Covid-19 has sparked an increase in racism against East Asians in America, whether immigrant or native born. However, racism against all groups of Asian descent has been around for much longer, with racist stereotypes and the model minority myth. Join Queens Memory and partners for an online discussion about the current higher educational experience for Asians in America, who are facing the continuously evolving challenge of racism. Also to be discussed is how Asians in America can provide ally-ship and solidarity to other groups that are experiencing racial oppression.
Frank Wu, President-Designate, Queens College/CUNY
Joyce Moy, Executive Director, AAARI-CUNY
Vivian Louie, Director, Asian American Studies Program & Center, Hunter College/CUNY
John Chin, Professor, Urban Policy and Planning, Hunter College/CUNY
Madhulika Khandelwal, Director, Asian/American Center, Queens College/CUNY
Student Representative from the Student Council, Asian/American Center, Queens College/CUNY
Program sponsored by the Queens Memory COVID-19 Project of Queens College and Queens Public Library, Queens College Asian American Center, and Asian American / Asian Research Institute – City University of New York
On June 10, AABANY hosted another general interest meeting, this time over Zoom, to discuss the formation of a Family & Elder Law Committee. AABANY members Beatrice Leong, S. Yan Sin, and May Wong, who all practice matrimonial law, said they proposed creating this committee because they noticed a lack of Asian Americans in the field.
Despite AABANY’s history of over 30 years as a bar association, there have been no committees dedicated to matrimonial law, family law or elder law. The Family & Elder Law Committee aims to focus on issues pertaining to divorce, custody, child support, domestic violence, guardianship, estate planning, abuse/neglect, pre- and post-nuptial agreements and a host of other areas. As a committee focused on specific areas of law, the group would be able to provide support to the general membership – and even those who may not be AABANY members – by connecting them with lawyers who specialize in these fields and with other resources. The committee would also serve as a way to raise awareness about these areas of law which are more directly related to helping individuals.
During the webinar, Beatrice, Yan and May shared a short presentation detailing the goals and benefits of their proposed committee, as well as giving an overview of what family law and elder law entail. The webinar co-hosts also addressed the new challenges that have surfaced due to COVID-19 and detailed the ways they were adapting to the changes in the legal field.
Also in attendance was Pauline Yeung-Ha, an elder law and estate planning attorney who also supports the formation of this new committee. Elder law focuses on helping older adults with the preservation of wealth during one’s lifetime, aiding the elderly in issues related to health care, government benefits, guardianship and more. Estate planning, on the other hand, is centered more around the distribution of assets after one’s death. The two fields intersect heavily, Pauline said, requiring both extensive legal knowledge and the skill set of a social worker. With COVID-19, especially because of its tremendous toll on the older population, her work has been even more difficult than normal, filled with lots of urgent situations often regarding healthcare proxies or home attendants.
Following the presentation, the hosts opened up the webinar for a brief Q&A session, where they each explained what drew them to the type of law they practice and why they continue to be so passionate about their field. Although working at separate firms, Beatrice, Yan, and May agreed that being able to guide someone through the most difficult times in their lives — both on a legal and personal level — is what makes their jobs so fulfilling. Bringing knowledge in from a variety of fields, including social work and psychology, has allowed people to entrust them with their most valuable assets: their family and their money.
Pauline shared a similar sentiment, also noting how underserved elder law and estate planning tends to be. She particularly likes the fact that her job allows her to help people, and often requires her to piece together a puzzle from a host of incomplete stories, ultimately aiding older adults financially, while also connecting with and supporting them through a very emotional, sensitive process. The attorney-client bond has been so strong that Pauline still goes out to dimsum with some of her past clients.
On June 12 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly Zoom Membership Mixer, with 19 participants in attendance. The icebreaker question posed to the participants was: “What is a motivational or inspirational moment or story that sticks out in your mind?” Members reported some favorite quotes: “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” (Tupac); “Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.” (Yuri Kochiyama); “The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs). Other members recalled moments with mentors which stayed with them. One partner told a young associate: “Speak up for what you want, you have to ask.” “There is the argument you prepare, the argument you make and the arguments you wish you made.” “Learn from your mistakes.” “Apply to every scholarship and opportunity and you can reach your goals.”
The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but feel free to stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.
This week, after the main mixer, a breakout group of 6 members stayed to discuss the upcoming elections, civil unrest and the latest news.
We are giving away door prizes in some weeks. In order to win, you must be a member and must RSVP on the aabany.org calendar entry to get a raffle number. Non-members can join the Zoom mixer but won’t be eligible to win a prize. Congratulations to Chris Kwok for winning a PBS Passport subscription this week!
On Thursday June 4th, AABANY held a virtual introduction meeting for its Pro Bono Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. Since 2015, the Clinic provided in-person consultation to those with legal questions in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens on a walk-in basis or by appointment. Due to COVID-19, these operations have been suspended. In order to continue serving community needs, the Pro Bono Clinic is transitioning to a remote clinic by setting up a telephone hotline for volunteer attorneys to provide legal information and referrals to all individuals.
Judy Lee, Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair, and May Wong, a Pro Bono Clinic volunteer, led the meeting and discussed logistical concerns, such as how attorneys will be paired with the callers, the intake forms to maintain records, and the coordination of language interpretation. This will be a challenge during unprecedented times.
Judy and May also focused on confidentiality, how volunteers can best assist callers by being understanding and respectful, and how to use IRAC to answer the questions. They posed a housing and COVID-19 related hypothetical of whether a tenant who moved out from the apartment without providing 30 days’ notice to the landlord can recover his or her security deposit. After presenting the question at hand, they provided sample responses to show that many attorneys may have different approaches in solving the problem but at the same time the tenant is directed to the proper forum to seek relief.
The volunteers may not always know the answers to the caller’s issue but AABANY provides experienced coordinators, training materials, and CLEs to help. For example, such information can be found at:
WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) denounces the introduction of the SECURE CAMPUS Act. The bill introduced by Senator Tom Cotton and Senator Marsha Blackburn, along with a companion bill introduced by Congressman David Kustoff, will prohibit Chinese STEM graduate students from receiving a visa to study in the United States under the presumption that all Chinese STEM students engage in espionage.
“Asian Pacific Americans have faced a long history of discrimination and exclusion in the United States. This includes the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese American Incarceration, the post-9/11 racial profiling of Arabs, Sikhs, Muslims and South Asians, and the targeting of Asian American scientists,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, President of NAPABA. “The SECURE CAMPUS Act uses xenophobic vitriol to divide our country, and by extension, further incites fear and hatred toward Asian Pacific Americans. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Anti-Asian sentiment is at an all-time high. We must continue to strongly denounce racist rhetoric.”
The bill seeks to exclude Chinese graduate students from attending STEM programs in the U.S. and to block federal funding from any institution that has participation from these students. “Graduate students from China and other countries have come to the United States for educational opportunities for decades. They have made substantial contributions to our society and have become U.S. citizens,” said Wolf. “At least 10 Nobel Prize winners in STEM fields and over a dozen astronauts are Asian Pacific Americans who are immigrants or are the children of immigrants.”
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of approximately 50,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.