Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), a national legal and civil rights advocacy group, opened on Thursday a community center in the largest Asian American community in California. The group works with the San Gabriel Valley, home to 512,000 Asian Americans, to provide citizenship workshops, assistance with immigration rights, and leadership development for parents and youth, all of which can now take place at their new Monterey Park office. The organization also promotes access to healthcare and civic engagement. The Monterey Park space is AAAJ's first Los Angeles county office outside of downtown.
The grand opening brought together elected officials, AAAJ staff, and San Gabriel Valley residents. AAAJ President Stewart Kwoh sees the Monterey Park office, referred to as the SGV Community Center, as a way to reach more people who could use advocacy services.
“We’re doing it because of you," said Kwoh. "You said we should really be here. Closer to the people, closer to the action."
Mark Keppel High School student Hannah Wong felt that the Monterey Park office will be a welcomed change for those who can not reach AAAJ's Los Angeles office. “It’s so much more accessible. We could have more students come to the AAAJ events. More parents can be involved now because you don’t have to go all the way down to Los Angeles,” she said. Wong is part of a group of students investigating the air quality near the 10 Freeway and how it affects nearby residents.
While the SGV Community Center is new, AAAJ has provided services to the San Gabriel Valley for decades. In a press release, they said their work in redistricting advocacy helped bring cohesive representation to the San Gabriel Valley, leading to the election of the first Chinese American woman in the U.S. Congress, Congressmember Judy Chu. AAAJ also said they have worked with immigrants who were targeted for consumer fraud due to their limited English proficiency. AAAJ has also operated a youth and parent leadership program in the west San Gabriel Valley for more than a decade.
Alhambra High School student Xena Huang, one of the participants of a youth leadership program, spoke at Thursday’s event. Huang said that AAAJ gave her the leadership skills to work with AHS staff "to provide emotional and informational support for undocumented students to help them pursue higher education after high school.”
“I’m looking forward to the great work that will come from this space,” Huang added.
AAAJ aims to use the new community space as a place for citizenship workshops, healthcare outreach to enroll people into Covered California, and fostering civic engagement for local elections. Marvin Andrade, Leadership Development Director at Advancing Justice Los Angeles, said in the press release, “With the new community center, we look forward to expanding our ability to serve and engage with even more new leaders and creating positive change for the larger San Gabriel Valley community.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice's Monterey Park office is located at 939 S. Atlantic Blvd, Suite 208 in Monterey Park. The San Gabriel Valley Community Center does not take walk-in visitors. Individuals are encouraged to schedule an appointment by calling the Advancing Justice – LA in-language intake lines:
888.349.9695 (English)800.520.2356 (Chinese – Mandarin or Cantonese)800.867.3126 (Khmer)800.867.3640 (Korean)800.914.9583 (Thai)800.267.7395 (Vietnamese)