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Asian New Yorkers Face Invisible Poverty

Plus, how public programs and policing have failed Chinatown, and NYC cancels plans for another Chinatown homeless shelter

This summary about the Asian New Yorker poverty rate was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Nearly a quarter of Asian adults in New York City lived in poverty in 2020, according to new research released Tuesday by Columbia University and New York-based poverty alleviation nonprofit Robin Hood. 

For the first time, the organization’s annual report on the broader state of poverty in the city included research conducted in Chinese, broadening its sampling reach. The approach unearthed poverty levels among Asian populations double those of white New Yorkers and comparable to those found in Black and Latinx communities.

Asian New Yorkers are incredibly diverse, spanning more than 40 countries of origin, with the most commonly reported ethnicities being Chinese, Indian, Korean, Bangladeshi and Filipino. 

Nearly half of Asian New Yorkers (47%) faced some form of disadvantage: poverty, material hardship, or health problems. They reported the lowest average level of life satisfaction among all surveyed racial and ethnic groups. The most vulnerable among them were residents aged 65 or older with limited English proficiency, or with a high school degree or less. 

Quantifying the understudied and unseen: 

While Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in New York City and the U.S., they are also one of the country’s most understudied. Understanding their experiences is critical to crafting public policies and programs that better target underserved communities. 

“We rarely talk about poverty in the Asian American community in public discourse,” said Qin Gao, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and director of its China Center for Social Policy. “Without the data, it’s easy to stereotype based on the highly educated and visible segments of the population, but the community is not a monolith.” 

Rising concern of racism: 

About 80% of New Yorkers of Chinese descent reported experiencing high levels of racism-related violence in 2020, Robin Hood found. 

Chinese American Planning Council president and CEO Wayne Ho said the findings highlighted the additional hardships wrought in recent years by the “dual pandemics” of COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate, stating: “This report sheds light on what our community is feeling while pointing toward a real need for bold investments from lawmakers to tackle poverty in our city.” 

Read Robin Hood’s full “Poverty Tracker” report here, and Documented’s original investigation into issues plaguing New York’s Chinatown community here.


New York

ICYMI: How public programs and policing have failed Chinatown: Frustrated locals have acutely felt the impact of anti-Asian hate, increased poverty and housing issues, and say the community has been dismissed and lacks key resources.   – Documented 

NYC cancels plans for yet another Chinatown homeless shelter: Community opposition and potential staffing uncertainty put a second proposed “safe haven” shelter on the chopping block in less than a week. – New York Times

NYPD probes shooting of Queens Chinese food delivery driver: Police are investigating whether a customer’s monthslong vendetta against a Chinese restaurant led him to shoot deliveryman Yan Zhiwen, 45, on Saturday. – New York Daily News 

IDNYC cardholder benefits expand: The program offering all New Yorkers government-issued photo ID regardless of background or immigration status announced new benefits as it seeks to boost enrollment. – City of New York

Around the U.S. 

Her wrongful murder conviction was overturned, but she still faced deportation: Sandra Castaneda spent 19 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit before her conviction was overturned last summer, but still faced deportation after California’s prison system turned her over to ICE. – The Guardian

Long lines overwhelm Florida ICE facility: Hundreds of migrants who recently crossed the border have been waiting outside in the heat for days to meet with ICE officials. –Associated Press, WFTV 9 

California opens Medicaid to seniors regardless of immigration status: Nearly 250,000 undocumented seniors over the age of 50 will benefit from the new policy.  – ABC 7 

Washington D.C.

USCIS extends automatic extension period for employment authorization: A new interim rule will prevent asylum, green card applicants and others from losing work authorization due to USCIS delays as the agency faces huge case backlogs. — USCIS, Wall Street Journal

ICE to boost facial recognition and location tracking of migrants: Documents show ICE plans to spend $7.2 million to develop tech to biometrically track migrants processed at the southern border. – Business Insider

National Labor Relations Board moves to thwart intimidation of immigrant workers: The top lawyer at the agency that enforces U.S. labor laws assured foreign workers they will not face immigration-related consequences for filing complaints against employers or acting as witnesses. –Reuters 

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