On July 22, Nancy Tong, District 43 City Council candidate, stood alongside other elected officials and local Asian-American advocacy group leaders to express disdain for a bill that would disaggregate the Asian American community on government documents.
The state bill, which passed in the Assembly in June, would break down the category of Asian-American into 23 different categories including Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, etc. to get more data on how the growing Asian-American population breaks down.
While advocates for the bill, including the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, believe this would help in better allocating resources, Tong and her constituents voiced their concerns that the bill would potentially cause more harm than benefits for the Asian community.
“We are all as a whole in the U.S. Why should we be divided? Getting data is good. How are you going to use the data? That’s another story. ” said Tong during a press conference at the United Progressive Democratic Club, 29 Bay 25th Street, calling the bill a double-edged sword. She said the bill would cause division and tension within the community and provide an opportunity for discrimination.
Assemblymember William Colton, who voted against the bill, agreed that the legislation would fracture the community and the resources given to it.
“The danger is, what we may do is focus on whether each of the individual groups is receiving more or less than other groups instead of focusing on whether all groups are getting the services and benefits that they are entitled to,” said Colton. “We are fighting on how we divide up a pie that is too small, rather than joining everyone together in demanding that the pie for education, healthcare, housing, and transportation be made bigger.”
And the group isn’t just concerned about how the data would affect relations within the community. City Councilmember Mark Treyger raised questions about how the data would be stored.
“I am concerned about how this data will be collected and who will have access to it, in light of a federal administration which is outright hostile to immigrants,” said Treyger who had similar concerns about the protection of immigrant data with the IDNYC program.
Wayne Ho, CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, contacted by phone after the press conference, disagreed. Ho explained that though Asian American is a race, there is so much difference between ethnicities that it is important to have this more specific count in order to better serve the individual community.
“We think it’s very important for the diverse population… the fastest growing in the state… it’s important that they are counted and targeted with culturally competent and linguistically appropriate resources,” said Ho.
According to a 2014 report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Asian community is the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in New York State, doubling since 1990, and now making up nine percent of the state’s population. The Asian population is two-thirds immigrants, the highest share of any racial or ethnic group, according to the comptroller’s report.
The Senate has yet to take action on the bill.