July 15: Chung-Yuan Day (also known as Ghost Day) vAugust 15: Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival
Challenges in Santa Clara County
The top needs identified by Taiwanese respondents in the public benefits sample were medical care (96%), learning more English (87%), help in becoming a citizen (73%), immigration legal services (60%), vision care (37%), and dental care (34%). Taiwanese focus group participants reported similar needs, especially 1) the need for more information provided in Chinese, 2) medical care, 3) better public transportation, 4) difficult INS procedures and long INS processing times, and 5) affordable housing.
Suggested solutions for these needs included hiring more employees who speak Chinese, translation of forms and government documents into Chinese, interpretation services for the elderly, ESL instructors who speak Chinese so that they may better explain class materials, assistance with transportation, extension of BART to San Jose, an increase of bus service in residential areas, more information about government programs, free medical service, more INS collaboration with Chinese community organizations, changing English language requirements for citizenship to accommodate seniors and people who have been in the U.S. for over 10 years, and making housing available regardless of income or immigration status.
One-half (50%) of the public assistance respondents said they were not respected when stopped by police, and 33% said they felt discriminated by the police. However, none reported that they were mistreated, scared, or had a communication problem when stopped by police. Two thirds (67%) felt discriminated by teachers and school officials. One half (50%) said they didn’t know much about American laws. One-third (33%) felt discriminated against by co-workers, bosses, job interviewers and restaurant workers.
Barriers to Education, Services, and Benefits
Taiwanese public assistance recipients indicated that the biggest barriers were insufficient English (63%), lack of information (31%), having no time (13%), and fear of government, mistrust of providers to help, expensive programs, or inability to leave the house (6% each).
Employment & Working Conditions
Occupational Data and Barriers
The largest group of this elderly group of public benefits respondents (40%) were homemakers, with 8% working in technical fields. Before entering the United States, 48% indicated they did not have a job, 12% were homemakers, 8% were retired, and 8% were students. Reasons given for not following the same career in the United States included limited English skills (80%), no U.S. license or credential (60%), and lack of employment training (20%).
The average family in the public benefits survey had only one member (73%) who worked an average of 32 hours a week for a single employer (80%). One-fifth of the respondents (20%) worked three jobs at the same time. Most respondents expressed overall satisfaction with working conditions. However, 60% had no pensions plans, 60% had no medical benefits, 40% had no paid vacation and 20% had no sick leave. None of those responding to the survey held a union job, and 40% had an immigrant employer.
Of the survey respondents 31% owned a business or were self-employed. The three most significant obstacles to starting a business were getting a loan (63%), knowing what business idea might be successful (63%), and lack of information on how to start a business (38%).
Public Benefits in the Taiwanese Community
Knowledge and Adequacy of Benefits
Of the respondents receiving public benefits, 60% said they knew the requirements for SSI and 67% said the amount was adequate. Only 24% knew the requirements for CalWORKs, and all the respondents (100%) said CalWORKs benefits were not adequate. More than half (53%) did not know the requirements for food stamps and 100% said the benefit amount was not adequate. Almost all (96%) of those surveyed knew the requirements of MediCal, but only 54% said the level of benefits is sufficient. Only 50% knew the requirements for General Assistance and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) and all felt that the benefits were not adequate.
Culturally Competent Services
All of the CalWORKs and MediCal recipients indicated that they were treated with respect by agency staff. Of those receiving food stamps, only 50% said they were treated with respect by agency staff. Most of the respondents felt agency staff communicated with them effectively (100% receiving MediCal, 83% for those on CalWORKs, but only 50% on food stamps). As for understanding their cultural background, 100% on MediCal and CalWORKs said agency staff knew about their culture, but only 50% of those on food stamps said agency staff knew about their culture.
Four-fifths (80%) indicated that the orientation they received to the food stamp program was not presented in a language they understood. And only 50% attending orientation sessions for MediCal and CalWORKs said they could understand what was presented. Also, 86% did not understand written materials related to food stamps, 38% did not understand CalWORKs written materials, and 31% did not understand written materials related to MediCal. Finally, 80% of the respondents did not understand phone calls related to food stamps, 67% did not understand phone calls related to CalWORKs, and 33% did not understand phone calls related to MediCal.
Educational Access in Santa Clara County
The majority of respondents (82%) did not have children under 18 in school. Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents with children in school preferred that their children be taught in both English and Chinese. When asked to indicate the kinds of services their children were getting in school, 100% indicated the Healthy Start Program, 100% information in Chinese, 100% parent meetings, 50% tutoring, 50% homework centers, 50% after- school activities, 50% counseling, 50% school lunch and breakfast, 50% health programs, 50% on site child care, 50% special education, 50% transportation, and 50% academic or career counseling.
Taiwanese immigrants were trained in finance and accounting (40%), as receptionists or office workers (20%), or in engineering, math, or computer science (20%). About 60% of the respondents received their training at a university while 20% received training at a private business institute and another 20% from a community agency.
While 16 % of the respondents said their English skills were average and 16% said good, 36% reported having poor English skills and 32% said they had no English skills. The main reason given for needing better English skills was daily living situations (83%), being involved in the community (37%), filling out applications (33%), reading literature (29%), and continuing their education (21%). As for ways to improve their English language skills, 46% said having classes closer to home would help them, 40% said having longer classes, 38% said having English-speaking friends, 27% said having a better weekday schedule, and 18% said having audio cassettes.
About 36% of Taiwanese responding to the survey were naturalized citizens. They reported that they or a family member have the following major citizenship needs: citizenship classes, 53%; literacy classes in Chinese before learning English, 47%; and legal advice, 21%.
Communication & Outreach in the Taiwanese Community
The survey indicated that respondents get news and information primarily from Chinese language newspapers (79 %), Chinese TV (75%) and Chinese radio (21%). Family and friends are a source of information for 25% of the respondents. In English, TV (21%), the San Jose Mercury News (17%), the Internet (17%), and radio (8%) represent relatively insignificant sources of information. Information printed in English from church, community organizations, and government publications do not inform significant numbers in these communities (4%).
The vast majority of families owned a television (96%), telephone (83%), radio (79%), computer (71%), and VCR (58%), and 58% had a newspaper subscription. On the other hand, very few had fax capabilities (33%), an e-mail account (33%), or access to the Internet (29%).
Taiwanese in Action: Yalin Chen and Eddie Yuan
Taiwanese are active in many aspects of community life. For example, public assistance recipients in the survey indicated that they are involved in religious organizations (50%), community organizations (28%), social issue campaigns (22%), school parent organizations (17%), and political campaigns (11%). In addition, 32% reported that they were registered to vote. There has been a great increase in numbers of actual voters from Taiwan –from 775 in November 1990 to 3,874 in March 2000. As of December 2000 there were 10,270 registered voters born in Taiwan. The major reasons given for not voting were not enough time (33%) and language barriers (33%).
Two Taiwanese community leaders who challenged public opinion regarding second language learning are Yalin Chen and Eddie Yuan. Parents within the Cupertino Union School District, they wanted their daughter and others to be taught bilingually and to retain the culture of their homeland. This professional couple collaborated with other parents (including Caucasian parents) who shared high-tech backgrounds and believed that the best way to prepare children for the global and culturally diverse workforce was to immerse them in a dual language (English/Mandarin) curriculum during the primary grades. They researched the effectiveness of other immersion programs, engaged in grassroots outreach, and fought hard to convince school board members, district officials and even parents to embrace the idea of starting an immersion program. There was a significant amount of resistance and the issue even provoked anti-immigrant and anti-Chinese/Taiwanese sentiments.
The Chinese Immersion Program was established during the 1998/99 school year. It would not have occurred without activism from parent leaders such as Yalin and Eddie. The program was first offered as a language enrichment model, with instruction in Mandarin occupying 10% of the school day. As of September 2001 there were five classes included in the program. The concept and program have generated great interest and astounding success.
Both Yalin and Eddie came to the U.S. as students two decades ago to continue their education. In Taiwan, Yalin’s major was in foreign languages and literature, and Eddie’s was in management and computer science. After they came to the U.S., Yalin also studied computer science. Both of them worked for a number of high-tech companies. They met each other in the workplace and got married.
Once Yalin and Eddie were financially successful, they decided to re-direct their energies to civic service and community involvement. In addition to helping establish the Mandarin immersion program, they are also active in the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute. Eddie also serves on the board of the Vision 2000 Foundation. They are both outstanding examples of Taiwanese who have given back to their community and to the community at large.