Tong Pushes Back Against Bill Categorizing Asians & Pacific Islanders

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Nancy Tong, the District 43 City Council candidate and Democratic Leader of the 47th Assembly District, joined other elected officials Saturday to speak out against proposed legislation that seeks to disaggregate the Asian American community.

The state bill, A07352, requires the categorization breakdown of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The data will distinguish between at least 23 different categories including, but not limited to, residents with Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese ancestry.

Currently, in similar government data entries, there are no current subcategory distinctions between ethnicities. For example, they list caucasians as just that, they don’t ask if you’re German or Polish, etc. 

The bill has already passed the Assembly and is now before the Senate.

City Councilmember Mark Treyger also spoke out against the bill, warning how the data can be used.

Joining Tong at the United Progressive Democratic Club to condemn the proposed legislation, were City Council member Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst) and Assemblymember Bill Colton (D-Bensonhurst, Bath Beach). The electeds argue that the unintended consequences of the bill can be damaging to the Asian American community.

“If you use the data correctly –– it might be good, but if you use it incorrectly, it’s like discriminating,” said Tong.

Tong, who represents a district that is 34% Asian, called the bill a double-edged sword reminding constituents that depending on how state agencies use the data, the bill can fuel division causing residents in the community to compete for resources.

New York City houses 71 percent of the country’s Asian community with Brooklyn having the third largest concentration at 13%, second only to Queens (27%) and New York (14%), according to the New York State Comptroller report released in February 2016.

The sponsor of the bill, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D – Lower Manhattan) represents the second largest Asian community in New York City.  The Taiwanese American lawmaker previously served as chief-of-staff for Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Queens/Manhattan) who represents the largest Asian American community and co-sponsored the bill.

“We do not know much about this bill,” said Tong. “They should have consulted with the community.  We only heard about the bill after it was passed in the Assembly. We don’t want to be in the dark.”

Asian American residents are the fastest growing immigrant group in New York City, according to a New York State Comptroller report. The number of Asian New Yorkers has more than doubled since 1990 accounting for 430,000 new Asian immigrants.

Assemblymember Bill Colton said the legislation may cause more division than unity among Asian Americans.

Colton, who voted against the legislation, said he’s concerned that a bill, which designates languages and places of origin to be identified in data, may cause more division than unity.

“The danger is that we are fighting how we divide up a pie that is too small, rather than joining everyone together in demanding that the pie for education, healthcare, housing and transportation be made bigger,” said Colton.  The assemblymember said he considers the implications of the bill a distraction from fighting for the benefits the entire community needs.

Treyger also expressed his concerns, but his grievances centered on how the data will be collected and stored –– noting the controversy and lawsuits surrounding the City’s IDNYC program.

“I am concerned how this data will be collected and who will have access to the data in light of a federal administration that is outright hostile to immigrants,” said Treyger.

Niou did not respond to inquiries about the issue at post time.

“People don’t realize that it will divide the Asian community,” said Tong.