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DATELINE USA

SoCal ASIAN JOURNAL • AUGUST 7-9, 2019

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With less than half of eligible Fil-Am voters registered in Biden is latest 2020 presidential California, civic engagement project seeks to change that hopeful to court Vegas AAPIs by RAE

ANN VARONA AJPress

FILIPINOS are one of the largest Asian populations in the United States with a population exceeding four million. In California alone, 1.6 million Filipino Amercans all the state home, making them the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander group. Yet despite the large numbers, Fil-Ams lack in civic engagement and political representation. Of the 19,432,609 registered voters in California, only 396,000 or 33 percent are Fil-Am. Furthermore, there is only one Fil-Am in the California state Legislature — Assemblymember Rob Bonta — but none in the state Senate. In comes the Filipino Voter Empowerment Project (FVEP), a nonpartisan project that was founded in 2017 as a spinoff to efforts done by the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) on increasing civic education and participation in elections among Fil-Ams. Running the project are Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, the founder and current Executive of the PWC; Alex De Ocampo, a philanthropic advisor for the Saban Family Foundation; and Marco Meneghin, who has worked as a communications

Former VP stresses power of AAPIs, calls for gun control after El Paso shooting by KLARIZE

MEDENILLA AJPress

Pilipino Workers Center Executive Director Aquilina Soriano Versoza talks to volunteers who are running a phone bank for the Filipino Voter Empowerment Project.

consultant, speech writer, and political advisor in government and nonprofits. “At the end of the day, you want your community to be there when decisions are being made and when legislation is being drafted. That’s going to impact the community, and it’s vital that we have representation,” De Ocampo told the Asian Journal. “When you look at what’s happening across America with voter disenfranchisement, a lot of people are not realizing the potential things in terms of right to vote,” he added. “When we came together, we were realizing that there needed to be more voter

education and civic engagement within the Filipino community.” One of the issues FVEP seeks to improve is Filipino visibility in California and making sure that the concerns and needs of Fil-Ams — as a large part of the state’s population — are addressed and known. “As Filipinos, we also face a lot of different challenges,” said Soriano-Versoza. One example she gave was of the 2016 California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which extended overtime pay rights to personal attendants working in homes who were not previously PAGE A4

Advocates respond to USCIS plan to cut... PAGE A1 under the parole program since 2016 and 75 cases are still pending adjudication as of March 31, USCIS spokesperson Maria Elena Upson told the Asian Journal in an email. Among the program’s beneficiaries is 89-year-old Rudy Panaglima of Arlington, Virginia, whose two adult children were able to come to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2018 to care for him and his late wife before she passed away. “We served under the American flag, and yet we continue to be treated as if our sacrifices don’t matter,” Panaglima said, recalling the 1946 Rescission Act that denied Filipino war veterans benefits. “Who are we that the president should think less of us?” Justice for Filipino American Veterans national coordinator Art Garcia said the Filipino American community “can never forget this transgression” and should consider policies like this during the

upcoming election cycle. While the phase out of the program is not yet final, families who have benefited will be covered until it expires in June 2021, “unless otherwise terminated,” USCIS said. The agency also suggested that it may allow a 90-day transition period for beneficiaries who have not adjusted their status after the parole expires. Some immigration lawyers are suggesting that families in the meantime look for alternatives for lawfully staying in the country. “Those beneficiaries of the program should proactively seek other avenues of lawful presence, including through more general parole programs, and other non-immigrant status until their priority date becomes current, at which point they can seek adjustment of status through their veteran family member’s petition. They should also explore other family and employment-based avenues to obtain permanent residence,” Darrick

Tan, an attorney in Los Angeles who has advised several cases on the parole program, told the Asian Journal. USCIS’ announcement on Friday also affects the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program. Estimates show that there are currently less than 6,000 Filipino World War II veterans still living in the United States. In recent years, there have been multiple efforts to honor the remaining veterans, including the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act in 2009, which rewarded a one-time lump sum payment to these veterans and their families. Before leaving office, Obama also signed a measure that awarded them with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress. The Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act was introduced in both the House and Senate this past May to expedite the visa process for children of Filipino World War II veterans. ■

LAS VEGAS — While on his campaign tour through Las Vegas, on Saturday, August 3, former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joseph R. Biden met with members of the Las Vegas Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community at Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant to share his campaign plans and promises. Before Biden addressed the crowd of Las Vegas’ AAPI community leaders, U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) delivered remarks on the former vice president, and among Biden’s achievements, she noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 brought forth

two key benefits for the AAPI community: the Veterans Equity Compensation Fund for Filipino World War II veterans and the “first-time funding” for AAPI health clinics. “We owe him a debt of gratitude for that,” Titus said, introducing Biden to the applauding crowd. Biden then met and shook hands with some of the attendees — which included some Nevada lawmakers — cheekily introducing himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.” Before discussing his campaign, Biden acknowledged the Walmart terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas that happened hours before. “Before we begin, a somber note I apologize, but it can’t go without saying what just hap-

pened,” Biden told the crowd. “We don’t know much of the details right now but I can say with conviction: enough is enough is enough and it’s been enough for the past five years.” The attack had been lodged by a single shooter who used a semiautomatic firearm to murder 20 people. Biden called for tighter federal gun laws including universal background checks for the sale of firearms. (In the 1990s as senator of Delaware Biden championed bills that prevented the manufacture and sales of certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but they were not renewed after 10 years.) “This is a sickness. This is well beyond anything we should be tolerating and the fact is we can PAGE A4

Cesar Sayoc, Fil-Am who mailed pipe bombs... PAGE A1 On Monday, Sayoc apologized and told the court, “I am beyond so very sorry for what I did.” “Now that I am a sober man, I know I was a very sick man. I should have listened to my mother, the love of my life. She told me to get help,” he added. Other targets of the mailed explosives included public figures like actor Robert Deniro and billionaire George Soros, as well as the CNN offices in Atlanta and New York. A list of over 100 names were also found in Sayoc’s van, which was covered in political images and stickers of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In pleading guilty in March, Sayoc said that while the devices were “intended to look like pipe bombs,” he had no intention for them to detonate, but was aware of the possibility that they would. “I wish more than anything I could turn back time and take back what I did,” said on Monday. “With all my heart and soul, I feel the pain and suffering of these victims and I will be apologizing to them for the rest of my life.” Seeking to get Sayoc a minimum sentence of 121 months or 10 years, Sayoc’s defense attorneys in the weeks leading up to his sentencing, pointed to a troubled childhood, mental illness, and steroid abuse. In a 39-page sentencing memo,

Sayoc’s attorneys said that a “series of traumatic events” including abandonment by his father and sexual abuse by his Catholic school teacher as a child, pushed Sayoc “further and further into the margins of society” before finding a “sense of ommunity” among ardent Trump supporters. Assistant Federal Defender Ian Marcus Amelkin again on Monday highlighted Sayoc’s mental health and steroid use as having played a part in Sayoc’s actions and political radicalization. “We believe that the president’s rhetoric contributed to Mr. Sayoc’s actions in this offense,” said Amelkin. He said, “It is impossible to separate the political climate and his mental illness when it comes to the slow boil.” Prosecutors on the other hand, sought a life sentence and highlighted that in addition to planning and mailing the IEDs, real and highly dangerous components were used in making then. They also pointed to Sayoc’s previous run-ins with the law, including a 2002 conviction for making bomb threats, as justification for seeking a life sentence. On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim said that Sayoc’s plan was to “deter and chill political activity” and that Sayoc “set out to terrorise people.” “Politics cannot justify a terrorist attack,” she added.

Cesar Sayoc Jr. Photo courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff

Though not agreeing to a life sentence, Rakoff described the defense team’s focus on Trump’s and his supporter’s influence as a “sideshow.” ‘What counts is what he did, and what he intended at the time that he did it,” said Rakoff, further describing Sayoc’s actions as “by any measure, horrendous.” The decision to sentence Sayoc to 20 years as “no more” and “no less” than what he deserved,” said Rakoff. “While none of the devices exploded, at the very least, they were intended to strike fear and terror into the minds of their victims and to intimidate those victims (mostly prominent political figures) from exercising their freedom,” wrote Rakoff in his opinion. (Rae Ann Varona/AJPress)

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