Veronique illon/The Hoya Director of the Organization of Chinese Americans Keith McAllister speaks on the struggles of Chinese Americans Tuesday in ICC.

Keith McAllister, director of the Organization of Chinese Americans, offered Georgetown students insight into the issues affecting Asian-Americans on Tuesday evening in ICC 115.

“We’re like a smaller version of the NAACP, but we work solely on domestic issues,” McAllister said of his organization.

McAllister said the OCA has been working for 30 years to help the Asian-American cause. The organization’s national office is comprised of six main employees who assist many other groups around the country, such as the D.C. Korean American Coalition.

He explained that the struggle of Asian-Americans in history to become established in U.S. society has been long, but he added that there is still a long road ahead.

Many Asians assisted in such events as the building of the transcontinental railroad and the Civil War, but they did not always receive credit for their contributions, he said. McAllister reminded the audience of the harsh treatment of Asian-American citizens under Executive Order 9066, which placed 120,000 Japanese in internment camps during World War II.

“People were basically given 24 hours to pack up before they were forced to leave their homes,” McAllister said.

He also talked about the trip Asian immigrants took to Angel Island before admission was granted for U.S. citizenship.

“Coming from Europe to America took a couple days or even weeks, but it took a couple months for people to travel from Asia to the States,” McAllister said.

When people arrived at Angel Island they were interviewed by an immigration officer, and then were detained in a cell for periods as long as 30 days. Angel Island was notorious for suicides due to the long delays, McAllister added.

Even after the election of Asian officials like Patsy Takemoto ink (D-Hawaii) to Congress, McAllister said the Asian-American community still feels that there is unequal representation in many other divisions of society that his organization is trying to change.

“A big issue for Asian-Americans is election reform,” he said. “Even though Asians have the highest percentage of registered voters, we have the lowest turnout due to problems like language barriers and the fact that they can be negated from their votes.”

McAllister highlighted the fact that the availability of scholarships for Asian college students is actually improving.

“As far as education goes, there weren’t many academic scholarships,” he said. “Luckily, the number of opportunities are on the rise.” McAllister said the Asian-American College Fund should be launched by 2005.

McAllister discussed policy issues that affect the Asian-American community, including the USA Patriot Act. The Patriot Act limits the number of people that can immigrate from other countries, he said, by instituting strict immigration quotas for families, which affects Filipinos the most.

Due to what McAllister described as the media brownout, many TV programs lack ethnic characters. In the hit new TV show, “The O.C.,” Asians are clearly absent from the cast. In reality, cAlliser said, Orange County’s community has a large Asian population.

Changes in the population will affect much of our society, cAllister explained. He expects the Filipino population to surpass the Chinese population and double in size. He said people are moving to the south and southwest regions of the United States.

“That’s where the jobs are. Also there is cheaper housing,” he said. As the Asian population increases, Asian-American politics will surely keep changing and progressing with the help of groups like the OCA.

The event was sponsored by the Asian-American Students Association and is part of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, which concludes this week.

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