Stories From #TheNewSouth

We Are Impacting the Lives of Immigrants and Refugees in the Southeast

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (formerly Asian American Legal Advocacy Center or AALAC) is the first non-profit law center dedicated to Asian immigrants and refugees (“Asian Americans”) in the Southeast. Starting from an identified community need, a public policy issue or both, we build a base of support around pressing social justice issues and empower individuals and entire communities to become advocates for change.

Our organization was formed in the wake of a bottom-up, grassroots led community organizing effort around a Georgia anti-immigrant English-only bill. In 2009 the first bill was proposed to prohibit immigrant citizens and residents from taking the permanent driver license exam in a language other than English. The exam is provided in 12 languages and about 60,000 individuals take the exam in a non-English language each year. In 2009 the majority of Asian Americans and other Georgians were either unaware of this bill or had heard it would expedite English language proficiency and enhance public safety. Our former Executive Director, began speaking one on one with individual Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and Indonesian leaders to explain how the bill would impact a large number of Asian citizens from driving on the road, how it violated constitutional and federal national origin protections, and how the bill was based not on any statistical or testimonial evidence but rather on racial bias. As understanding and momentum built, these one on one meetings led to community group meetings which led to the genesis of a mostly Asian-grassroots coalition that worked in concert to defeat this bill. That policy advocacy win began earnest conversations at the grassroots level for a desire and need for a formal, legal advocacy center to form.

Our work continues to be centered and inspired by the needs and interests of our local community base, and we are always open to partnering with individuals, neighborhoods and groups on immigrant and social rights issues, as well as amplifying the stories of our leaders and colleagues to showcase the power and relevancy of our community!