“APALA is proud to stand alongside the AFL-CIO and #FreeAmerica in our collective fight to end mass incarceration and the criminalization of our communities, particularly people of color,” said Gregory Cendana, APALA Executive Director. “For AAPIs specifically, the prison population has grown 250% since the ‘90s yet there continues to be gaps in data and research necessary for the voices of AAPI communities to be heard in the larger conversations around criminal justice reform.”
Just this past December, APALA, alongside Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Asian Prisoner Support Committee, National Education Association and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, published a policy report titled “AAPIs Behind Bars” in an effort to expose the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline that exists.
“The harsh immigration policies passed in 1996 have left Southeast Asian communities with refugee and legal status vulnerable for deportation based on past criminal records. These policies have subjected immigrant youth to multi-generational poverty, racial profiling, over policing inside the school, and mass incarceration, which in turn have ended in the deportation and separation of families,” said Tracy Lai, APALA National Secretary and member of the American Federation of Teachers.
The report was written following a convening held at California’s San Quentin State Prison offering a number of policy recommendations that would better serve the needs of incarcerated AAPIs. Recommendations included investing in and developing culturally competent programs that address intergenerational trauma, promoting restorative justice and healing models, providing prisoners access to a college education, repealing the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), and expanding reentry pipelines for formerly incarcerated people.
“APALA’s leadership has been integral to moving the broader labor movement forward on criminal justice reform,” stated Carmen Berkley, Director of the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department of the AFL-CIO. “Their values of centering the work around those disproportionately impacted, organizing at the intersections and utilizing art and culture has been transformational to how unions will engage in this work.”
“There is a vicious cycle of incarceration and poverty across all communities. We need to do better in helping support our formerly incarcerated Brothers and Sisters by expanding prison-to-job pipelines that foster social entrepreneurship and create pathways to jobs with living wages, healthcare and a voice at work." said APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester and an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) International Vice President. "This starts by implementing ‘Ban the Box’ policies in the hiring process at every state and federal level. It means looking at workers beyond their past criminal records and recognizing the unique skills and abilities many bring."
The complete policy report can be found at bit.ly/AAPIsBehindBars. To learn more about #FreeAmerica, visit LetsFreeAmerica.com.