Hurdles to Political Empowerment
Voter eligibility and a lack of detailed Census demographic data are a challenge to the empowerment of immigrant communities in Queens, the Queens Tribune reported in two separate articles.
On Sept. 27, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) proposed a bill calling for the disaggregation of Asian sub-demographics in order to improve the accuracy of important community data.
The Queens Tribune quoted Councilman Daniel Dromm, the bills sponsor.
“If we don’t fully understand the true makeup of our Asian population, how can we ensure that we are effectively delivering services to communities that are currently underserved?” Dromm said. “Disaggregated demographic data is necessary in order for our city to properly identify and address the needs of all members of the City’s Asian Pacific American population.”
According to the 2010 Census, Asians were the fastest growing community in New York City between 2000 and 2010, growing by 30 percent. The minority group now represents 14 percent of the City’s total population.
The bill is aimed to better assess the social, educational and economic needs of the sub-demographic Asian groups.
Under the proposed legislation, City form documents used to collect demographic information will be required to separate collection categories for each major Asian Pacific American group, including, but not limited to: Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Guamanian, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Native Hawaiian, Nepalese, Pacific Islander, Pakistani, Samoan, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese.
Queens immigrants also face the challenge of finding a voice in the political process even though their voter eligibility rates don’t match their growing population numbers.
In majority Latino districts, such as Assembly District 39 (Jackson Heights) and Senate District 13 (East Elmhurst), 57 percent of residents are ineligible to vote due to immigration status, according to the Center of Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center.
State Assemblyman Jose Peralta of District 39, outlined how the discrepancy in percentages was not unexpected, in the Queens Tribune.
“It’s not a surprise when you look at the fact that you have a growing number of immigrants calling my district home,” Peralta said. “It makes it more of a challenge because immigrants have to go through the process of becoming citizens before being eligible to vote.”
The realities of voter eligibility can quickly dilute the political power of ethnic communities. The 40th Assembly District in Flushing, Queens, for example, is 62 percent Asian and 17 percent white. However, among people eligible to vote, Asians are 46 percent, and whites 31 percent.
Queens Tribune quoted Steven Romalewski, director of CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research:
“Some districts characterized as Asian or Latino districts, when it comes to people being able to elect representatives, may not be Asian or Latino districts.”