plan will provide new coverage options for every American through partnerships among employers, private health plans, the federal government, and the states. Our plan will feature guaranteed eligibility; comprehensive health benefits including preventive, mental health, and maternity care; affordable premiums, co-payments, and deductibles; portability; mandatory coverage of children; expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP; and flexibility for state plans. Our health care reform plan will reduce the typical family’s medical expenditures by $2,500 per year as health reform efforts are phased in. I am committed to signing the Obama-Biden health care reform plan into law by the end of my first term in office.

Children’s Health Care

What is your position on reauthorizing SCHIP? What policies would you enact to support your position?

I have been a strong advocate of expanding the SCHIP program, and as president, I will expand SCHIP eligibility, building off of my work in the Illinois State Senate to provide health insurance to 150,000 children and parents. Under the Obama-Biden health care reform plan, all children will be required to have health care coverage. We will also ensure that more young adults are covered by requiring insurance companies to allow young adults up to age 25 to be covered by their parent’s family health insurance plans.

Health disparities
What is your position on health disparities that exist in minority communities, such as the AAPI community? Please include policies you would enact to support your position.

Joe Biden and I are committed to tackling the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and public health, both of which play a major role in addressing disparities. As a state senator, I helped pass a law to make language assistance mandatory in Illinois health care facilities. As president, I will support programs to recruit more people to enter the medical profession and will expand outreach and educational efforts to improve the language and cultural skills of hospitals to provide more tools such as bilingual hotlines to help rural hospitals treat patients who do not speak English. Our plan also requires health providers to inform the public about disparities and take steps to reduce those disparities.

AAPI representation
Will you adopt policies that promote inclusion of AAPI perspectives within your cabinet, specifically in setting the health priorities of the nation? What steps would you take to support your policy on AAPI representation?

Joe Biden and I believe that America’s diversity strengthens our nation and our communities. As president, I will work with AAPI leaders like former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta and Congressman Mike Honda, as well as AAPI community activists across the nation, to develop policy priorities together with the AAPI community. Joe Biden and I will also strengthen the White House Initiative on AAPIs to serve an important role in federal decision making. As a former community organizer, I know firsthand that policies ? no matter federal, state or local ? must have community input in order to be successful, and as president, I will continue my long record of engaging AAPIs in our national policy priorities.

Housing and Community Development

Federal Recognition of Native Hawaiians
How will your Administration approach federal recognition for Native Hawaiians and their relationship with the United States government?

As someone who grew up in Hawaii, I have a strong understanding of the Native Hawaiian community and their unique concerns. I support Senator Daniel Akaka’s efforts to provide recognition for Native Hawaiians, and I look forward to working with Native Hawaiians on similar efforts as president.

Employee Free Choice Act
What is your position on the work environment for immigrant and AAPI workers? Please include policies you would enact to support your position.

I am a strong advocate and cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. As president, I will sign this measure into law, and I will also work to strengthen that National Labor Relations Board, increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, protect striking workers, strengthen OSHA, and ensure all Americans have affordable health insurance coverage.

White House Initiative on AAPIs
What is your position on the White House Initiative on AAPIs? What initiatives will you take that will have directly address the needs of the AAPI community?

Joe Biden and I are committed to strengthening the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and we will ensure that the Initiative plays a key role in an Obama administration to overcome the historic exclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from the federal government and its programs.

Foreclosure crisis
How will your administration address the impacts of the foreclosure crisis on AAPI families?

For well over two years, I have been sounding the alarm about the growing crisis in our housing market and calling on the government to take both short-and long-term actions to help struggling homeowners. I worked in the Senate on legislation with Senator Chris Dodd to authorize the Federal Housing Administration to refinance mortgages of struggling homeowners. This approach asks borrowers, mortgage lenders, banks and the government to share in the responsibility of helping resolve this crisis. Beyond these short-term actions, Joe Biden and I believe we need to address the root causes of the housing crisis so that we avoid this situation in the future. Over two years ago, I introduced the Stop Fraud Act, which would provide the first federal definition of mortgage fraud, increase funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, create new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and require industry insiders to report suspicious activity. I have also proposed a HOME Score system that would create a simplified, standardized metric for home mortgages like the annual percentage rate (APR), the effective interest rate a borrower ends up paying on a loan ? allowing prospective homebuyers easily to compare various mortgage products so they can find out whether they can afford to make the payments.

Community economic development
What initiatives will your administration undertake to support community and economic development in low¬income AAPI communities and the neighborhoods where they reside?

Joe Biden and I will work with community and business leaders to identify and address the unique economic development barriers of every major metropolitan area. We will provide additional resources to the federal Community Development Financial Investment Fund, the Small Business Administration, and other federal agencies, especially to their local branch offices, to address community needs. We will fully fund the Community Development Block Grant program and work to increase resources to the highest need Americans. We will also establish 20 Promise Neighborhoods, areas with high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement. The Promise Neighborhoods, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, will receive a full network of services from birth to college.


CIR - Legalization and Family
What is your position on legalization? What is your position on the family immigration backlog? What is your approach to managing the future flow of immigrants? What policies would you enact to support your stated positions on the above three questions?

We must fix a broken immigration system that hampers family reunification, the cornerstone of our immigration policy for years. I helped lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, and I will make it a priority as president. We can have an immigration policy that respects the rule of law and respects our immigrant heritage. Joe Biden and I support a system that secures our borders, cracks down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants to keep wages down, helps communities hit hardest by this problem, and requires the 12 million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and get in the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

What is your position on xenophobic rhetoric involving immigrants and communities of color in the current campaign environment? What steps would you take to support your position?

There are plenty of people who oppose ? for principled reasons ? the kind immigration reform that Joe Biden and I support. But there are others who have tried to score political points by scapegoating minorities and playing on the fears of Americans. We didn’t walk away from injustice during the civil rights debate, and we don’t walk away from it today. Joe Biden and I will continue fighting for comprehensive immigration reform. We believe that our nation can have a civil debate about immigration where all of us begin to recognize ourselves in one another. Joe Biden and I oppose profiling by race, ethnicity, or national origin. As a state senator, I helped pass a law to track racial profiling by requiring law enforcement officials to record the race, age, and gender of all drivers they stop for traffic violations. As president, I will hold agencies accountable for profiling that does occur and support anti-racial profiling legislation.

Due Process
What is your policy around due process of lawful permanent residents in removal proceedings, particularly those who have committed petty crimes?

Though immigrants who commit crimes must be deported, none should be denied due process. We have to be tough, but smart and true to our values. I believe in the central importance of due process to our legal system, regardless of whether those involved are U.S. citizens, which is why I’ve called for restoring habeas corpus and the rule of law in response to detention abuses in Guantanamo. We are a nation of immigrants and of laws, and I am committed to improving the quality of decisions of the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Eligibility of Access
What is your position on Supplemental Security Income for low income elderly and disabled refugees? What policies would you enact to support your position?

I have worked in the U.S. Senate to ensure that elderly and disabled refugees have access to SSI benefits. I am a cosponsor of S. 821, which expands SSI eligibility for refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian immigrants.

Electronic Employment Verification System
What is your position on the employment verification system? What policies would you enact to support your position?

To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants. I championed a proposal with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) to create a new, mandatory employment eligibility verification system that is easy to use so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S. ? and to hold them accountable if they don’t.

What will your administration’s position be to integrate immigrants? What steps would you take to ensure that low¬income and limited¬English proficient communities are included?

Joe Biden and I believe that immigrants want to become active participants in America’s democratic systems. While drastic increases in fees may in fact deter citizenship, I opposed those increases and wrote and introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act, which would ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair and authorize new funds for community based organization to provide English and civics training for immigrants.

Joe Biden and I also want to invest in early childhood education so every child enters school ready to learn. We want to reform and fund No Child Left Behind, because while the goals of that bill were noble, it has been implemented poorly and the funding got left behind. We want to empower teachers, pay them what they are worth, and work with them to improve assessments of student progress, and to reward success.

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