During my last year of university, I decided to explore beyond my close-knit group of friends and join some new clubs while I still had the opportunity. During Clubs Week, when all the clubs on campus set up booths in the common areas, one that caught my attention was the Asian Students’ Society. When I walked up to their table, the girl there told me non-Asians were welcome.
“I’m Asian,” I told her. She blinked at me.
I still joined, paid the dues, and went to one event, because I become stubborn when I’m made to feel that I don’t belong somewhere. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one at that event who looked like me, and not one person among the hundreds of attendees did anything but politely look past me.
The experience stayed with me, because it drove home a point that until then had been a vague constant in my peripheral awareness: In North America, when we say “Asian,” we mean East Asian. (I went to school at the University of Toronto, but although Canada’s relationship with race differs from ours in important ways, they have generally treated their Asian diaspora similarly to the US—unlike, for example, the U.K, where “Asian” has historically referred primarily to South Asians.) As a brown Asian American of Pakistani descent who often gets mistaken for Arab, I am used to not being included in this category that I clearly belong to.
Last week, I wrote about the story of acute myeloid leukemia patient Helen Huynh whose sister — a rare perfect stem cell match for Huynh — was repeatedly denied a temporary travel visa by US Department of Citizenship and Immigraion Services (USCIS) to visit the United States from her home in Vietnam so that she could donate her stem cells to save her sister’s life. The Asian American community has been outraged by USCIS’ inexplicable decision to deny Thuy Nguyen permission to travel to the United States, and as the family struggled to apply for emergency humanitarian parole for Nguyen — a move described by the family’s lawyers as a “hail mary” pass — Huynh’s life hung in the balance.
In an effort to help Huynh, Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and Advancing Justice – Orange County launched a sign-on letter and petition that garnered support from 1,100 community members and over 90 organizations, demanding that USCIS intervene to save Helen Huynh’s life. In addition, the Huynh family reached out to numerous elected officials including Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman J. Luis Correa, and Congressman Alan Lowenthal.
Now, Advancing Justice-LA has announced that these and other community efforts appear to have worked: USCIS has decided to grant humanitarian parole to allow Thuy Nguyen to travel to the United States and donate her stem cells to her sister.
Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) held a press conference moments ago to announce that lawyers with the group will represent two Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) high school students who wish to present their support of race-conscious affirmative action admission before the Supreme Court if and when the justices hear arguments next year about an anti-affirmative action lawsuit filed against the school by Edward Blum, the architect behind Abigail Fisher’s earlier failed attempts to dismantle affirmative action before the Court.
The two AAPI high school students represented by AAAJ-LA are current applicants to Harvard University, and both believe that race-conscious affirmative action is beneficial; AAAJ-LA filed paperwork yesterday to help the students join an existing group of diverse students who will have “amicus plus” status to present their support for affirmative action in a pending anti-affirmative action case, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc v. President and Fellows of Harvard College.