The Commission has been active in participating in other events of business and trade organizations as well as economic policy institutions, highlighting the role of Asian Americans play in driving the economy as small business owners and their participation in all sectors of American life. Keynote speeches at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the Bangladesh Taxi of Greater Philadelphia, participation in the discussion on the growing national debt: Our Budget, Our Economy National Town Meeting, organized by AmericaSpeaks are some of the activities undertaken by the Commission.
The Mayor hosted a Flag Raising and Naturalization Ceremony on November 19, 2010 and flags of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Nepal were included amongst the 19 flags that were added to the Parkway. The Commission assisted in the programming by organizing a Multinational Community Choir with representatives of the various countries including Angola (Monica Panzo), Bangladesh [Joya Ahmad (Arranger of the song), Priya Ahmad, Ahsan Nasratullah (guitar)], Cambodia: (Keomelina Son), Indonesia (Selvi Missa, Miranthi Tan), Nepal (Prabin Rayamajhi, Barsa Moktan, Sushil Pakhrin), Trinidad & Tobago (DJ Ross) and St. Vincent & Grenadines (Cristina Artis). This choir sang the closing number “This Land is Your Land” the popular folk song by Woody Guthrie with lines translated in the native language of the participants (who were in National dress). We thank our previous City liaison Mr. Anuj Gupta who facilitated this effort and City Managing Director’s office who helped coordinate the very successful event.
The Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs continues to work to assist in fostering a safe and secure environment for all students in our city. Many of the Commissioners were members of Taskforce for Racial and Cultural Harmony of the School District of Philadelphia and contributed to the final report to the Superintendent and the School Reform Commission. Our Commission itself held meetings where stakeholders testified about their best practices, experiences and perspectives in the realm of public education in the City and are currently preparing our own set of recommendations for the Mayor.
Since the United States introduced the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in 1996, which eliminated judicial discretion from the removal process and expanded the categories of mandatory deportation, many have been sent back for minor crimes, including public indecency. In addition, people who have committed crimes and served their sentence prior to the passage of the law have also been deported. This issue has particularly affected the Cambodian community in which legal residents are being deported to a country they fled as child refugees over two decades ago in fear of persecution and death. These refugees, who came as young children, many with Post traumatic Stress Disorder had lack of proper integration in the United States and some turned to juvenile delinquency, gangs, and criminal activity. Deporting Cambodians who have paid their debt to society, changed their lives from a troubled past and are functioning and contributing adults, is not a good use of our government resources. Individuals affected by these circumstances have testified at the Commission meetings and various community activists have educated us about the circumstances of such deportations. The Commission has facilitated meetings between the Cambodian community leaders and the District Attorney’s Office to request establishing of guidelines to determine which of these cases under these circumstances merit a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion. This discretion could include the willingness to restructure a plea that meets the objectives of the Commonwealth but does not result in certain removal of the individual from the United States .
The Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs was a Community Sponsor and main Organizer in collaboration with WHYY Inc. and MTV to screen “9500 Liberty” followed by an immigration forum. The award winning documentary by Eric Byler and Annabel Park reveals the startling vulnerability of a local government (Prince William County, Virginia), targeted by national anti-‐immigration networks using the Internet to frighten and intimidate lawmakers and citizens. The devastating social and economic impact of the “Immigration Resolution” adopted by the county is felt in the lives of real people in homes and in local businesses. Following the screening, the filmmakers and a panel of regional immigration experts led a discussion and Q&A session.