Pamplin Media Group – Wyden: Stop Asian Hate Crimes, Provide Vaccines and Aid

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Senator speaks after roundtable discussion with executives from SE Portland Health Center


U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said he received a strong and clear message from Asian Americans in Oregon – often stereotyped as a silent minority – about what the federal government should do about hate crimes related to the pandemic and for additional vaccinations and help for small businesses.

The Oregon Democrat has joined the efforts of Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono for a new COVID-19 hate crimes bill and a separate resolution to condemn hatred of Asians. But he also said that there are things that can be done now.

“In the time it takes to get legislation passed… we need to prosecute now,” Wyden said after a panel discussion Friday March 26 at the Asian Health and Service Center in southeast Portland. “We have the authority right now. We must use it now.”

capital officeStop AAPI Hate, a research group, has compiled 3,800 incident reports nationwide in the year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wyden said he would ensure that the Asian Health and Service Center receives a share of the $ 7.6 billion that President Joe Biden’s pandemic stimulus package allocates to community health centers, which are address underserved populations. Wyden also said small businesses should have better access to forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program – which Congress just extended – and a new $ 25 billion aid fund. for restaurants defended by US Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon.

“I will clarify that dollar for dollar, there is no better investment than in the kind of things you do,” he said after a visit to the center, to which he spoke as a representative. from the United States when it opened. in 1983. “The key is vaccination. When people get vaccinated, employers start hiring and we have the opportunity to make it better.”

Holden Leung, its chief executive, said Wyden had requested an in-person roundtable with a dozen people, including state representative Khanh Pham, a Democrat whose district covers the Jade District and part of the South. east of Portland. He said the meeting was the first event, other than vaccination clinics, since the center closed a year ago at the start of the pandemic.

Leung said the center had a total of 1,168 vaccinations, far more than the 150 initial doses offered at the center. In the center’s database of 20,000 names, he said, staff had to select 1,000 names from 3,000 people eligible for vaccinations because of their age or underlying medical conditions.

He said the leaflets distributed by the center in several languages.

Small, not silent

Oregon’s Asian and Pacific Islander population is still relatively small. But the 2019 American Community Survey, based on estimates from US Census Bureau questionnaires, put it at 7%, up from 4.2% in 2000. The 2020 census figures have yet to be released.

While the catalyst for the meeting was the March 16 murder of eight people – including six women of Korean or Chinese descent – at three Atlanta-area spas, panel members who spoke to Wyden said that ‘there had been vandalism and even worse targeted businesses at Portland’s Jade. District.

“Law enforcement often responds, like in Atlanta, in a way that isolates our communities by blaming the victim, making it a different subject or issue,” Chanpone Sinlapasai-Okamura, immigration lawyer and member of the Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, said. “We need a bill that has teeth.”

But Duncan Hwang, associate director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, said anti-Asian hatred needs to be addressed in several ways. “I doubt that we are able to enforce our means to come out of hate crimes,” he said.

“The system has to change,” said Coi Vu, director of the Pacific Islander and Asian Family Center for the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. “Culture has to change.”

She said white boys harassed her and her partner recently while running around the St. John’s neighborhood.

The Leung center is not in the Jade neighborhood, which is focused on 82nd Avenue, but he said two bullet holes damaged the building in the past year.

“For me, hate is a bit like the COVID-19 virus,” he said. “It’s contagious.”

Rosaline Hui is the owner and editor of the Portland Chinese Times and sits on the Jade District Steering Committee. She said her business had been vandalized three times and other business owners had repeated incidents, but there was no meaningful response from the police or the city government.

She said some owners finally joined the public protests on March 20 and 27.

“For the Chinese, for most of the Asians, it’s the same. We try to be silent. We are afraid to go out,” she said. “But this time, so many Chinese came out. Why? Because they said we couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Help us to be American”

Tou Meksavanh came to the United States as a refugee from Laos. She retired in 2010 as principal of Duniway Elementary School in Portland. Without naming names, she said she hoped that under Biden, “that creeping hatred that was stirred up and encouraged” by Biden’s predecessor will fade away.

“In all my years that I have been here, since 1975 as a refugee, this is the first time that I am afraid to be in America,” she said. “I’m sure other Asian representatives in this group would agree and understand why I feel the way I feel.

“I was in war-torn Laos. But I was never afraid because the fighting was taking place elsewhere, and I knew I would be safe. Living in the United States, I never felt safe. danger. But I’m doing it now. ”

Wyden told the group he is familiar with prejudice against immigrants. His parents fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, but other family members died in the Holocaust, the Nazi-organized mass killings of 6 million Jews and others during World War II .

He responded by quoting the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist from the 1960s: “No one is free until everyone is free.

Junghee Lee is a faculty member at the School of Social Work and a member of the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University.

“Asians are visible now,” she said. “Please help us to be Americans. We have earned it.”

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