Asian American Federal Employees for Non-Discrimination (AAFEN)

Asian American Federal Employees for Non-Discrimination (AAFEN)

AAFEN has a mix of people with talents and experiences who came together because of the pivot in U.S.-China relations and the collateral damage to many Asian Americans that ensued that foreign policy change. Previously, the Asian American civil rights advocacy community and the federal employees groups were separated. The

Asian American Federal Employees for Non-Discrimination (AAFEN)

AAFEN has a mix of people with talents and experiences who came together because of the pivot in U.S.-China relations and the collateral damage to many Asian Americans that ensued that foreign policy change. Previously, the Asian American civil rights advocacy community and the federal employees groups were separated. The partnership of AAFEN’s co-founders - Aryani Ong, a civil rights attorney and Asian American activist, and Michael Young, a former foreign service officer and army officer - brought the two worlds together. Ong served on the community advisory group to the Department of Energy’s racial profiling task force in response to the Dr. Wen Ho Lee case in 2000. Between 2015 to the present, she has spoken to audiences across the country, including hundreds of FBI agents, about the disparate impact of investigations on Chinese Americans. Young organized 20 foreign service officers to protest the State Department’s assignment restrictions, which prevented them from getting assigned to diplomatic posts in their family’s ancestral country. He has been featured in the Washington Post and CNN, who reported 166 similar cases. AAFEN’s team has members who have or are working in the federal government and in roles that are most susceptible to increased scrutiny because they involve national security. AAFEN’s mission is important because its members understand that the prevention of the next incarceration depends on diverse leaders in national security and reform of federal agencies to practice equity in the actions that they take toward their employees, the American public and the rest of the world. AAFEN uniquely poised to address its mission in three ways: AAFEN members can offer peer support - technical and emotional - and legal referrals because they have first hand experience of the discrimination complaint process. AAFEN members provide expertise to policy proposals, especially as it relates to security clearances upon which Asian Americans rely to stay in the federal government. AAFEN’s members have trust networks in the federal government which are critical to getting stories from employees so that lawmakers understand the existence and nature of the problem.

About the Organization:

AAFEN has a mix of people with talents and experiences who came together because of the pivot in U.S.-China relations and the collateral damage to many Asian Americans that ensued that foreign policy change. Previously, the Asian American civil rights advocacy community and the federal employees groups were separated. The partnership of AAFEN’s co-founders - Aryani Ong, a civil rights attorney and Asian American activist, and Michael Young, a former foreign service officer and army officer - brought the two worlds together. Ong served on the community advisory group to the Department of Energy’s racial profiling task force in response to the Dr. Wen Ho Lee case in 2000. Between 2015 to the present, she has spoken to audiences across the country, including hundreds of FBI agents, about the disparate impact of investigations on Chinese Americans. Young organized 20 foreign service officers to protest the State Department’s assignment restrictions, which prevented them from getting assigned to diplomatic posts in their family’s ancestral country. He has been featured in the Washington Post and CNN, who reported 166 similar cases. AAFEN’s team has members who have or are working in the federal government and in roles that are most susceptible to increased scrutiny because they involve national security. AAFEN’s mission is important because its members understand that the prevention of the next incarceration depends on diverse leaders in national security and reform of federal agencies to practice equity in the actions that they take toward their employees, the American public and the rest of the world. AAFEN uniquely poised to address its mission in three ways: AAFEN members can offer peer support - technical and emotional - and legal referrals because they have first hand experience of the discrimination complaint process. AAFEN members provide expertise to policy proposals, especially as it relates to security clearances upon which Asian Americans rely to stay in the federal government. AAFEN’s members have trust networks in the federal government which are critical to getting stories from employees so that lawmakers understand the existence and nature of the problem.

organizational budget

$0 - $50,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

National • Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • Pennsylvania • Puerto Rico • Rhode Island • South Carolina • South Dakota • Tennessee • Texas • Utah • Vermont • Virginia • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

organizational budget

$0 - $50,000

existence for

0-5 Years

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

National • Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • District of Columbia • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • Pennsylvania • Puerto Rico • Rhode Island • South Carolina • South Dakota • Tennessee • Texas • Utah • Vermont • Virginia • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

The Issue:

AAFEN seeks to change the misperception that Asian Americans are not loyal Americans. The perpetual foreigner myth has shadowed Asian Americans since Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. in the late 1880’s. The myth was institutionalized by the U.S. government with actions like the Japanese American incarceration to the McCarthy era investigations of 10,000+ Chinese Americans, the solitary confinement of Dr. Wen Ho Lee to the post 9/11 profiling, surveillance and immigration ban of AMEMSA communities. When U.S.-China relations soured recently, AAFEN members saw the cycle turn again. Across the federal government, new programs and initiatives placed Chinese Americans under closer scrutiny. Hundreds of Chinese American scientists were investigated for having alleged contact with collaborators in China, while studies show that 1 of 3 may have been falsely accused. 61% of federal contractors with ties to China were denied contracts with the federal government. Comparatively, the denial rates of federal contractors with ties to all other countries fell. 166 Asian American foreign service officers were barred from diplomatic posts in countries where their ancestors had originated. Individually, AAFEN members found themselves subjected to more frequent polygraph tests, denied security clearances, barred from career enhancing assignments, and terminated from their jobs or scholarship programs. While many Asian Americans left the federal government, a few decided to band together to call out the systemic discrimination. In 2020, AAFEN was formed. AAFEN seeks to interrupt the cycle. AAFEN challenges a belief embedded in the organizational culture of agencies, and the laws, policies and practices of the federal government that any foreign connection - family, study abroad, travel, inheritance or ethnic group association - poses a national security threat to the U.S. It is an outdated idea that shrinks the pool of available talent, and deprives Asian Americans the opportunity to serve their country. AAFEN advocates that federal agencies should fully implement executive orders related to equity, diversity and inclusion; diversity hiring, retention and promotion; security clearance reform; safeguards for the civil rights and civil liberties of Asian Americans in agency rules and guidance and proposed legislation.

The Solution:

POLICY ADVOCACY: AAFEN provides analysis on the law and federal agency guidance, policies and practices where Asian Americans are disproportionately impacted. More importantly, AAFEN presents solutions for reform. AAFEN’s major success was a bill that mandated a federal agency to expand its report to Congress to include the impact of intelligence community activities on Asian Americans where race, ethnicity or national origin was involved, and to report annually. AAFEN has advocated against bills that were overly broad or failed to fully protect the civil rights and civil liberties of Asian Americans. BRIEFINGS: AAFEN has given dozens of presentations before high-level officials at White House offices, national security agencies, science agencies, congressional committees, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Member of Congress offices, and Biden transition teams for the State Department and national security agencies. PUBLIC AWARENESS: AAFEN has spoken before numerous audiences, including the OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates and National Asian Pacific American Bar Association conferences. AAFEN organized a highly visible webinar featuring civil rights icon Dale Minami and the White House Initiative on AANHPIs with several AAPI federal employee resource groups. AAFEN has been quoted in such media as the Associated Press, CNN, MIT Technology Review, Vox. CONSULTATIONS: AAFEN was one of three parties invited based on its expertise to consult for a high profile congressional committee that works on national security issues during a legislative session. PEER SUPPORT and LEGAL REFERRALS: AAFEN has Outreach Ambassadors, who provide their personal experiences as impacted parties themselves to actively connect with AAPIs seeking peer support and legal referrals for their discrimination cases. COALITION BUILDING: AAFEN regularly works with different coalitions of Asian American civil rights organizations, professional science organizations and privacy rights groups. AAFEN has led coalitions to speak before the Office of the Director National Intelligence and congressional committees. AAFEN also has worked in coalition to present the community’s case before DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General a month before the China Initiative ended and with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy around research security.

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