Newark, NJ - More than 600,000 Asian Americans live in New Jersey, but few resources exist that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to meet the needs of the nations fifth-largest Asian American population. Today, AALDEF celebrated the opening of a second office on 89 Market Street, 8th floor in Newark for its New Jersey Asian American Legal Project (NJ-AALP).
Over the past year, AALDEF NJ-AALP Director and Staff Attorney Alexander Saingchin has expanded the projects services and resources, which now include a multilingual helpline and free legal clinics to serve the states burgeoning Filipino, South Asian, Korean, and Chinese American populations in northern and central New Jersey. AALDEF NJ-AALP is currently focused on addressing the most pressing unmet legal needs in the Asian American community workers rights and immigrant rights.
Under the guidance of AALDEF, a 33-year-old civil rights organization, NJ-AALP volunteer attorneys provide free, confidential legal advice to Asian immigrant workers in Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese, and English through partnerships with community organizations and law schools in Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, and Essex counties.
Said Saingchin, “This year, our clinics have assisted dozens of Asian immigrant workers with questions about minimum wage, overtime, and immigration law, and who come to understand they have a way out of unfair or exploitative situations. In addition to increasing our outreach, NJ-AALP is now offering direct legal representation.”
Asian immigrant workers have sought help at AALDEF NJ-AALP clinics for a wide range of legal problems:
- Ms. Santos, an immigrant from the Philippines, worked from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a Bergen County home where she cooked, cleaned, and tended to the needs of her employer. Although she worked more than 87 hours per week, seven days a week, Ms. Santos was only paid $100 a day, without any overtime.
- Mr. Patel, an immigrant from India, labored as a construction worker on various public buildings in Hudson County. His employer required him to work every day from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., yet his wages amounted to only $4.10 an hour. Mr. Patel is owed thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime and prevailing wages.
- Mr. Chin is a Korean immigrant of Chinese descent who worked as a day laborer in Bergen County. His employer would pick up him and his brother from the same location every day to perform interior construction work in upscale homes in northern New Jersey. Despite working more than 40 hours per week, the employer failed to pay them most of their wages and never compensated the brothers with any overtime pay.
Since the Projects launch in 2005, NJ-AALP has assisted more than 200 Asian American New Jersey residents with free legal advice, including information about their right to a minimum wage in restaurant, service, construction, and manufacturing industries. NJ-AALP has also held monthly evening clinics at local community organizations.
New Jersey residents or workers with questions regarding employment law may now call NJ-AALP toll-free at 888.406.1555 to receive more information, or to schedule an appointment for legal advice. The helpline is available in English and five Asian languages and dialects.
Saingchin is a Jersey City resident and a graduate of the Rutgers University School of Law, where he received the Judge J. Skelly Wright Prize for his work on behalf of Asian Americans in New Jersey. In 2005, he received the Martindale-Hubbell Exemplary Public Service Award from Equal Justice Works, and he is now an Equal Justice Works Fellow at AALDEF.
The NJ-AALP office opening marks an expansion of AALDEF’s efforts to promote racial and economic justice for Asian Americans. Over the past 33 years, AALDEF attorneys have won millions of dollars in back wages and overtime pay for low-wage Asian American workers and engaged in precedent-setting litigation to enforce federal and state labor laws. In addition to workers rights, AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, civic participation and voting rights, language access to services, Census policy, affirmative action, youth rights and educational equity, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence, police misconduct, and human trafficking.
NJ-AALP is supported with the generous assistance of The IOLTA Fund of the Bar of New Jersey.
Demographic profile of Asian Americans in New Jersey
(Source: U.S. Census Bureaus 2005 American Community Survey and the 2000 Census. Asian American here is defined by the Asian alone category, since that is the only category of data currently available from the 2005 Census.)
- An estimated 620,588 Asian Americans lived in the State of New Jersey in 2005, an increase of approximately 29%, nearly a third over Census estimates in 2000. Asian Americans are approximately 7% of the total population of New Jersey. Nationally, Asian Americans are 4.9% of the total U.S. population.
Statewide, the major Asian American ethnic groups are:
- Indian: 228,250
- Chinese: 122,931
- Filipino: 110,817
- Korean: 83,172
- About three-quarters (72%) of New Jerseys Asian American residents are foreign-born. This underscores the need for multilingual legal rights information for workers of all immigrant backgrounds.
- More than a third of all Asian American residents (34%) are limited English proficient (LEP), which often limits opportunities for employment as well as access to public services that they pay for through income, property, payroll, and sales taxes.
- Throughout New Jersey towns and counties with significant Asian American communities, the population saw double-digit growth over the span of just five years (2000 to 2005).
AALDEF NJ-AALP Activities by County
- In Bergen County, the Asian American population for 2005 was an estimated 118,918, an increase of about 26% over the 2000 Census estimate of 94,324. Asian American residents comprise about 13% of all residents in Bergen County.
- In the borough of Palisades Park, there were approximately 7,016 Asian American residents in 2000, comprising 41% of all residents in the borough.
- In the borough of Fort Lee, there were approximately 11,146 Asian American residents in 2000, comprising 31% of all residents in the borough.
- Approximately 44,000 Korean Americans reside in Bergen County.
- In 2007, NJ-AALP has focused its outreach to the Korean American community in the boroughs of Palisades Park and Fort Lee, holding legal clinics in partnership with the Asian Womens Christian Association (AWCA) in Teaneck, NJ and FGS Korean Community Center in Englewood, NJ.
- In Hudson County, the Asian American population for 2005 was an estimated 64,379, an increase of about 13% over the 2000 Census estimate of 56,942. Asian American residents comprise about 11% of all residents in Hudson County.
- In Jersey City, the Asian American population for 2005 was an estimated 44,601, an increase of about 15% over the 2000 Census estimate of 38,881. About 18% of all residents in Jersey City are Asian American.
- In Jersey City, there are an estimated 18,160 Filipino Americans, 14,934 Indian Americans, 3,419 Chinese Americans, and 1,606 Korean Americans.
- In 2007, NJ-AALP has focused its outreach efforts in Jersey City to the Filipino and South Asian communities, in partnership with the Philippine American Friendship Committee (PAFCOM) and the Govinda Sanksar Center.
- Legal clinics at PAFCOM are held every third Thursday of each month.
- Legal clinics with Govinda Sanskar Center are held regularly.
- In Middlesex County, the Asian American population for 2005 was an estimated 142,233, an increase of 36% over the 2000 Census estimate of 104,212. Asian American residents comprise about 19% of all residents in the county.
- In Edison, the Asian American population for 2005 was an estimated 44,601, an increase of about 25% over the 2000 Census estimate. Asian American residents comprise about 36% of all residents in Edison.
- In Iselin, the Asian American population for 2000 was 4,201 approximately 25% of all residents in Iselin.
- NJ-AALP partnered with SAALT and the South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey to conduct a free clinic in Edison, NJ on June 5, 2007, the first of a series of community outreach events in Middlesex County.