Legal professionals donate their time to fight anti-Asian hate

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Photo by Fei Lei, AsAmNews

By Lia Reichmann, AsAmNews Intern

A recent report from Stop AAPI Hate found that more than 11,400 hate incidents were reported against Asian Americans between March 2020 and March 2022. Two nonprofit organizations are stepping in to help provide legal assistance to anti-Asian hate crime victims.

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Founded in 1988 after Vincent Chin’s murder, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) has worked for decades representing the AANHPI community. 

According to their website, NAPABA is the only national APA bar association. They represent “the interest of 60,000 attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students.”

NAPABA creates resources for victims of hate crimes and helping those who are affected. Navdeep Singh, the Interim Policy Director at NAPABA, said they have “in language” resources and toolkits for victims of hate as well as organized trainings to talk about hate crimes. They’ve also created a community service corps which is made up of member attorneys interested in providing pro bono work across the country. 

“I think one of the most exciting things that NAPABA has done, beyond our policy and advocacy work, is the mobilization that we’ve done within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander legal community and beyond, to combat anti-Asian hate and to help individuals get the assistance that they need in order to file a complaint about an act of hate and to get the legal representation that they need,” Singh said to AsAmNews.

“I’m particularly proud of the tool to report a hate crime or hate incident that we’ve created online on our website, NAPABA.org, to help connect individuals to pro bono, which is free legal assistance to victims and their families,” Singh added.

Data published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, revealed that anti-Asian hate crime increased by 339 percent in 2021. Many cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have seen a record number of anti-Asian crimes.

“The reason for the increase in hate incidents against the AANHPI community is multifactorial. First, we need to recognize that incidents of hate are increasing against all diverse communities and that the acts of hate targeting the AANHPI community are occurring within that context,” Singh said.

“Secondly, we are well aware, and the reports and lived experiences of members of our communities have demonstrated that there has been an increase in anti-Asian bias and anti-Asian scapegoating due to things like fears around COVID-19 and fears around profiling of Asian Americans due to anti-China sentiment.”

Singh said there are plans to expand the service corps and the Asian American Crime Victims and Education Fund, a fund that provides financial assistance. Singh also said a goal of NAPABA is to create a national network of Asian American attorneys “that are able and ready to take action.”  

“Addressing anti-Asian hate is a core principle for us and the key part of our initiatives and our strategic plan for the next two years, because we recognize that this problem is not going to go away, and that our communities and other communities are going to continue to need assistance,” Singh said. “We as a legal association, with members committed to the rule of law, and upholding diversity and professionalism are all committed to supporting communities in need.”

NY anti-Asian hate rally. AsAmNews photo

The Alliance for Asian American Justice

Another organization working to help victims of hate crimes is The Alliance for Asian American Justice, or the Alliance, a not-for-profit organization comprising a network of more than 90 law firms across the country. 

The Alliance was created last spring at a time when Asian American victims of violence may have needed legal representation. Jacqueline Chung, a lawyer with White & Case LLP in New York City, joined the Alliance during what she calls the “first phase of the Alliance.”

“The founders of the organization and the board came up with this idea that this organization, the Alliance, would provide pro bono free legal services to any victim of anti-Asian violence,” Chung said in an interview with AsAmNews.

According to their website, victims of anti-Asian hate get referred to “participating Alliance” law firms based on geographic location, “language and cultural affinity of lawyers with victims” and a lawyer’s expertise “matched to the kinds of key services required.”

Although Chung doesn’t have an official title, she does help work with the board of directors of the Alliance. She also helps coordinate which cases go to which law firm and lawyer.

“We’re looking for a clear incidence of hate,” she said. “So we would do the intake, and then we would reach out to and if we decide that this is a case that the Alliance can take on, we would reach out to a law firm here on the East Coast and see if they would be willing to represent this victim on a pro bono basis.”

She said when she joined the Alliance people were feeling helpless as they read about the violent acts against Asians.

“I think I felt as many other lawyers, Asian lawyers felt at the time that there was something that we could do, there was something that we should do to help,” Chung said.

Chung was invited by Tai Park, who is on the board of directors and helps coordinate cases on the East coast, to help the Alliance. She said she has found her work with Alliance to have been a “very fruitful and meaningful experience.” 

“I think that some of the things that I will never forget are talking directly with the victim and understanding the experiences they went through including talking to family members of victims, who actually passed away because they were killed as a result of anti-Asian violence,” Chung said. “So talking with their family members, after losing a loved one, to such an act of violence just makes you realize how real this is and how much of a need there is to make sure that these people or their families are properly represented and taken care of.”

According to Chung, the Alliance is looking into doing more preventative work for anti-Asian violence. She said the first phase of the Alliance has been focused on reacting to violence and crimes.

“We’re looking at preventative measures, or just making sure that there are safeguards in place so that victims have the proper care so that they’re properly treated also in the eyes of society,” Chung said.

Some of the preventive measures Chung talked about included working with police departments and prosecutors.

“I think we’re realizing that the needs of victims extend beyond just legal services and the needs of the community expand beyond just providing legal services,” Chung said. “I think there’s a huge educational component to it as well. So that involves educating the community about their rights, educating the community about standing up, reporting acts of hate, because one of the issues that we deal with is that victims are reluctant to report.”

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