WASHINGTON — Two new members of Congress, both Orange County Republicans and among the first Korean American women members of the House, testified March 18 at the House Judiciary Committee Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee’s hearing on “Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans.”
Reps. Young Kim (R-La Habra) and Michelle Steel (R-Huntington Beach) denounced the incidents of anti-Asian violence being reported across the country, and also charged that universities discriminate against Asian applicants.
Kim testified: “I represent in California’s 39th Congressional District, which is one of the most diverse districts in the country and is also home to a vibrant Asian American community. My district is truly a representation of America and what makes our country great. Asian Americans have and continue to make countless contributions to communities across our country and right here in the halls of Congress.
“Since the beginning of COVID-19, we have increasingly seen Asian Americans becoming targets of hate across the nation, with more than 3,000 hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community reported nationwide, with an increased number of attacks against seniors.
“This week, we saw senseless violence in Atlanta that took the lives of six Asian American women. While the investigation is ongoing and we wait for more information, this comes during a time when violence and attacks against Asian Americans are on the rise. The hate, bias and attacks that we’ve seen against the Asian American community are unacceptable and must be stopped. This is wrong, and it has no place in our political discourse and is contrary to the values America stands for.
“This should not have to be said, but I want to be very clear. No American of any race or ethnic group is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus does not discriminate. It affects everyone. We must come together as Americans, not just to fight COVID-19, but also to stand against the rise of hate and discrimination against the AAPI community and any other group of Americans.
“We also cannot forget that discrimination we’ve seen against the AAPI community is not limited to the violence and attacks. I hope we can look at the nation’s elite universities and other institutions of learning. We have seen institutions discriminating against Asian Americans in their admissions process in order to deny them entry.
“Discrimination is wrong and goes against our fundamental American values that we hold dear. In America, we value the individual, and we believe that people deserve to be judged on their merits and not penalized because of their heritage, race or background. These are the values that my family and countless immigrants came here for.
“When our country seems more divided than ever, we should work together to unify our country and ensure future generations of Americans – regardless of their background – have the same opportunity to access the promise of America.
“No matter our race and background, we are all Americans. Asian Americans are Americans. As an Asian American and a member of Congress, I feel a duty to speak out. I stand with the AAPI community today and always.”
Steel testified: “It has been heartbreaking to see the rise in anti-Asian American hate and harassment over the last year. As we will hear today from our witnesses, hate against the Asian American community is not new.
“According to Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor, violence against Asian Americans has been ‘underscrutinized, underprosecuted and often condoned.’ There is a long, sad history of intolerance and hate directed at our community.
“And in the last year, almost 4,000 incidents of verbal harassment, physical assault and discrimination have been reported.
“California is at the top of the list, with 44% of all incidents reported happening in my home state. New York is second on the list, making up 13% of all the incidents reported. 68% of these incidents and crimes were targeted towards Asian American women. This has to stop.
“When I was chair of the OC Board of Supervisors, I introduced a resolution that called for tolerance and compassion towards all residents, and condemned discrimination against the AAPI community. I was proud this year to introduce a similar resolution in Congress, with another Orange County congresswoman, Katie Porter (D-Irvine).
“That’s because combating hate is not a partisan issue. We can all agree that violence against any community should never be tolerated.
“As a first-generation Korean American, who is now serving her community in the halls of Congress, this is my American dream. I want future generations of Americans to know they can achieve anything in this great country.
“That’s why I’d also like to use some of my time today to talk about the discrimination that the AAPI community is experiencing in our nation’s education system.
“It’s one of the reasons why my colleague Rep. Kim and I joined Ranking Member (Jim) Jordan (R-Ohio) and Subcommittee Ranking Member (Mike) Johnson (R-La.) to request the president of Yale University to testify at today’s hearing.
“Last year, the Department of Justice filed a case alleging that Yale University was discriminating against Asian American and white applicants. But the Biden Administration dropped the suit last month. This is totally wrong and sets a dangerous precedent.
“In 1996, I supported and campaigned for California’s Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences in public hiring, education and contracting. It was modeled after the Civil Rights Act.
“Before Prop 209 was passed, the four-year graduation rate for underrepresented racial minorities in the University of California system was 31.3%. By 2014, that had increased to 55.1%. The six-year graduation rate is even better, increasing from 66.5% in 1998 to 75.1% in 2013.
“Last year in California, Democrats introduced Proposition 16 to bring back racial preferences in hiring, contracting and our education system. Californians overwhelmingly rejected it.
“As a new member of Congress and an immigrant to this country, we should be encouraging all students and young people to succeed, especially in our education system.
“Discrimination is against the fundamental values of American culture, and that includes discrimination against the AAPI community in the halls of our schools and universities. This is wrong. This type of behavior is only hurting future generations.
“We should be working together to stop this discrimination and hate in its tracks, and to encourage the next generation to achieve their own American dream.”
Kim and Steel joined Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on the first panel of witnesses.