NAPABA Applauds Eleventh Circuit Ruling Halting Enforcement of Florida’s Discriminatory Alien Land Law

For Immediate Release: 
Date: February 2, 2024 
ContactRahat N. Babar, Deputy Executive Director for Policy 

WASHINGTON – In the ongoing litigation against Florida’s discriminatory alien land law (“SB 264”), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted a preliminary injunction yesterday in favor of two of the plaintiffs and halted enforcement of the law against them. In temporarily blocking SB 264, the court held that the plaintiffs demonstrated a substantial likelihood that the statute is preempted by federal law and that they have shown an imminent risk that the law would cause them irreparable harm. The plaintiffs, lawfully present Chinese immigrants, first brought the suit because they were stymied in their efforts to purchase homes when the law went into effect.

“We are grateful that the court recognized the real harm that discriminatory statutes such as SB 264 are imposing on the Asian American community,” said Anna Mercado Clark, President of NAPABA. “As litigation continues, NAPABA will continue to oppose alien land laws, whether in the halls of Congress, in statehouses, or in court, until these discriminatory policies return to the dustbin of history, where they belong.”

In a robust concurrence, Judge Nancy Abudu acknowledged that “SB 264 was enacted for the specific purpose of targeting people of Chinese descent.” Judge Abudu concluded that the plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood that statute also violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. In doing so, Judge Abudu excoriated the District Court’s fraught reliance on the widely discredited century-old Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197 (1923), case, determining that it “may have had support in 1923, but it is now 2024” and such laws are now subject to strict scrutiny.

NAPABA, together with its four Florida affiliates, joined an amicus brief before the Eleventh Circuit in the case, continuing our long history for over a decade of leading efforts to overcome the state’s legacy of anti-Asian alien land laws. This includes when Florida became the last state in the United States over five years ago to abolish such discriminatory language from its constitution, only to enact SB 264 last year. Throughout the country, NAPABA and its affiliates continue to fight these discriminatory measures through legislative advocacy and educating lawmakers and the wider public on the painful history and legal implications of wrongfully restricting the property rights of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 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 all backgrounds in the legal profession.

ICYMI: NAPABA Joins Coalition Partners and Applauds the Removal of Alien Land Law Provision from the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act

For Immediate Release: 
Date: January 12, 2024 
ContactRahat N. Babar, Deputy Executive Director for Policy 

For Immediate Release
Date: January 11, 2024

CONTACT
Michelle Boykins, (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144
[email protected]

Louise Liu, (202) 657-7413
[email protected]

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC Applauds Removal of the Rounds Amendment from the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act

Discriminatory amendment would have prohibited certain foreign nationals, including Chinese foreign nationals, from owning land in the U.S.

WASHINGTON – Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (Advancing Justice – AAJC) today commended lawmakers’ decision to strike S. 2226 § 1086 (Senate Amendment 813) introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-ND) amendment in the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

If included, this discriminatory amendment would have effectively prohibited certain foreign nationals, including Chinese foreign nationals, from purchasing U.S. agricultural land — continuing the pattern of a nation-wide resurgence of so-called “alien” land laws that have been introduced in at least 27 states and enacted in at least eight.

A coalition of Asian American and allied organizations took swift and sustained action to oppose this amendment and urge lawmakers to take it out of the final conference report language.

The Rounds amendment is the continuation of a long legacy of unnecessary legislation that leads to harmful profiling of and violence towards the Asian American community. In America’s history such legislation unfairly targeted Asian Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries through anti-immigration laws, land ownership prohibitions, incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, and other efforts that sought to exclude members of the community. This racist and xenophobic behavior has continued from the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 to the murders of Sikh Americans and the racial profiling of Muslim Americans in a post-9/11 environment. Asian Americans are too often considered to be “perpetual foreigners.”

Approximately 27 organizations joined Asian American Advancing Justice – AAJC in submitting a formal letter to NDAA conferees Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed and Ranking Member Roger Ricker, as well as House Armed Services Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Adam Smith, urging them to “prohibit the inclusion of provisions that would effectively bar foreign nationals – including Chinese foreign nationals – from acquiring certain types of U.S. agricultural land.” The letter continued by encouraging them to “strike provisions that stoke racial animus, bias, and discrimination, as well as undermine Asian American participation in the Armed Services.”

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice – AAJC said, “We are very pleased that Congress listened to the concerns from our communities and did not include this harmful amendment in the NDAA. We are not naïve to the legitimate and credible threats that the Chinese Communist Party has on U.S. national security interests when it comes to the issue of espionage, and we are certain that Congress and the federal government can take a more responsible and targeted approach to combating foreign malign influence that does not result in the racial profiling of our community members.”

“Like so many similar discriminatory laws and bills of this nations, the Rounds amendment would have ensnared innocent Chinese individuals because the language failed to meaningfully distinguish between entities from China and individuals from China,” said Joanna YangQing Derman, Director of Anti-Profiling, Civil Rights and National Security at Advancing Justice – AAJC. “We are proud to have worked with a strong coalition of partners to call out this discrimination and put Congress and the government on notice that we will push back on any bills that cause harm to our communities.”

“As an organization representing Iranian Americans, it is critically important to underscore that people are not their governments. Equating the two is what led to the creation of the Rounds amendment, and we will continue to combat legislation that seeks to enshrine blatant xenophobia and undermine civil rights. We are grateful to our multiethnic coalition and network of volunteers who worked tirelessly to advocate against this amendment until its defeat,” said Jamal Abdi, President of National Iranian American Council Action.

“The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and its affiliates across the country have worked to combat discriminatory anti-Asian alien land laws. They are a relic from the early 20th century and ought to remain in the dustbin of history. Instead of focusing on adversarial governmental entities, these bills instead target innocent individuals and wrongfully perpetuates harmful stereotypes about the loyalties of Asian Americans. While policymakers are free to address the legitimate national security concerns of the United States, they may not pursue discriminatory policies on the backs of the Asian American community,” said Priya Purandare, Executive Director of NAPABA.

“We commend the removal of the Rounds Amendment from the NDAA,” said Cynthia Choi, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate and Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “Had this xenophobic measure been enacted, it would have contributed to the alarming surge in anti-Asian political scapegoating we’re seeing today. Policies like this fuel the harmful ‘perpetual foreigner’ trope that wrongly paints Asian Americans as outsiders and suspects in the country we call home — further stoking hate against our communities. We firmly believe that our leaders can and should address legitimate national security threats without resorting to measures that scapegoat entire groups of people and worsen anti-Asian racism and discrimination.”

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at advancingjustice-aajc.org.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 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 all backgrounds in the legal profession.

NAPABA | 1612 K St. NW, Suite 300 | Washington, DC 20006 | www.napaba.org

NAPABA and Jacksonville AABA Statement in Response to the Shooting in Jacksonville, Florida


For Immediate Release:
 
Date: August 28, 2023
ContactRahat N. Babar, Deputy Executive Director for Policy 

WASHINGTON – On the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, the day, which started with a remembrance of the work remaining to achieve Dr. King’s dream for racial and social equity, ended in tragedy. This past Saturday afternoon on August 26, 2023, according to news reports, an individual armed with a handgun and an AR-15-style rifle that bore white supremacist markings shot and killed three people from the Black community at a store in Jacksonville, Florida. Local law enforcement officials have reported that the individual, who was white, left written evidence detailing his “disgusting ideology of hate” and that the shooting “was racially motivated, and he hated Black people.”

To say that our hearts are broken would be an understatement. We stand with the people of Jacksonville and with the families of the victims.

Throughout the history of the United States, we have seen – time and again – the devastating impacts of hate on our communities. Yet we must not yield and allow history to repeat itself. We cannot allow hate to hold our communities hostage. And we refuse to allow white supremacy any safe harbor.

NAPABA and the Jacksonville Asian American Bar Association remain committed to eradicating hate and making Dr. King’s vision a reality.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 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 all backgrounds in the legal profession.

The Jacksonville Asian American Bar Association (JAABA) is a voluntary bar association of attorneys, judges, and law students, who serve the Jacksonville and North Florida areas. JAABA is an affiliate member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (the “NAPABA”) which represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. JAABA seeks to carry out the mission statement of NAPABA – promoting “justice, equity and opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans” and fostering “professional development, legal scholarship, advocacy and community involvement.” To that end, JAABA issued a joint statement with NAPABA regarding the racially-motivated attack that occurred in Jacksonville over the weekend; and reiterates its support of NAPABA’s values of “equality, community, advocacy, relationships, diversity, equity, inclusion, open-mindedness, and the health and wellbeing of our members” and the communities in which we live and serve.

NAPABA Applauds the Nomination of Lisa Wang to the U.S. Court of International Trade

For Immediate Release: 
Date: June 28, 2023
ContactRahat N. Babar, Deputy Executive Director for Policy 

WASHINGTON – June 28, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Lisa Wang to serve on the United States Court of International Trade. She would be the second individual from the AANHPI community to serve on this Article III court if confirmed.

“NAPABA congratulates Lisa Wang on her nomination,” said Sandra Leung, President of NAPABA. “A dedicated public servant, Assistant Secretary Wang immigrated to the United States when she was five years old and built a successful career in international trade. We applaud President Biden for nominating her to the court and urge the Senate to confirm her swiftly.”

Lisa Wang is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance. She is the U.S. Department of Commerce’s delegate on the Interagency Working Group for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. In this role, Assistant Secretary Wang supports the Administration’s whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AANHPI communities.

Before her appointment, she was a partner at Picard Kentz & Rowe LLP where she focused on international trade law matters, including antidumping, countervailing duty litigation, and trade policy issues. Assistant Secretary Wang also served as Senior Attorney with the Office of the Chief Counsel for Trade Enforcement and Compliance at the Department of Commerce, as Assistant General Counsel in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and as Senior Import Administration Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where she was awarded Commerce’s Bronze Medal Award for Distinguished Performance. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2006 and her B.S. from Cornell University

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 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 all backgrounds

NAPABA and APABA Tampa Bay Oppose Florida Alien Land Law in Court

WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay (APABA Tampa Bay) joined the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the South Asian Bar Association of North America, and other partners to oppose the Florida Conveyances to Foreign Entities Law (“SB 264”), a new statute that would prohibit individuals from purchasing real property in Florida based on national origin. The coalition filed an amicus brief, which can be found here, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in Yifan Shen v. Wilton Simpson. The motion seeks a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of SB 264.

The amicus brief continues the advocacy efforts of NAPABA and our Florida affiliates in opposing SB 264 during the legislative process. In yesterday’s brief, the coalition argued that laws such as SB 264 are “stains on American history” and that alien land laws have “historically and consistently been struck down as invidiously discriminatory.” They promote discrimination against the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community and endanger these populations under the guise of national security concerns.

The opposition to SB 264 coincides with the leadership of NAPABA and its affiliates in combatting similar efforts across the nation. Beyond Florida, NAPABA has opposed similar legislation introduced in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama that targeted the AANHPI community. During NAPABA Lobby Day last month, our members demanded that Congress act in response to state actions restricting our communities’ ability to pursue a livelihood. Days later, Rep. Judy Chu of California, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Rep. Al Green of Texas introduced the Preemption of Real Property Discrimination Act in the United States House of Representatives. The bill, which NAPABA endorsed the same day, would nullify any state law that prohibits or otherwise restricts an individual’s right to purchase real property based only on that individual’s citizenship.

NAPABA President Sandra Leung denounced state efforts to enact such discriminatory policies, which “eerily recall ancient alien land laws, which were enacted over a hundred years ago, that barred Asian immigrants from owning land. Such laws belong in the dustbin of history, and they have no place in our nation today. While policymakers are free to address the legitimate national security concerns of the United States, they may not enact discriminatory laws on the backs of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community.”

“Unless enjoined, SB 264 will be applied in discriminatory ways and inflict lasting damage on Asian Pacific American communities in Florida and beyond,” said SeungEun April Lee, President of APABA Tampa Bay.

NAPABA extends its thanks and appreciation to Professor Robert S. Chang of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, the entire legal team at Foley Hoag LLP, and the NAPABA Amicus Committee, chaired by Radha Pathak and Albert Giang, for their work and leadership.

Contact: Rahat N. Babar, Deputy Executive Director for Policy

Rahat N. Babar Appointed as NAPABA’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy 


For Immediate Release:
 
Date: April 10, 2023 
ContactPriya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) has named Rahat N. Babar as its new Deputy Executive Director for Policy. In this role, Rahat will lead strategies and programs that will advance NAPABA’s advocacy, civil rights, and policy priorities.

Rahat brings to the position a long-standing commitment to NAPABA and the Asian American and Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander community, and nearly two decades of high-profile public service. Rahat is a former member of NAPABA’s Board of Governors and a former chair of NAPABA’s Civil Rights Committee. He previously served as President of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania and served on the Board of Directors of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey. NAPABA recognized Rahat as one of NAPABA’s Best Under 40 in 2018.

Currently, Rahat serves as a Judge on the Superior Court of New Jersey, the first Bangladeshi American to be a member of the court. Immediately prior to his appointment, Rahat was Special Counsel to Governor Philip D. Murphy, overseeing all high-profile litigation impacting the Governor and the Administration. Previously, he was the Director of Community Engagement at the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, where as part of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal’s Executive Leadership Team, he led the Attorney General’s efforts to strengthen the office’s relationships with community leaders, faith leaders, and the public. Rahat held several other leadership roles within the Attorney General’s Office, practiced in a boutique corporate law firm, and taught law and public policy at Temple University Beasley School of Law as an Adjunct Professor. 

 “We are so fortunate to have such a legal luminary and NAPABA stalwart lead our policy efforts,” said Priya Purandare, Executive Director of NAPABA. “Rahat is a proven bar leader and policy expert who is uniquely situated to help ensure that our national advocacy vision and civil rights priorities can be carried out across the country by harnessing the passion and collaboration of our members and affiliate bar organizations.” 

Rahat will begin his new role with NAPABA in May 2023. 

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NAPABA Webinar on Combating a History of Anti-Asian Discrimination: How to Protect the Asian American Community

A racist cartoon originally depicted in the publication, the San Francisco Wasp, in 1881. The cartoon was a parody of the Statue of Liberty and represented a growing fear of Asian immigrants within the United States

On Friday, April 3rd, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) hosted a webinar titled “Pandemic and Acts of Hate Against Asian Americans: From Past to Present.” The webinar traced the historical roots of Asian American discrimination related to disease and public health issues and presented solutions for the present in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The webinar featured a panel which included Professor Jack Chin of UC Davis Law School, Matt Stevens of The New York Times’s Political News division, Harpreet Singh Mokha of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, and Rahat N. Babar, Special Counsel, Office of the Governor of New Jersey. Chris M. Kwok, the NAPABA Dispute Resolution Committee Co-Chair and our very own AABANY Issues Committee Chair, helmed the panel as moderator. 

Professor Chin began by outlining the extensive history of anti-Asian discrimination within the United States. He focused on how discriminatory legislation at the state level in California and at the national level through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 frequently correlated Asian American immigrants with disease. In particular, Professor Chin noted how San Francisco became a focal point of race-based efforts to control the bubonic plague in the early 1900s. Multiple political attempts were made to isolate and discriminate against Asians in the city which were repeatedly rebuffed by legal challenges such as Wong Wai v. Williamson and Jew Ho v. Williamson. Professor Chin underscored the ugly but recurring theme pushed in American politics about the “foreignness of germs.”

Following the professor’s historical account, Matt Stevens, an Asian American political reporter for The New York Times, noted the efforts that legislators are making to combat these acts of discrimination. Moreover, he noted the pervasive feeling of fear that permeates the Asian American community.

Harpreet Singh Mokha, National Program Manager for Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) issues at the Community Relations Service of the DOJ, explained the role and function of CRS during this pandemic. Established under Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS, frequently called “America’s Peacemakers,” works directly with communities facing conflict on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, and disability issues. It has four primary functions: facilitating dialogue, mediating conflict, training community members, and providing consultation for methods of community assistance. Mr. Mokha noted that members of communities all across the country should be encouraged to make use of CRS’s resources and report hate crimes at their first occurrence. 

To wrap up the panel, Rahat Babar, Special Counsel for Litigation with the Office of the New Jersey Governor, echoed Mr. Mokha’s point to report hate crimes without hesitation. He noted a 2020 in-state report which found a 65% increase in bias incidents between 2018 and 2019 with 46% of those engaging in such bias incidents being minors. Thanks to this report, Governor Phil Murphy was able to set up a task force to explore why minors were engaging in such behavior. Mr. Babar notes that without a robust data set of incident or hate crime reports, lawmakers and community leaders will not be able to identify root problems or pose solutions. 

Overall, the panel outlined past and present cases of racial discrimination targeted towards the AAPI community. All panelists acknowledged the importance of speaking out during this time of uncertainty for the sake of protecting fellow community members both now and in the future. 

This event  reached the largest audience for a NAPABA webinar to date, with 160 registrants. The program stressed placing the events of today within historical understanding of America, engagement with our government institutions charged with enforcing our laws, and collaboration across civil society organizations. We at AABANY thank and acknowledge Chris Kwok for proposing this program to NAPABA and serving as moderator.

A racist cartoon published in San Francisco-based publication, The Wasp. The cartoon promoted then-common racist myths that Chinatown was riddled with disease.
A racist cartoon published in the illustrated San Francisco weekly “Thistleton’s Illustrated Jolly Giant” depicting San Francisco’s The Globe Hotel. The cartoon insinuates that the Globe Hotel secretly contained a “small pox hospital” and an “underground Chinese cemetery,” perpetuating racist stereotypes of the time.