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Members of CT legislature form Asian American and Pacific Islander Issues Caucus

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
/
Connecticut Public
Saying, "The Asian Pacific Islander community aspires to pursue the American dream," State Senator Tony Hwang spoke today at a press conference announcing the formation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander caucus.

Members of the Connecticut legislature announced the formation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Issues Caucus on Thursday. Comprising state legislators with Asian heritage or connections, this caucus will focus on advocating for crucial AAPI community concerns.

“I know many years ago, we were fortunate to create a coalition of Asian Pacific American communities,” State Sen. Saud Anwar said.

According to U.S. Census data the AAPI community in Connecticut has grown by 113% from 2000 to 2020.

State Sen. Tony Hwang said it is important to recognize and support the unique needs of these communities, particularly combating the "model minority" stereotype.

“The general public do not think that that community is in need. The Asian Pacific Islander community aspires to pursue the American dream and not just fall into the model minority — that they don't fit into a criteria of the immigration crisis, they are,” Hwang said.

The caucus hopes to bring attention to the critical educational, social and economic support needs of the AAPI community. It also aims to ensure equitable treatment and support for all segments of the AAPI population Anwar said.

“The number one group, in the state of Connecticut, and the most bullied children are Asian American children,” Anwar said. “I don't want to take away from anybody. But if you look at the numbers, and depending on where you are and what numbers you're looking at, it's pretty sad that in our state that anybody who looks different has to have a very, very different experience as children.”

Organizers say that specific segments of the AAPI population experience poverty and health inequalities. State Rep. Gary Turco, said he hopes the caucus finds solutions to this issue and ensures that all community members have equal opportunities to thrive.

“We have almost a million individuals enrolled in Medicaid here in the state. Our Asian population has some of the highest disparities in oral health care and this is an area that our caucus can come together again, working with the community,” Turco said.

Alan Tan, co-chair of the legislative commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity, Community of All, said policy proposals will include priorities such as cultural recognition, language accessibility and other needs in that community

“Our goal here, and our statutory charge, is to connect people with their legislature, especially the six historically disenfranchised communities that are enshrined in the commission statute. The commission is very excited to work with this new caucus on addressing issues and proposed bills that cannot go elsewhere in this building.”

Organizers said the AAPI community has long been underrepresented and underserved, but with the establishment of this caucus, there is hope for positive change.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly named the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Issues Caucus and incorrectly spelled the names of State Sens. Tony Hwang and Saud Anwar. The story has been updated.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.