Since the first Coronavirus appearance in December 2019, the United States has experienced a multitude of obstacles, including the weight of isolation, unemployment, housing and food instability. In addition, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has continually been on the receiving end of prejudice and racial discrimination.
Why is this happening more than ever before? There is still uncertainty about how COVID was passed to humans, but plenty of misinformation has been distributed wrongfully, holding China responsible for the spread because the initial case was traced back to Wuhan, China. As the public gradually grew more restless, many decided it was time to point fingers and take action, spurring the ongoing trend of heightened discrimination against Asian Americans. The daily Coronavirus cases in India are instigating even more conversations about intolerance caused by the pandemic.
“Hate crime” often implies violence, and while there has undeniably been an increase in assaults, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have also been facing more subtle, underhanded racial inequity. As previously documented by Lone Star Legal Aid, domestic abuse cases have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic, and Asian American clients have been no exception. Many AAPI abuse survivors have contacted LSLA fearing for their lives. These clients are attempting to evade their violent partners—some who keep them hostage, and others who are affiliated with gangs—but worry that coming forward will be a disadvantage to them.
Lone Star Legal Aid has even received calls from Asian American clients who feel they were being discriminated against during the job application process.
These prejudices can lead to hindered employment prospects and other situations that can harm an individual’s reputation. LSLA client John Tran*, for example, was wrongfully arrested for a crime in Fort Bend, even spending ten days in jail. Mr. Tran did not commit this crime, and though Fort Bend County dropped all charges and closed the case, his mugshot and charges are visible online for anyone. John is now understandably concerned his potential job prospects and future employers will be let down by his public record. Unless his record is expunged or sealed, Mr. Tran runs the risk of having to explain this wrongful arrest in a climate that already puts Asian Americans at a direct disadvantage.
With 62% of reported cases nationwide falling under verbal harassment, there is a certain limit to attainable legal options. Nevertheless, there is help available. The federal government can sue public employers, landlords, for discrimination or abusive treatment. Restaurants, theaters, hotels, and other public places can also be sued under the Civil Rights Act for refusing service to someone based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Federal funding is also available for anti-discrimination laws at schools to protect younger members of the AAPI community.
Many organizations and institutions are opting to undergo diversity, tolerance, and sensitivity training. Lone Star Legal Aid recognizes the rights of all individuals to respect and encourages the acceptance of others without biases based on differences of any kind. LSLA commits to equitable treatment and elimination of discrimination in all its forms at all organizational levels, including but not limited to disseminating cultural sensitivity training within the organization, and throughout all levels of service offered.
The House of Representatives passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Bill on Tuesday, May 18th, aimed to address the increased violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic.
This legislation, which passed the Senate last month with a noteworthy bipartisan vote, intends to develop more accessible and effective methods for reporting hate crimes.
Even with government support, the Asian American community is left to deal with the significant casualties of this targeted hate. Mental Health America offers a variety of resources for wellness, support, and medical treatments.
For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Individual Safety Unit’s Safe Space series featured Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Dallas (CCD) and Asians Against Domestic Abuse (AADA) for a discussion on sexual assault in the AAPI community:
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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*Name(s) changed to protect the identity of the client(s).