Connie Choi’s Speech for ASAN Gala 2019

Thank you for this wonderful surprise and it’s an honor to be here with you all tonight! I was flabbergasted when I received word from ASAN that I was going to receive this award on behalf of the PIF Campaign. The successes that we’ve achieved as a campaign thus far is a testament to the collective action that all of us undertook, many of whom are in this room today. So before I start, just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to ASAN for being a sector lead in the campaign and for your active partnership in doing this work.

When preparing my remarks, I decided to look up the definition of “ally” and what it meant. And the definition that I found that resonated the most for me was the following:
• “Allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. It is important to be intentional in how we frame the work we do. Allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with. An ally must listen more and speak less.”
During my time at the Campaign, I hope that we’ve been able to live up to this definition, and hopefully this award is a testament that while we’re not perfect, that we’ve defined and framed our work in a way that speaks to you and the work that you’re hoping to accomplish. And through our work together as allies, I believe that we are better able to challenge larger oppressive power structures and lift up the voices that are marginalized, silenced and ignored by the Administration.

And it’s so important that we continue working together on the issue of public charge. Over the past year, I’ve heard detailed accounts of the egregious effects that the proposed rule has already had: where people are forgoing cancer treatment, moms are returning their breast pumps, and parents are pulling their children out of school lunch programs because they believe that public charge will affect their path to a green card and ultimately citizenship. And it hasn’t mattered whether people have been entitled to such benefits and/or whether they are exempt from the public charge test altogether. And it hasn’t mattered that this rule change has been enjoined by the courts.

Through public charge and other regulatory threats, the Administration is building an invisible wall for low-income immigrants that will prevent them from thriving here and ultimately becoming voting U.S. citizens. This will disproportionately impact people with physical and emotional differences. And PIF is fighting hard alongside you to protect access for everyone to the services they need.

I want to quickly acknowledge all of my illustrious colleagues who came here to support me today – I’m so incredibly lucky to have worked with all of you and gained from your collective wisdom and guidance. And while they weren’t able to join me as they’re in Los Angeles, I just wanted to thank my family for all their support that allows me to do the work I’m doing today.

Thank you again for this honor, and I’m so grateful to you all for being allies on this issue alongside us. I look forward to continuing to build trust with you, consistently show up for you, and be held accountable by you.