While each year holds distinct memories, 2006 is particularly special. We will always remember it as the year that immigrant communities were stirred to become politically engaged like never before in history as communities voted with their feet through the mass spring mobilization for comprehensive immigration reform.
The year ahead presents much hope and challenges for the low income and immigrant communities. In order to achieve genuine social economic change that benefits all Americans, we must adopt a more inclusive mandate and begin to reach out to work with diverse constituencies. Therefore we recommit ourselves to focus on deep education and long term organizing of our community and multiracial and class coalition building. Tonight banquet’s theme, “Make The Road By Walking” r reflects the belief that we can make change and progress by doing. Let us walk this road that has never been walked before,hand over fist, shoulder to shoulder.
Kiwan Hong, KRC Board Chair
Health Access Project
The Health Access Project was created to improve the health status of Korean Americans, and ensure Korean American representation in health policy, funding and education. Working together with Community Health Promoters, the project goals are focused on creating access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health services.
KRC provided consultation and application assistance to 555 low-income seniors and families for public health programs such as Medi-Cal, Healthy Families and Healthy Kids. In addition, KRC distributed the first bilingual Health Alert, which provides timely information regarding the recent policy and program changes in public health benefits. To prevent the further loss of free and low-cost health services and a significant trauma center, KRC actively advocated to save Martin Luther King/ Drew Hospital in solidarity with the South Los Angeles community. These KRC health services are particularly vital given that Korean Americans have the highest uninsured rate at 52% among all ethnicities.
Medicare Part D Enrollment Services
With the implementation the Medicare Part D program at the beginning of the year, limited English proficient Korean American seniors were faced with significant additional barriers when receiving medications and treatment because of the lack of written bilingual materials and access to language services. With the help of California Endowment, in 2006, KRC assisted over 1,344 Korean seniors in enrolling in prescription drug plans.
Koreatown Health Day Clinic The “Koreatown Health Day” is a biannual event, providing much needed health services to 300 uninsured low-income community members who otherwise do not have meaningful access to healthcare. Health Day promotes preventive health practices by offering free pap smears, mammograms, blood pressure readings, diabetes & cholesterol tests, general blood tests and consultations from family practice doctors, dentists, acupuncturists as well as information on healthy eating and fish contamination.
Language Access Advocacy
A survey conducted by the New California Media in 2003 found that 60% of Korean Americans reported to speak English not well or not at all. Competent multi-lingual services are crucial for the Korean immigrant community members when accessing public health benefits. The language access component strives to build the capacity of the community to instill self-sufficiency through education so that clients could advocate for themselves and to build discussions between government agencies and the Korean community. Toward this purpose, KRC conducted workshops with 729 Korean American seniors informing them of available multi-lingual services at senior day care centers, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and senior apartments. For policy recommendations, KRC has surveyed over 300 Korean American seniors in Los Angeles County to assess the accessibility of written materials and of Korean language lines at CMS and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan sponsors. For more direct advocacy, KRC, part of the Community Advisory Board Coalition, meets with representatives from the Department of Public Social Services to present case stories to ensure that every individual is given competent services in the language preferred in a timely manner.
During the 2006 General Elections, KRC assisted close to 2,278 U.S. citizens with voter registration and helped 477 voters complete vote-by-mail applications. Our voter mobilization efforts resulted in contacts with 7,000 Korean American voters. In addition, KRC produced 24,000 bilingual election guides, 19,000 of which were were mailed to registered Korean American voters during the November elections and 5,000 guides during the June elections.
This year, KRC expanded the voter empowerment project with outreach to Korean American community members in both Los Angeles County and Orange County. KRC, with the help of local business owners, community organizations, and local ethnic media, organized voter registration drives in these counties, distributing bilingual voter guides and creating public service announcements to increase public awareness and civic engagement. Details are below.
- Voter Registration with 2,278 individuals through Naturalization ceremonies, One Vote campaign, Vote 2006 Campaign
- Direct mailing (8-page bilingual voter guide, Immigration issue alert flyer, Vote-by-mail form) sent to 16,000 Voters in the city of Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) and 2,000 voters in the cities of Garden Grove & Buena Park (Orange County)
- Door to Door Voter Awareness with 1,994 potential voters
- Phone Banking: KRC contacted up to 2,600 voters for the June elections and 7,000 voters during the November elections
- 8 Voter Workshops with 880 participants
- Media Campaign: 103 Media activities, including press conferences, interviews, and PSAs
- Voter Hot-Line from 9/1/06 -- 11/7/06 : With 1,374 voters
Free Naturalization Clinic
The Korean Resource Center hopes to raise the voice of the Korean American community in various legislative measures , including humane immigration reform. Through naturalization and voter registration, the Korean community will be empowered to become a noticeable political force with access to the electoral system.
Last July 1st, KRC participated in the “National Citizenship Day” event at the Los Angeles Convention Center with the “We Are America Alliance”, and with the support of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center. KRC held additional clinics on July 15 and August 12; starting September, KRC offers weekly Tuesday clinics, assisting the process of 374 Korean American clients.
Free Legal Clinic
KRC and LAFLA have been co-sponsor ing a “Pro Bono Legal Clinic” on a monthly basis since June 2004, serving 99 individuals in 2006. Many thanks to Joanne Lee, an attorney with LAFLA, who has been providing consultation on family, immigration, and labor law.
Free Low Income Tax Clinic
This year, KRC provided consultation to 530 low-income, limited English proficient (LEP) taxpayers on rights and responsibilities, tax credit laws, and tax filing processes. KRC volunteers also sponsored a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which assisted 439 low-income taxpayers with their E-filing returns. Through KRC’s VITA program, an estimated $318,000 in Earned Income Tax Credit (both federal and state) and federal/state tax refund was refunded to 420 low-income taxpayers.
2006 Summer Youth Empowerment Project
KRC offered its Summer Youth Empowerment Project for eight weeks to local high school students seeking to participate in this joint study and internship program. Four times a week, students learned about a range of topics from modern Korean history and culture to civil rights and race relations.
Fish Contamination Education
KRC’s public education efforts have focused on raising community awareness about potential fish contamination of DDT, PCBs and mercury caught from the coastal waters of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For example, white croaker, a favorite dish among Korean Americans, has been found to have high levels of contaminated chemicals and mercury, putting children and pregnant women at high risk for cancer.
Free Naturalization English Class
Since the Fall, KRC established a free Naturalization Evening Class in partnership with the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. A total of 28 immigrant students registered for the class and had an opportunity to learn about U.S. history, government, and how to prepare for citizenship interview.
Senior Technology Class
KRC launched a free technology class for low-income seniors to provide computer literacy on a wide range of topics from the most basic—how to use a computer: windows, introduction to the internet & search engines, to the intermediate-beginner--how to find a polling place on the county website.
From October 13, 2005 to May 31, 2006, KRC conducted six workshops composed of eight 1-hour sessions and a total of 33 seniors participated.
Solidarity with New Orleans
Korean Resource Center and NAKASEC sent two delegations to the New Orleans in solidarity with the People’s Organizing Committee (POC, http://www.peoplesorganizing.org), a grassroots organization committed to bottom-up organizing. The two Korean American delegation teams had an opportunity to learn about discriminatory levy system, history of the African American community and civil rights movement; also the teams participated in house gutting work, resident organizing through phone banking and canvassing.
During the solidarity trip, KRC youth participated in a joint press conference by POC and Immigrant Worker Coalition of New Orleans. The event was to call attention to hotel workers’ grievances against their unscrupulous employer who had denied them paychecks trying to take advantage of the workers’ immigration status.
As the powerfully worded anti-immigrant bill H.R. 4437 passed the House in 2005, immigrant communities prepared for demonstrations in a tense mood. Waves of protest for humane immigration reform and against anti-immigrant bills swept the nation starting in Washington DC in March, and here in Southern California on March 25th, 26th, April 10th, and May 1st. Throughout the various marches, more than 2 million people participated, and figures such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Archdiocese’s Cardinal Mahoney participated and created a momentum that lasted into history.
As all the immigrant communities started mobilizing the street marches across the cities beginning of March 2006, KRC also mobilized the Korean American community for March 25, March 26, April 10 and May 1. Over two months of periods, KRC disseminated 10,000 flyers, 2,000 direct mailing, and 1000 phone banking and door-knocking to the community members to participate in the marches as well as organizing Korean traditional drumming groups. As a result of these efforts, the Senate passed a reform proposal without the criminalization aspects of H.R. 4437.
As the marches folded, immigrant communitie felt the need to channel the energies into votes and initiated a period of naturalizations and voter registrations. At the same time, NAKASEC and its affiliates KRC, YKASEC, Chicago KRCC launched the “We Are America” Campaign and so far 100,000 postcards have been printed for participating organizations.
As a result of the mass (voter) mobilizations, the Korean American community’s attitude towards issues of legalization, criminalization of immigrants, and family reunification, turned out to be overwhelmingly in support (78%) of a path to citizenship, against criminalization of undocumented immigrants, and demanding a solution to the slow family reunification process.
Founded in October 2005 within the Korean Resource Center, Organize, Rise Up, Act n’ Get Empowered (ORAnGE) is a youth group dedicated to advancing student legalization, humane immigration reform, and developing leadership, and political consciousness. This past summer, ORAnGE successfully raised close to $5,000 towards the costs of the August 2006 Korean American Youth Solidarity Trip to New Orleans. As part of their efforts to educate the community on student legalization issues, several ORAnGE members, Eunice Lee, SangHoon Lee, and Elizabeth Heo, shot, edited, and produced “April 10, 2006.” This short documentary is based on Eunice’s experience speaking out on the importance of the DREAM Act during the historic April 10 Na-tionwide Day of Action for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. “April 10, 2006” was recently screened as part of the Los Angeles “Too Much Freedom?” film festival in November 2006.