Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women have faced daily assaults on our rights and our wellbeing over the past four years and for too long, our communities have been denied the investment and resources necessary to thrive. Because of our race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender or sexual identity, and other elements of our identities, people in power often choose not to see or hear us.
But we are the fastest growing voting group in the country and we turned out in record numbers in 2020. We can no longer be ignored. We are demanding bold policymaking because every person needs to be able to get health care, no matter their immigration status. We deserve to be able to make decisions about our lives and our families, including if and when to start a family, and be able to support them with jobs that pay fair wages.
The following priorities highlight pressing issues directly impacting our communities and solutions that address those issues intersectionally. Amid the progress being made on access to health care and in gender equality, these policies ensure that our priorities — as AAPI women and immigrant women — do not get left behind. They are immediate first steps that must be taken so that AAPI women can have agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.
While the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum demands a broader set of legislative action in order to achieve tangible, positive change for our communities, these asks represent immediate administrative actions that can be taken in order to chart a bold path forward for AAPI women and girls.
Priority 1: Ensure immigrants have access to affordable and comprehensive health care, no matter the status they’ve been granted.
The Biden administration should immediately end the immigration wealth test known as the “public charge” rule that forces families struggling to get by to choose between their immigration status and getting support on essentials like health care and putting food on the table.
President Biden should also rescind the rule that excludes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from eligibility to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and receive the subsidies that make getting coverage and care affordable. We applaud the improvements to the ACA and commitments to expand the program, but they are meaningless unless eligibility is extended to our communities. Removing this restriction on DACA recipients is an important first step that the administration can take to improve health care access for immigrants.
Priority 2: Lift coverage bans on abortion so that people can get abortion care, no matter how much money they make.
Despite the legal right to end a pregnancy, women of color, including AAPI women and especially immigrants, have always faced unjust obstacles to abortion. For more than 40 years, politicians have used the Hyde Amendment to deny insurance coverage of abortion for people who rely on Medicaid. In the aggregate, nearly one in five AAPI women are insured through Medicaid. Disaggregated data reveals much higher enrollment rates among Bhutanese women (62 percent), Hmong women (43 percent), and Pakistani women (32 percent).
That’s why we urge the President to remove the Hyde Amendment from his budget and commit to vetoing any laws that extend or include restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion. It’s time to stop politicians from interfering with people’s decisions about abortion based on how much money they have or how they get their insurance.
Priority 3: Renew and preserve the ability of immigrant spouses to work and support themselves and their families.
Spouses of immigrants on H1-B visas, or temporary worker visas for those in specialty occupations, are granted H-4 visas. While the Obama administration started an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) program enabling these spouses — largely South Asian women — to work in the U.S., the Trump administration has repeatedly threatened the EAD program and implemented changes to how documents are processed, leading to major delays in H-4 visa holders getting their EADs renewed and processed. These delays are forcing them to lose jobs and unable to find new ones. Not being able to work forces these women to rely on their spouses or other people in their community, denying them full agency over their decisions and future.
The Biden administration must act on day one to extend all expired work authorization documents so these women can earn an income to support themselves and their families. Beyond extending all expired work authorization documents, the Biden administration must ensure the EAD program stays intact and functions effectively.
NAPAWF is building power so that AAPI women have the agency to make decisions about our lives and our families. Sign up here to receive updates on the work we’re doing and join our movement: napawf.org/sign-up