77 organizations and 181 community leaders signed the following open letter, clarifying the rationale and reaffirming support for the collection of detailed data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


An Open Letter in Support of Collecting Detailed Data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs)
From Organizations and Leaders Serving East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Communities

August 9, 2017

As advocacy organizations representing more than 22 million East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders across the nation, we are deeply alarmed by growing opposition to the collection of detailed data on Asian Americans.

This opposition has emerged from within our own Asian American communities.  Recently, a group of about 50 Chinese Americans in Rhode Island (including many children) protested the state’s All Students Count Act, a policy change championed by the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) and Asian American youth groups like PrYSM. This new state law requires the department of “elementary and secondary education to use separate collection categories/tabulations for specified Asian ethnic groups in every demographic report on ancestry or ethnic origins of residents.”

The protest in Rhode Island follows similar protest actions by Chinese parents in California, first when data disaggregation was being debated in the state legislature, and subsequently as school districts began implementing detailed data collection to better serve their student populations.

Opponents in both California and Rhode Island have used incendiary and misleading language to describe the potential consequences of the law, comparing it to data collected by the Nazis to persecute Jews and single them out for genocide.

This assertion is outrageous, irresponsible, and ignores the history and purpose of collecting detailed data on Asian Americans.

Collecting detailed data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) means that data are separated into different ethnic categories. While Asian Americans can report their identity as “Asian,” they are also able to volunteer an additional category, such as “Chinese,” “Korean,” or “Vietnamese.” They may also select more than one ethnic category. Data disaggregation is a mainstay of U.S. Census data collections, and is critical for AAPI communities pushing for greater ballot language assistance, bilingual education, mental health assistance for students, and culturally competent care by county hospitals.

For the last three decades, Asian American & Pacific Islander community leaders, elected officials, researchers, educators, and students have called for further collection of these detailed data.  The call for detailed data emerged most powerfully after 1965, when the United States ended its restrictive quotas by national origin. As the AAPI community grew, government agencies, schools, and the larger population failed to distinguish between different national-origin and ethnic groups, with distinct histories, experiences, and social needs, lumping all people of Asian origin together.  This lumping resulted in inadequate recognition of the unique challenges among different ethnic groups in the Asian American population. Consequently, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and social service providers often misunderstood and overlooked these growing communities’ needs.

As advocacy organizations and community leaders, we strive to better understand the challenges faced by our student populations, and to better serve and support their varied educational needs.  We cannot do this without high-quality data. For example, Cambodian, Laotian, Native Hawaiian, and Samoan Americans have among the lowest rates of graduation from community college.  Mental health issues also vary across the Asian American population, with some groups such as Chinese American women showing higher rates of suicide than other Asian American groups.  High-quality, detailed data is essential to understanding student challenges in all communities, and is vital to securing public and private resources to help students in need.

To compare the current effort to collect data on Asian Americans to the tactics of Nazi Germany is deceitful and misrepresentative of the goals and desires of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.  Historically, Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans, have been at the forefront of calls for detailed data collection. The purpose of these data is not to single-out a group for persecution or surveillance, but to better recognize and support all segments of our community, and to ensure that all students count in education.

As community organizations and leaders, we believe it is imperative to continue the push for high-quality, detailed data that can serve the diverse needs of our Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

The undersigned.

Community organizations

  1. 18millionrising.org
  2. AAPI Data
  3. AAPIs for Civic Empowerment
  4. ACPA’s Asian Pacific American Network
  5. Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education
  6. Arts Bridge International
  7. Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)
  8. Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan
  9. Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
  10. Asian American Millennials Unite
  11. Asian American Organizing Project
  12. Asian American Resource Workshop
  13. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
  14. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
  15. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago
  16. Asian Americans for Community Involvement
  17. Asian Community Development Council ACDC
  18. Asian Counseling and Referral Service
  19. Asian Law Alliance
  20. Asian Pacific American Cultural Center
  21. Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA)
  22. Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
  23. Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  24. Asian Pacific Fund
  25. Asian Pacific Student Alliance
  26. Asian Services In Action
  27. Asians For Black Lives, Bay Area
  28. Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
  29. Augsburg University
  30. AYPAL: Building API Community Power
  31. California Commission on APIA Affairs
  32. Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association
  33. Center for Economic Democracy
  34. Center for Pan Asian Community Services
  35. Chicago Desi Youth Rising
  36. Chinese Progressive Association – San Francisco
  37. Colorado College Asian Student Union
  38. Densho
  39. Diverse Elders Coalition
  40. Educated Men with Meaningful Messages (EM3)
  41. ELEVATE AAPI – Irvine Valley College
  42. Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
  43. Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC)
  44. Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
  45. Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY)
  46. Hmong Innovating Politics
  47. Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC)
  48. Khmer Girls in Action
  49. Lao Center
  50. Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA)
  51. Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP)
  52. Mutual Housing California
  53. National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse
  54. National Asian Pacific Center on Aging
  55. National CAPACD
  56. National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
  57. National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
  58. National Indian Council on Aging, Inc.
  59. Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
  60. Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund
  61. NSRC Fund
  62. OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
  63. OCA-Greater Houston
  64. President of TOFA Inc
  65. President Ohio Asian American Health Coalition
  66. Progressive Hmong American Organizers (PHAO)
  67. Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM)
  68. Reappropriate.co
  69. Research on the Education of Asian Pacific Americans (REAPA) Special Interest Group of the American Education Research Association
  70. SEAeD Coalition
  71. SEAMAAC, Inc.
  72. Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  73. Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  74. Temple University Asian Students Association
  75. UPenn Asian Pacific Student Coalition
  76. VAYLA New Orleans
  77. Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay

Community leaders

  1. Aamina Ahmed, Executive Director, Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan
  2. Adaeze Okoli
  3. Albert Le
  4. Alex Au, Community leader / invididual
  5. Alice Yang, Social worker
  6. Alvyn Dimaculangan, Alumnus, University of South Florida
  7. Anthony Kim, Program Coordinator, Asian Pacific American Cultural Center
  8. Aryani Ong
  9. Aven LaRosa
  10. Ayshia Moua
  11. Bai Vue
  12. Brandon Duong, Asian Pacific Student Alliance
  13. Brenda mitchner, Community leader / invididual
  14. Brian McClure
  15. Bunnard Phan
  16. Calvin Chang, Policy Director, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
  17. Camille Nguyen, Alum, Boston University
  18. Carolyn Yao
  19. Catherine ‘Ofa Mann
  20. Cayden Mak, Executive Director, 18MillionRising.org
  21. Cedric Cheng
  22. Cha Vang, Executive Director, Hmong Innovating Politics
  23. chanda womack, Executive Director, Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education
  24. Chanphy Heng, CHI Coordinator, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
  25. chee ia yang
  26. Chelsea Kern
  27. Chelsie Dang, Colorado College Asian Student Union
  28. Chen Kong-Wick
  29. Cherry Lim
  30. Christine Lee
  31. Christopher Kang
  32. Cindy Montano
  33. Connie Tingson-Gatuz
  34. Connie Wun, Director, Transformative Research
  35. Crystal Liu, Community leader / invididual
  36. Daniel Luu
  37. Danielle Ngo
  38. Danny Le
  39. david b
  40. David Lee, Alumnus, University of Minnesota Duluth
  41. David Leung
  42. Davis Chhoa
  43. Deborah Chen, OCA-Greater Houston
  44. Dena Vang
  45. Dia Yang
  46. Dian Sohn, Attorney
  47. Diana Phuong
  48. Douachee Vang
  49. Edwin Chen, Chinese-American Civil, Human & Political Rights Activist
  50. Edwin Tan, Director of Advocacy and Development, Asian Americans for Community Involvement
  51. Edwin Tiongson, Project Director, ELEVATE AAPI @ IVC
  52. Elizabeth Lee
  53. Elizabeth Wang
  54. Ellynna Ruan, Community leader / invididual
  55. Emily Ramos
  56. Emmeline Ha
  57. Ethan Nguyen
  58. Evelyn Kim, Mental Health Advocate
  59. Fiona Woods
  60. Goodson Vue
  61. Grace Horikiri, Executive Director, Nihonmachi Street Fair, Inc.
  62. Ha Tang
  63. Hannah Cho
  64. heather lou, Community leader / invididual
  65. Helena Berbano, Co-Director, Asian American Millennials Unite
  66. Henny Ohr, Director, EMBARC
  67. Hli Vang, Augsburg University
  68. Hong Lam, RN
  69. Ivy Lei, Community leader / invididual
  70. Jason Zheng
  71. Jean Hibino, Executive Secretary, Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund
  72. Jeffrey Caballero, Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
  73. Jenn Fang, Community leader / invididual
  74. Jenna McDavid, National Managing Coordinator, Diverse Elders Coalition
  75. Jennifer Hayashida, Community leader / invididual
  76. Jeremy Monsayac, Community leader / invididual
  77. Joanna Yip, Alumna, CUNY Graduate Center, Doctorate Program in Urban Education
  78. Joanne Yi
  79. John Wesley Phillips
  80. Jon Osaki, Executive DirectorJCYC
  81. Jonathan Abad, Community leader / invididual
  82. Jose Humphreys, Pastor, Metro Hope Church
  83. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
  84. Joshua Lee, AYPAL: Building API Community Power
  85. Joyce Yin, Alumni, University of Illinois at Chicago
  86. Kathy Obear, Community leader / invididual
  87. Keith Kamisugi
  88. Kevin Kumashiro, Community leader / invididual
  89. Kevin Lam, Organizing Director, Asian American Resource Workshop
  90. Khanh Pham
  91. Kompha Sroeuy
  92. Kouichoy Saechao, Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA)
  93. Ladine Chan, Program Coordinator, Educated Men with Meaningful Messages (EM3)
  94. Laura Misumi, Board Member, NSRC Fund
  95. Lee Lo
  96. Lian Cheun, Executive Director, Khmer Girls in Action
  97. Linda Akutagawa, President & CEO, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP)
  98. Linda Buu, Mental Health Counselor
  99. Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Principal, AMPRI
  100. loan dao
  101. Lokyee Au
  102. Louise Leu, Community leader / invididual
  103. Lu Shan
  104. Lundy Khoy
  105. Madeleine Han, Intern, Asian American Writers’ Workshop; alum, Stanford University
  106. Mai Vang
  107. Maipahoua Xiong
  108. Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
  109. Margaret Magnaye, UMD Alumni ’16
  110. Mark Villacorta
  111. Marsha Hawley, Director, Lead Learn Excel
  112. Michael Byun, Chief executive officer, Asian Services In Action
  113. Michael Sasorith, Designer
  114. Michelle Kim
  115. Miguel Codiñera
  116. Mike Tran, Program Coordinator
  117. Minh Nguyen, Executive Director, VAYLA New Orleans
  118. Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director, Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  119. Monica Speight
  120. Muttika Chaturabul
  121. Mykie Ozoa, J.D.
  122. Myron Quon, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse
  123. Nam Dinh
  124. Nghia Le, Children’s Social Worker
  125. Nicole Chung, Writer/Editor
  126. Niketa Brar, Community leader / invididual
  127. OiYan Poon, Coordinator, Research on the Education of Asian Pacific Americans (REAPA) Special Interest Group – American Education Research Association
  128. Pa Lee
  129. Paul Kekai Manansala, Journalist
  130. Paula Fonacier Tang
  131. Payal Kumar, Chicago Desi Youth Rising
  132. Philip Nguyen
  133. Philip Sawyer, Managing Partner, Arts Bridge International
  134. Phonsavanh Thammavongsa, Installer
  135. Phuong Luong
  136. Priscilla Hoang
  137. Priscilla Huang, Esq.
  138. Rajiv Narayan
  139. Rebecca Melnyk
  140. Richard Konda, Executive Director, Asian Law Alliance
  141. Robert Firme
  142. Ron Muriera, Arts and Cultural Consultant
  143. Ryan Lee, Alumnus, Brown University
  144. Sahra Nguyen
  145. Samantha Lin
  146. Samantha Vang, Community Engagement Coordinator
  147. Sara Spizzirri
  148. Sarath Suong, Executive Director, Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM)
  149. Saysomphorn Sisavatdy
  150. Sean McGovern
  151. Serena Prammanasudh, Immigration Specialist
  152. Shannon Earl
  153. Shannon Thao
  154. Sheesenphooyw Moua
  155. Sonexay Sanaphol
  156. Song Vaj
  157. Sovanna Pouv, Executive Director, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association
  158. Stephanie Cho, Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
  159. Sunny Huang, Paralegal, Lavin, O’Neil, Cedrone & DiSipio
  160. sunny shao
  161. Tai Duong
  162. Taneka Jennings
  163. Thai Le
  164. Thanh Nguyen
  165. Thao Dang, Program Manager, Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay
  166. Tim Huey, Alum, Saint Mary’s College of California
  167. Tim Huey, Asians For Black Lives, Bay Area
  168. Timmy Lu, Director, AAPIs for Civic Empowerment
  169. Timothy Mai
  170. Tina Chinakarn, Program Officer
  171. Tony Vo
  172. Tuyet Duong, Community leader / invididual
  173. Tuyet Le, Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago
  174. Vani Narayana
  175. Vanuyen Pham
  176. Vigor Lam, Co-Chair, ACPA’s Asian Pacific American Network
  177. Wenjie Wang
  178. William Chang
  179. Yer Vang
  180. Yoojin Janice Lee, Community leader / invididual
  181. Yue Zhou, Community leader / invididual

(other versions of this letter)