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Advancing the International Interests of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos

March 20, 1998
Council on Foreign Relations


[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]


Workshop Overview


Theme 1: Major Policy Challenges in the Post-Cold War World

Globalization and Income Inequality

Immigration Policy

Narcotics Policy

The Potential for Ethnic Influence on Foreign Policy: Hon. Esteban Torres

Theme 2: The International Interests and Foreign Policy Priorities of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos

African-American Perspectives: A Policy Agenda for Africa

Comments: Mr. Salih Booker

Asian-American Perspectives: Linkages with Homelands

Comments: Mr. J. D. Hokoyama

Latino Perspectives: Organization and Influence

Comments: Dr. Harry Pach—n

Theme 3: Diversity in U.S. Foreign Policy-Making

Opening Remarks: Dr. Ernest Wilson, III

African-American Achievements in Foreign Policy Influence: Mr. George Dalley

Beyond the Workshop: Next Steps for the Pacific Council

Background Memoranda and Papers

Workshop Participants

Pacific Council Staff

Until recently, influential debates on the world role of the United States were largely confined to a relatively small and mostly homogenous "foreign policy community" on the Atlantic seaboard Ñ clustered in and around government, business and financial circles, the prestige media and public policy think-tanks. It was in this context that a group of "wise men" devised the Cold War framework for U.S. foreign policy, which structured this country's international approaches for nearly fifty years after World War II.

The Pacific Council on International Policy was established in 1995 in large measure to complement (and to some extent correct for) the ideas emanating from this established sector, by drawing on the special vantage-points of the American West.

No consensus exists in the post-Cold War environment, even among those Americans best informed about international affairs, concerning the appropriate U.S. role in a substantially changed world. No small and coherent group of "wise men" (or even "wise men and women") is likely to develop a broadly-agreed framework for American foreign policy and impose it through acceptance by political leaders. A new and sustainable framework for U.S. policy will emerge, if at all, only through an open political process, in a period when information and power are so widely diffused.

The Western region of the country and especially California, by far the largest state Ñ is bound to play a much greater role than previously in shaping the U.S. place in the world. The Western region's influence, in turn, will be shaped by its particular characteristics, including its economic structure and prowess, its demography, and its unique history and culture, including its strong ties Ñ through trade and investment as well as ethnic links Ñ with Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In building the Pacific Council as a West Coast leadership forum focusing in a multisectoral and nonpartisan way on international trends and their domestic implications, we have sought from the beginning to engage persons from those "minority" ethnic backgrounds which together comprise the "new majority" in California, as well as persons in affinity groups dealing with the environment, immigration, human rights, narcotics, and other issues gaining more attention in the post-Cold War context. In contrast to the older foreign policy institutions on the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Council has from its early days had about 20% of its U.S.-based members from the African-American, Asian-American and Latino communities. Leaders from these backgrounds have from the start played prominent roles in the Council's governance and programs.

To further enhance participation in the Pacific Council and to ensure that our agenda and programs are shaped by a broad range of perspectives, the Pacific Council established in 1997 a "Task Force on Enhancing Diversity in the Pacific Council. With the help of that Task Force, we organized in March 1998 a special workshop on "Advancing the International Interests of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos." Funded with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the workshop was co-sponsored by three other Southern California-based institutions: The Toms Rivera Policy Institute, The Center for Multiethnic and Transnational Studies at the University of Southern California, and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP).

More than one hundred persons took part in the workshop, including people active and prominent in business, politics, non-governmental organizations, the media, religion and academia. Participants included persons from Chinese-American, Japanese-American, Filipino-American, Vietnamese-American, Thai-American, Muslim-American, Cuban-American, Mexican-American, Salvadoran-American, Colombian-American, Puerto Rican and African-American backgrounds.

Representative Esteban Torres, a leader in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Mr. George Dalley, a former senior State Department official and previously a leading Congressional aide, provided keynote remarks.

Discussions, mainly in breakout groups, focused on the impacts of globalization on minority communities and on equity in California; policies on immigration and narcotics, as seen by minority groups; the distinct and shared perspectives of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos on other international interests and policies; and the implications of diversity for making and implementing U.S. foreign policy.

The workshop did not aim to define a separate foreign policy for "minority" Americans, nor to suggest that persons of color have or should have parochial interests in the international realm. Rather, we sought to promote stronger "minority" engagement in international policy discussions, in part by beginning to identify and articulate some international interests and perspectives of minority communities, and by focusing on how these interests could more effectively connect with regional, national and international policy discussions. By facilitating structured exchange about these questions among persons who have not previously considered them together, the Pacific Council hopes to have contributed both to enhancing effective diversity in its own membership and programs and to stimulating new coalitions of engaged participants to confront international issues.

The workshop was not organized to reach broadly-agreed conclusions, and no doubt participants took very different impressions from the exchanges. The following points were most salient to me:

  • Traditional foreign policy discussions framed in the discourse of "national interests need to take into account a much broader and more diverse "nation than has been the case in the past.

  • The lines between foreign and domestic policies and politics are blurring, and national borders are becoming much more permeable, because trade, investment, communications and culture are so relentlessly global. Participation in foreign affairs is no longer limited to national governments; local and state governments, corporations, trade unions, the media, religious groups and non-governmental organizations of many types take part in important ways.

  • As the international policy agenda changes from nuclear standoff in Central Europe and the super-power confrontation of the Cold War to the concerns of trade and investment, the environment, the drug traffic, immigration policy, identity politics and ethnic conflict, human rights and democratic governance, people from minority communities in the United States will find themselves increasingly interested and involved in the policy formulation process.

  • African-American, Asian-American and Latino populations are much larger than they used to be, mainly as a result of recent immigration; they are strategically concentrated in a few states where they have actual or potential political clout; and they are on the whole much more active politically than they used to be on domestic and international issues and especially on those issues where domestic and international elements come together. The impact on U.S. foreign policy by African-Americans in the cases of South Africa and Haiti, and perhaps soon of Nigeria; of Latinos on Cuba, NAFTA, and immigration policy; and of Chinese-Americans on U.S.-China relations are all considerable.

  • There is no "Asian-American community as such, with a broad international policy consensus, nor is there an overall "Latino community or collective view, but greater self-consciousness with regard to foreign policy issues is beginning to emerge at the end of the 1990s among all three groups.

  • Diversity of both kinds Ñ ethnic background and functional position Ñ makes international policy discussions more complex and multi-dimensional, but can also provide important assets for the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy.

  • The Pacific Council can play a modest but significant potential role by showing how diversity in membership and programs can enrich its substantive contribution to regional, national and international deliberations.

I hope readers will derive their own impressions by reading through the summaries of the background memoranda, keynote addresses and general discussions. A complete list of all background papers distributed at the Workshop appears on page 18. These papers are available on request from the Pacific Council.

This report cannot capture the lively exchanges that occurred around dinners and in the corridors and receptions, of course, but they do provide many of the most interesting nuggets of insight and information that emerged from the formal program.

We would welcome comments stimulated by this report, including suggestions for the Pacific Council's membership and programs. Please address comments to me at the Pacific Council.

Let me take the opportunity to express appreciation to Tuong Vu, my special assistant, for the excellent work he did to coordinate this Workshop's preparations; to Glenda Jones and Judith Peres of the Council's administrative staff; to Tina Eshaghpour of Coro Southern California, who took the lead in preparing this report; and to David J. Doerge for his advice and editorial suggestions. We are also grateful to the Pacific Council's Task Force on Enhancing Diversity; to our co-sponsoring institutions; to all the presenters and participants at the Workshop; and to the Mellon and Ford Foundations for their support.

Abraham F. Lowenthal


Pacific Council on International Policy

Globalization and Income Inequality

Chair: Dr. Manuel Pastor, Jr.

One of the most important issues in the United States today Ñ of particular interest to African-American, Asian-American and Latino communities Ñ is rising income inequality and the decline in real wages of working class Americans. Questions have been raised in this context about the effects of free trade and NAFTA, and about the proper role of the federal government in promoting economic growth and development, both at home and abroad. The perception is widespread that expanded international commerce may spell greater exploitation of unskilled labor and medium-level workers, and that economic globalization has detrimental domestic consequences, especially for minority groups.

Conferees were asked to consider to what extent and in what ways globalization is actually to blame for the growing inequities in the United States. The discussion initially centered on the economic dimensions of globalization and whether the focus should remain on trade or should also include capital, labor, ideas and services. It was suggested that although globalization contributes to income inequality, there are other factors at work. Job loss was attributed to changes in technology and the skills needed to survive in a global economy. One individual pointed to the role of immigration in generating inequality, referring to a study on income distribution in California that showed a connection between California's large population of immigrants and its ranking as the most unequal among all states measured by income per household.

There was general agreement that globalization has had differential effects on ethnic communities, creating disparate costs and benefits that exacerbate already unequal distributions of income. While some participants argued that globalization is negative for ethnic communities, others noted that those communities often enjoy linguistic and cultural links with their homelands that give them enormous advantages in establishing trusting relationships necessary for success in global business. It was suggested that class and geography are as much determinants of who reaps the benefits of globalization as ethnicity. However, many acknowledged that ethnicity does affect how the impact of globalization is distributed.

A strong consensus existed among participants that there is an ethnic minority interest in international trade separate from the interest of the nation at large. One participant argued that ethnic communities should not try to obstruct globalization, over which they have little control. These communities should instead focus on the policy choices that will help alleviate the deleterious effects and help more people share in the benefits of globalization. So, what can be done to protect those disadvantaged by globalization?

The empowerment of ethnic communities was discussed as the key to alleviating the income inequality caused by globalization. One strategy suggested was to raise the general level of awareness of the average person Ñ ethnic minority or not Ñ who has little understanding of the impact of globalization. Strategies discussed for empowerment through increased education included training in technical skills, access to a first-rate K-12 education, and the promotion of language diversity based on the idea that multilingual skills are in demand by international businesses. It was also proposed that ethnic communities can be empowered as well through the establishment of community development corporations dedicated to a global model; through increased inter-racial bridges and alliances; and, possibly, through government subsidies to ease the effect of structural adjustment, as in the models provided by the European Union.

Several participants stressed that behind much of globalization has been the "virtual abdication of national government to the market and multi-national businesses, and that specific communities have been pushed aside for a larger agenda. By broadening the discussion of the consequences of globalization to include its human or social implications, issues such as quality of life, the environment and access to communication facilities or channels will receive more attention. It was suggested that international organizations and corporations, not just states, should take more responsibility in ameliorating the costs of globalization to communities by promoting social safety nets for "human security.

Immigration Policy

Chair: Dr. Fernando Guerra

As a nation of immigrants, the United States has long been a pluralistic society. The demographic transition in California and the western states stemming from continuing pressures of migration, especially from Latin America and East and Southeast Asia, is simultaneously being met by the rising pressures to control and restrict immigration. Tensions have been rising in the United States, between recent immigrants and U.S.-born citizens, between African-Americans and immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, and between new and more established groups of immigrants. Conferees discussed the causes of immigration, as well as prevailing attitudes and concerns about U.S. immigration policy.

How do international economic trends influence the patterns of population movement? It was suggested that the globalization of capital cannot occur without the globalization of labor, and that immigration is the inevitable consequence of economic globalization. One participant argued that the United States is the victim of its own success because its economic prosperity inevitably attracts immigrants. Another participant countered with the need for an approach that addresses the economic and social problems that induce emigration in the "sending countries. This approach calls for more financial investment and development assistance to these countries.

Although participants agreed that economics is an important consideration, some argued that concerns about immigrants should also be linked to domestic concerns and socioeconomic issues in a way that is more appealing to policy-makers and the American public. For instance, one participant asserted that depriving immigrants of education and health services only leads to social problems. Additionally, immigrants serve as an important labor pool. Yet differences in legal status have affected the social mobility of ethnic immigrant communities in the U.S., as is evident in comparisons of Asian-Americans to Latinos.

Attitudes about illegal immigrants are strongly influenced by public perception and how that perception shapes public policy. In particular, the racial dimension of the immigration issue was discussed, comparing the status of Mexican and Caribbean immigrants to Canadians in the United States. Participants agreed that immigrants who are easily distinguishable from the majority white population are more vulnerable to public attacks and resentment.

Latinos constitute the single largest minority group in California, though this population is not a single homogenous group. In order for Latinos to take advantage of their numeric strength, they must overcome two important hurdles: low levels of political organization and ethnic group consciousness, especially as compared to some other prominent ethnic groups in the United States. Inconsistencies in immigration policy have contributed to rising tensions within the Latino community that may prevent them from building a consensus on foreign policy issues. Participants discussed polls that suggest the support of a growing number of Latinos for more restrictions on immigration, especially for measures to prevent undocumented immigrants. Fear of competition from newcomers for jobs, one participant observed, might be behind this anti-immigration attitude. Another noted that researchers have identified level of education as the most significant determinant of Latino attitudes about immigration; but, controlling for education, ethnic identity within individual communities emerges as the significant variable.

There are issues on which a coalition could be built between African-Americans and Latinos on immigration policy. African-Americans, one participant noted, are strongly interested in correcting the inequalities of immigration law, and in exposing the hypocrisy between the private sector's promotion of globalization on the one hand and its silence about labor on the other. By attacking policies that offer unequal forms of treatment to illegal immigrants and to refugees, African-Americans can join forces with Latinos.

Coalition-building within and among ethnic minorities may be the key to increasing levels of acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity and effectively pursuing common interests. This may be achieved by identifying points of agreement among minority communities. One participant identified four such opportunities: 1) more talks, on immigration and other issues, are necessary within and among minority groups; 2) minorities need to decide on certain rules to prevent the occurrence of special pleading that could undercut broader consensus; 3) issues of Latino interests should be reformulated and advocated in terms of U.S. self-interests; and 4) more soul-searching and philosophical inquiry is necessary to determine what responsibilities minorities should and could have to their homelands and to the United States.

Narcotics Policy

Chair: Mr. Craig Chretien

The narcotics trade has become one of the most worrisome problems for American society. It is also one of the most contentious aspects of U.S. foreign policy, especially in U.S. relations with Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where illegal drugs are grown, refined, and trafficked to the world's largest consumer market. Although consumption of illegal drugs is widespread in the United States, affecting all regions and ethnic groups, the African-American, Asian-American and Latino communities of California and the West have been especially hard hit, and have a correspondingly large stake in the effective reduction of the narcotics trade.

A former Drug Enforcement Administration official gave an insider's view of the difficulties facing government efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the United States. He argued that the greatest challenge in the "war on drugs has been the ability of international drug traffickers to shift their production and supply bases to avoid government suppression. The resilience of drug suppliers, as demonstrated historically by the increased narcotics production in Southeast Asia to replace the drop in production in Turkey, has made enforcing drug policy a difficult ongoing process.

In response to calls for stronger efforts to stem the supply of drugs, several participants asserted that the present U.S. drug policy has failed because minimal attention has been paid to the demand side of the equation. Prevalent strategies and tactics for dealing with the drug traffic have focused on international aspects in a "drug war, without acknowledging the social and physiological dimensions of drug use. One participant asserted that this country will be unable to eliminate the societal demand for drugs. Consequently, he recommended that the U.S should treat narcotics as a public health concern, as opposed to a criminal problem. A more sound approach might seek a middle ground between abstinence and addiction, concentrating on the reduction of harm by providing clean needles, establishing more methadone clinics, and decriminalizing narcotics use.

This "harm reduction approach was a controversial idea that stimulated much discussion but no consensus. Several participants argued that it would undermine social morality. It was also criticized as an irrelevant policy in communities where people are already dying due to narcotics use and trafficking. Participants suggested that drug use was more properly characterized as a symptom of those communities' lack of hope in the future, and its trade the only economic opportunity available to satisfy individuals' aspirations for upward social mobility. Racial dimensions of the drug issue, including the assertion that the government has largely ignored the problems of poverty, crime, and drug-related health problems in communities of predominant minority populations, were the focus of many comments.

Even with a more domestic focus for a narcotics policy, the challenge will be how to implement policy at the national level in ways that could make a difference in individual communities.

Traditionally, foreign policies pursue "national interests, which have been defined by what the formal political process identifies as important and what the informal community of foreign policy practitioners sees as a high priority. In the post-Cold War era, ethnic minorities are less constrained by traditional approaches to foreign policy and have unprecedented opportunities to affect the process. What can racial and ethnic minorities do to assure that the issues they care most about get quality attention both in the broad political arena and in the foreign policy establishment? Conferees identified the perceived foreign policy and international interests and priorities of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos and discussed how these interests may be distinct from those of other Americans.

The following are brief summaries of the main points made in one-hour breakout sessions. The sessions and summaries were not meant to be comprehensive in scope, but allowed participants to begin to consider agendas relevant to their foreign policy concerns and interests.

African-American Perspectives: A Policy Agenda for Africa

Chair: Ms. Marilyn Solomon

For African-Americans to be influential and effective in the process of formulating and implementing U.S. foreign policy, both economic interests and moral conscience should be addressed in an African-American agenda. Perhaps it is no surprise then that dialogue relating to the perceived foreign policy and international priorities of African-Americans focused heavily on concerns over U.S. policy towards Nigeria. Participants expressed disappointment that this policy has not taken into consideration African-Americans' strong feelings against corruption and human rights abuses, and questioned the wisdom of the "constructive engagement with Nigeria.

A proposal that religious institutions with historically pan-Africanist concerns assume an important role in building bridges to Africa was met with mixed reactions. Although it received the support of some participants, others were concerned that African-American institutions are too dependent on a few individual leaders. In their view, African-American perspectives should better reflect the diversity of the community. Just as no single person or institution represents the foreign policy views of any other community, there should be no individual or sector monopolizing the foreign policy views of African-Americans.

Participants highlighted the need to nurture an African-American constituency with a strong interest in foreign policy issues. It was suggested that African-Americans consider how their human capital could be employed in Africa's endeavors for development, providing political support in return for economic opportunity. However, the difficulties with effective mobilization and formulation of an African-American agenda on Africa may be attributed, in part, to the lack of interaction between African-Americans and immigrants from Africa. These groups first must come together to forge a common policy position around issues of race and racism, and then mobilize around public policy regarding Africa.

In order to formulate effective foreign policy alternatives, one participant encouraged African-Americans to broaden the scope of their interests and their institutions to include important foreign policy issues that go beyond Africa. The argument is that a comparison of U.S. relations with China and Latin America to those of the U. S. with Africa will ultimately enhance the African-Americans' ability to position their foreign policy agenda in a global context.

Asian-American Perspectives: Linkages with Homelands

Chair: Mr. J. D. Hokoyama

The well-being of Asian-Americans has been inextricably linked to the role and influence of Asian nations and to the nature of the relationships between immigrants' adopted and ancestral homes. Such strong linkages have inadvertently contributed to the widespread perception in America of Asian-Americans as perpetual foreigners and outsiders. Participants identified historical animosities linked to Asian-Americans' strong allegiance to their native homelands as a force that divides the different Asian communities. Some argued that such strong interests in their homelands also take away time and resources that could be used to invest in their communities in America.

Linkages to their homelands, however, are not necessarily burdens for Asian-Americans. With Asia as an important market, Asian-Americans with cultural and family links are considered assets to be utilized. Moreover, it was suggested that Asian-Americans working in the private sector could be viewed as assets for their ethnic group, given the important role played by multinational companies in many foreign policy issues.

Despite their strong interests in foreign policy issues, Asian-Americans are not players when it comes to foreign policy. Participants expressed concern over political backlashes when steps have been taken to increase participation in the domestic political process. For instance, the recent political campaign finance scandal, they feared, will blunt Asian-American activism for many years to come.

The discussion on political backlash prompted the question of whether and how Asian-Americans should unite for electoral strength to ensure success for their activism. One participant noted that the base for such unity is Asian-Americans' common experience of prejudice and abuse in America. However, it was also suggested that uniting does not necessarily mean speaking with a single voice nor having a single foreign policy position for all Asian-American groups. Human rights was proposed as an issue that could help build consensus among Asian-Americans, given the moral authority that immigrants and refugees from Asia could bring to the debate.

For a background discussion, see Paul Watanabe's paper on page 20.

Latino Perspectives: Organization and Influence

Chair: Mr. Thomas Saenz

Looking for models to evaluate Latino involvement in international policy, participants discussed several historical and current examples. The role of Cuban-Americans in influencing U.S. foreign policy, without forming coalitions with other Latino groups, was identified as one model. Four factors explain Cuban-Americans' success: 1) a strong consensus exists among Cuban-Americans in their opposition to the Castro government in Cuba; 2) most Cuban-Americans are concentrated in only two states - New Jersey and Florida - a fact which significantly enhances their electoral power; 3) anti-Castro Cuban-Americans have been able to build up a powerful, well-organized and well-funded lobby centered around the Cuban American National Foundation; and 4) Cuban-Americans have donated heavily to political campaigns in return for access to and influence vis-a-vis public office-holders. However, some participants warned that as a model for successful promotion of international interests, the success of Cuban-Americans was unique to the Cold War and to the communist threat to the U.S., which allowed a highly magnified Cuban voice. This factor may limit its use as a benchmark to evaluate other Latino efforts and, indeed, may be a distraction in uniting Latinos on foreign policy.

As the Cuban-American example shows, groups within the Latino community historically have been centered around and united by links with their former homelands. Building coalitions to overcome these historical divisions between different Spanish-speaking communities is an important challenge that Latinos face in the United States.

Speaking from his experience in mobilizing Latino voters, one participant suggested a four-step path to build a perspective common to all Latinos. First, ethnic groups should not monopolize policy issues relating to their former home countries. Second, Latino leaders should seek to build coalitions with others, regardless of their countries of origin. Third, polling should be increasingly used to define common stands and to build consensus among all Latinos. Previous polls, for instance, have shown a high level of consensus among Latinos in their conditional support for NAFTA and presidential fast track authority and their opposition to continued funding for Nicaraguan Contras and the Salvadoran government. These polls established a set of concerns among the majority of Latinos on particular policy areas that are distinct from or contradictory to the policies of the U.S. government. Finally, Latino organizations should move outside the Latino community to join forces with environmental organizations, private businesses, and other groups on issues of common concern.

Opening Remarks

Dr. Ernest Wilson, III

Sharing perspectives gained from his extensive foreign policy experience, including work with the National Security Council, Dr. Wilson focused on the U.S. political structure and the role of ethnic minorities. He asserted that people from different racial communities in the U.S. tend to have different attitudes and interpretations of their social realities, and these attitudes differ in important ways from group to group.

One crucial way for minorities to acquire influence on policy-making is to invest in long-term personal links with members of Congress and government agencies. Another important principle is to become familiar with the culture inside the foreign affairs and national security-related government agencies. Policy alternatives should be formulated in realistic terms. Mobilizing communities and public opinion on foreign policy issues is an important technique for increasing the responsiveness of government agencies. Furthermore, as non-governmental organizations and private corporations become increasingly involved in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, ethnic groups should reach out to engage these organizations, as well. The difficulty is how to sensitize uninterested communities to foreign policy.

Dr. Wilson argued that ethnic minorities can bring to bear their cultural sensitivity and their willingness to listen to other countries as assets in the formulation and implementation of American foreign policy. However, the culture and recruitment practices of the foreign policy agencies do not reflect the diversity of American society. It is important to educate and mentor foreign policy specialists from minority communities who can inject a new perspective in government and international agencies. Dr. Wilson advised that, instead of representing or specializing in an ethnocentric perspective on a single issue, minorities who aspire to be included in foreign policy institutions should also learn to be generalists, in the sense of developing interests in not only regional but also global issues.

A broad global perspective will enhance policy-makers' understanding of the diversity in size, culture, political system and economic importance of developing countries. This diversity precludes the U.S. from having a consistent foreign policy toward all countries. However, long-term consistency that also fosters certain moral principles in international relations is crucial to effective policymaking.

The main challenge that remains is for minority groups to engage in consistent, serious discussion of foreign policy issues, especially across ethnic lines, and to be willing to be open and honestly critical about the shortcomings of organizations of color involved in foreign affairs.

For background discussions, see papers by Allan Goodman, Ernest Wilson, and Juan Garcia-Passalacqua, beginning on page 28.

The March Workshop, including the Saturday afternoon wrap-up session chaired by Professor Edwin M. Smith, was a timely and fruitful exchange. It was clear that participants valued the opportunity to focus on the links between international and domestic policy issues, and to take part in structured and high-quality discussions on issues most of them do not address in their day-to-day work. African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos have not traditionally been active participants in foreign policy discussions, even less so if they reside in California rather than on the Atlantic Coast. The Workshop reaffirmed that these communities have strong interests in international policy issues and, given the opportunity, can contribute important insights to the consideration of those issues.

Drawing upon the workshop discussions, subsequent feedback, and consultation with members of the Pacific Council's Task Force on Enhancing Diversity, we contemplate several further steps to continue broadening participation in and strengthening the impact of the Pacific Council.

  • We propose to work with community groups to expand attention to the interests of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos on international policy issues. Well-attended workshops on Latino leaders and their foreign policy perceptions and on U.S.-Africa relations following President Clinton's visit to Africa have already been held.

  • Targeted efforts will continue to expand membership and active participation in the Pacific Council by people from minority backgrounds, not only in the Los Angeles metropolitan area but also in the Bay Area, San Jose, San Diego, Phoenix and Seattle.

  • To expand the involvement of people from traditionally domestic backgrounds, the Pacific Council will give increased attention to such issues as globalization and its impacts, immigration policy, international labor issues, environmental protection, and transnational networks dealing with domestic issues of concern in various countries.

  • The Pacific Council will seek to cooperate with community and ethnic organizations to convey the results of our meetings and programs, to make high-quality information and policy analysis more accessible to those organizations, and to draw on their expertise to inform the full Pacific Council membership.

Background Memoranda and Papers

The following is a list of all papers presented at the Pacific Council workshop. Titles in boldface type are papers prepared specifically for the workshop, and summaries are included (in list order) in the pages that follow.

Theme 1

"International Trade, Inequality, and the New Majority' in Los Angeles," by Manuel Pastor, University of California, Santa Cruz.

"Demographic Changes in California, 1980-1997," compiled by Frank Bean, University of Texas, Austin.

"Common Sense Drug Policy,"(Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 1998), by Ethan A. Nadelmann, The Open Society Institute, New York.

Theme 2

"Foreign Policy and Asian-American Activism," by Paul Watanabe, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

"Central Americans in the United States: Issues about Their Foreign Policy and International Interests," by Manuel Orozco, University of Texas, Austin.

"Latino Participation in U.S. Foreign Policy," by Antonio Gonzalez, William C. Velasquez Institute, Los Angeles.

"The International Interests and Foreign Policy Priorities of Mexican-Americans," by Patricia Hamm, University of California, Irvine.

"U.S. Policy Towards Africa: An African-American Agenda," by Herschelle Challenor, Clark Atlanta University (policy paper originally prepared for the Constituency for Africa).

"Mexicans in the United States: An Incipient Diaspora," by Carlos Gonzalez Gutierez, Director for Community Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico.

"The International Interests of Cuban-Americans," by Dario Moreno, Florida International University, Miami.

Theme 3

"Diversity in U.S. Foreign Policy-Making: The Dilemma Endures," by Allan E. Goodman, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

"Diversity in U.S. Foreign Policy-Making," by Ernest J. Wilson, III, University of Maryland, College Park.

"Advancing Diversity Views of American International Interests," by Juan M. Garcia-Passalacqua, Analisis, Inc., Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

"The Erosion of American National Interests," (Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 1997), by Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard University, Cambridge.

"International Trade, Inequality, and the "New Majority in Los Angeles"

Dr. Manuel Pastor, Jr.

Los Angeles is at the center of a surge in foreign trade in the 1990s while it continues to be plagued by inequality and racial tension. Changes in the regional economic structure Ñ including the decline of unionized manufacturing jobs and the relative increase in low-wage service and light industrial positions Ñ have contributed to an increasing geographic concentration of the poor and enhanced differentiation in the region's social hierarchy. The question is, "What is the relationship between international trade and inequality, particularly by race, in Los Angeles?"

Trade and Inequality

Economists who argue that trade has not been an important factor in rising domestic inequality dispute public concern involving the impact of internationalization on income distribution. Yet research has shown that trade does have some effect. Negative trade effects may be more pronounced for African-American and Latino workers who generally occupy more vulnerable positions in the labor hierarchy. For instance, Latinos experienced the highest level of documented job loss due to trade dislocations wrought by NAFTA.

The failure to secure fast-track negotiating authority, despite the obvious aggregate gains from enhancing trade in the Americas, suggests a general principle: the political viability of trade depends, in part, on its distributional consequences. To understand this, the impacts of trade as an industry need to be separated from the effects of trade on industry.

Import and export pressures in Los Angeles have contributed to a bifurcated labor market. In some sectors, both employment and wage growth have been the norm. In other industries, employment has risen but with flat or declining wages. Mapping national-level trade information onto Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs), a striking pattern appears: The areas losing from trade are generally both poor and minority (20% African-American, 60% Latino). While the areas winning from trade include some working-class districts, they are generally disproportionately (62%) white and well-off.

International Success: Why Equity Matters

Emerging research suggests that equity may, in fact, be conducive to aggregate economic growth, particularly at the regional level. Those regions that were "trade winnersÓ tended to be characterized by lower initial levels of central city poverty and inequality. Other variables that may contribute to improved trade performance and equity are: a large foreign population, which allows a region to better connect with foreign markets; higher levels of education, which helps an area produce higher-value products; and larger city size, which provides producers with a wider range of suppliers. Higher inequality breeds social tension, erodes social capital, and hence diminishes trade performance.

The research points to the need for designing policies and rules that offer a fairer distribution of the benefits and burdens of trade. This will help the political viability of trade and eventually enhance trade success.

Policies for a New Majority

The national level evidence suggests that African-Americans and Latinos have been hardest hit by international competition, in part because of the positions they occupy in the labor market. A new approach, which brings together equity, growth, and trade expansion, could have positive benefits for all. The International Trade Forum focusing on how minority-owned and small businesses could take advantage of new global opportunities is just one example of forums that make explicit the specific interests of ethnic minorities in the foreign policy realm.

Communities divided by race, income, and trade status fail to recognize their interrelated future. Articulation of a new common good is a key political task in linking minorities to the broader economic dynamics of the region. Identifying shared interests is a prerequisite to furthering the interests of minority groups who, thus far, have had unequal access to trade benefits.

Foreign Policy and Asian-American Activism

Dr. Paul Watanabe

A host of complex factors needs to be assessed in examining the role of Asian-Americans in international policy. In fact, considerable disagreement exists over the extent, feasibility, and desirability of Asian-American involvement in the foreign policy realm.

Changes and Opportunities

Asian-American efforts in the foreign policy arena and responses to them may be influenced by dramatic transformations in at least three realms:

1) the size and composition of Asian-American communities Ñ Asian-Americans are a larger, more diverse group, with new immigrants drawn from broad social strata; 2) the role of Asia in the international system Ñ the rise and restructuring of Asia afford Asian-Americans opportunities to influence the nature of those changes and America's policy responses; and 3) American foreign policy goals and the policymaking process Ñ the passing of the Cold War, combined with the growing complexity of factors that impact the focus and structure of American foreign policy, offers increased opportunities to inject Asian-American interests and perspectives in the policymaking process.

Asian-Americans and U.S.-Asia Relations

Linkages. The well-being of Asian-Americans has been inextricably linked to the role and influence of Asian nations and to the nature of the relationships between their adopted and ancestral homes. Migration patterns and treatment of Asians domestically have been affected by these relationships.

Interest. The existence of generational differences regarding interest in foreign policy has been routinely identified by Asian-Americans, but with little agreement as to the direction and impact of those differences. Some claim a heightened preoccupation with and passion for international policy among the foreign born. Others contend that first and second generation immigrants are focused on making a living and have limited capacity to exercise policymaking clout. Once the Asian-American communities expand their socioeconomic and other resources, the capabilities for effective involvement in politics grow.

Activism. The historical experience of Asian-Americans shows that while interest in foreign policy matters may be high, activism has been uneven and episodic. Various Asian-American groups periodically have lobbied for or against policies impacting their Asian homelands, but they have often engendered harsh treatment. Expanded activism on foreign policy matters enhances public perception of Asian-Americans as perpetual foreigners and strangers, increasing the likelihood of harsh backlashes. Despite the strong potential for political clout, the tendency to confuse activism and dissent with disloyalty and unreliability may have a chilling effect on Asian-Americans.

Tearing Apart, Coming Together, and Identifying Barriers

Centrifugal Forces. Differences that emerge within specific Asian-American communities over foreign policy matters reflect many things, including generational differences, contending political allegiances, and regional variations. The persistence of myriad factors promoting potential disunity makes the establishment and maintenance of unity around foreign policy considerations more problematic for Asian-Americans.

Centripetal Forces. Homeland and Asian experiences tend to divide Asian-Americans while shared American experiences provide opportunities to unite them. Circumstances that might promote unity among diverse Asian-American communities may be linked to the common experiences of prejudice and abuse that define a collective Asian-American experience.

Barriers to Participation. Structural impediments restricting immigration and naturalization combined with a sense of political vulnerability and ineffectiveness make it difficult for Asian-Americans to be active. In addition, the desire for political activism for certain communities is complicated by the presence of communism in their homelands. Another barrier is the reluctance of certain Asian-American associations to approve of aggressive efforts to alter the shape of American foreign policy. There is some reluctance as well because of the belief that domestic and local matters should be the principal focuses of political participation.

The Case for Asian-American Participation

Advocates for Asian-American involvement in influencing U.S. foreign policy point to the potential for contributions of expertise and insights from people who have first-hand knowledge about the countries. Precisely because of their continued interest in their homelands, Asian-Americans' knowledge and perspective can be useful in any foreign policy debate. Yet, Asian-Americans have seldom performed key foreign policymaking roles. Instead, they have been principally active on the policymaking periphery working as consultants and relying upon non-Asian members of Congress to influence U.S. policy.

Central Americans in the United States: Issues about Their Foreign Policy and International Interests

Mr. Manuel Orozco

The ability of Central Americans in the United States to get attention in the foreign policy establishment depends on various factors. These criteria include their ability to become a unified group, Central American government efforts to reach out to Central Americans in the United States, and continued efforts by Central Americans to integrate into the U.S. polity.

A range of issues have influenced the development of Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans as a political diaspora in the United States:

Central Americans as a Fresh Diaspora

The main reason Central Americans migrated to the United States was directly linked to the internal wars and the regional crisis that occurred in the 1980s. A large proportion of Central Americans now in the U.S. escaped various forms of political instability and repression, as well as economic crisis and social injustice. These groups still maintain various symbolic, sentimental, as well as material links with their home countries.

Central American groups in the U.S. live in very different demographic concentrations. The majority of Nicaraguans reside in Miami and over half the Salvadorans and Guatemalans have settled in California. The rest are scattered throughout U.S. principal cities. Therefore there have been few opportunities for cooperation on Central American issues, given that these groups often do not interact regularly or live in the same cities.

International Interests of Central Americans

Four distinctive, albeit related, international interests are identified among Central Americans:

  • Central Americans assert that continued relationships with the home country are beneficial to them. One clearly expressed link relates to the financial commitments they have to their relatives living in Central America.

  • Migration is expressed as both a domestic and international concern. On the one hand, there is a desire among Central Americans to be recognized by their home countries' governments and societies as an important group connected to their home countries, even though they are distant. On the other hand, there is a belief that continued migration is a legitimate way to maintain good relations between the U.S. and Central America.

  • Concerns about social improvement stress a humanitarian perspective on development in the region, with assistance and contributions oriented towards supporting community rather than promoting economic development per se. There is also agreement that trade relations between the United States and Central American countries must be strengthened and increased.

  • For most Central Americans, stability in the region guarantees that their countries will continue to progress, and their families and relatives will not endure the same experiences that led them to migrate.

Country-Specific Positions

While they share the same interests, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans have had very different political experiences and hold divergent world outlooks. These political and historical factors, combined with different cultural and national experiences, account for the lack of unified mobilization which reflects each group's country-specific orientation. However, migration and asylum policy are often important exceptions to country-specific organizing and have been issues where Central Americans have tried to team up.

International Links and the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment

In most cases, diasporic efforts to establish links with the home country take the form of cultural organizations or associations whose objective is to maintain symbolic linkages. Central Americans living in the United States share the same foreign policy interests maintained by the foreign policy establishment. However, these groups' interests and perspectives are not communicated to the U.S. government. Most foreign policy lobbying is carried out by international organizations or by Central American-based groups with ties to the U.S.

The absence of effective foreign policy lobbying may, in part, be attributed to the fact that Central Americans have not prioritized international mobilization to the extent they have promoted domestic interests. However, this does not imply that, from time to time, Central Americans have not reached official channels, including foreign policy institutions and town mayors or state governors.

International Activism's Recent Origins and Limited Consensus

Central American groups or associations mobilizing towards maintaining links with their home country exhibit some common characteristics: these organizations are quite new; some of them are organizationally weak and, therefore, do not last long; they are usually small; they lack broad consensus with regard to the methods of international actions and, thus, do not mobilize in a unified manner; and, in the case of the three countries studied, the international reach of these organizations is offset by the more important goal of domestic mobilization. Nevertheless, there seems to be a gradual change, quicker among migrants from some countries than others, towards unification of interests and actions. Salvadorans are currently the only group of Central Americans who have created a national organization that is making efforts to develop a larger diasporic appeal.

Mobilization Abroad Preceded by Domestic Concerns

The saliency of and interest in international mobilization is secondary to domestic concerns in the United States. Thus, the strength of Central American organizations lies in their ability to address local community issues. Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans have all expressed that their main community priorities, for now, are: to achieve a legal status in the U.S. (legal residency), to obtain decent jobs, to provide an education for their children, to protect them from the continued threat of crime, and to move up the social hierarchy as they settle in this society.

Implications for the U.S.: Create Spaces for Successful Integration

With a tendency to concentrate their energy and will on attaining incorporation into the U.S. polity and to hold foreign policy perspectives that run parallel to those currently held by the foreign policy establishment, Central Americans represent no threat to national unity and identity. Instead, given the growing and emerging number of diasporic organizations, outreach efforts must be established to facilitate their organized participation in domestic, as well as international, issues.

Latino Participation in U.S. Foreign Policy

Mr. Antonio Gonzalez

Since 1976, Latinos have been the fastest growing ethnic group in registration and voting in the U.S. This rise in political power has cast Latino leaders in a new role where they are compelled to become decision-makers on issues relevant to U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, national Latino organizations have conducted foreign policy-related initiatives that strengthen and expand participation of Latino elected officials and community leaders.


With a foreign-born rate of at least forty percent, Spanish-language proficiency and strong family ties across borders, Latinos are the largest internationalized social constituency in America. Economically, Latino workers are more located in the traded sectors than any other ethnic groups. Yet Latino leaders historically have been slow to participate in foreign policy. This pattern of mainstream Latino aloofness from participation in foreign policy issues was juxtaposed against active participation by politically marginal exile or country of origin efforts until the mid-1980s.

Case Studies

Several foreign policy debates in the 1980s and 1990s stand out as case studies of active Latino participation.

U.S.-Central America Policy. The Southwest Voter Research Institute (SVRI) conducted a leadership education and advocacy effort that sought to gain Latino support for proposals to end U.S. military aid and involvement with the Nicaraguan contras and Salvadoran government. These efforts created a dialogue on the importance of participation in issues of U.S. foreign policy and set important processes in motion that would cause even greater participation around the question of NAFTA.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and NADBank. The debate around NAFTA divided traditional U.S. domestic allies on all sides and created new, temporary alliances. In this context, SVRI, the National Council of La Raza, and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF) created the "Latino Consensus on NAFTAÓ through which they proposed a series of nine conditions for supporting NAFTA to the Clinton Administration. The Latino Consensus conducted a grassroots educational, public relations and advocacy effort designed to flex Latino political muscle on the NAFTA debate. Their endorsement came with Clinton's acceptance of six of the nine Latino conditions. This was arguably the most influential foreign policy effort ever undertaken by Latinos. Following the NAFTA debate, participation in U.S.-Mexico relations among Latino business interests, national organizations, and Mexican-origin groups has expanded exponentially.

Fast-Track Authority. The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) conducted briefings, conferences, and press conferences, and issued publications in order to educate the Latino leadership about the Administration's failure to keep its NAFTA promises, as well as the dangers of extending the problematic NAFTA model to South America by giving Clinton fast-track authority. When the Administration refused to meet the Latino conditions, WCVI launched a campaign of public opposition that resulted in the President's deciding not to bring fast-track to a vote. This effort is considered a model of Latino accountability advocacy on a foreign policy matter.

U.S.-Cuba Policy. The Helms-Burton law tightens the U.S. embargo of Cuba and sanctions third parties that trade or invest with Cuba. WCVI believed the escalation set a dangerous precedent on issues of trade and international law. Having sent delegations to Cuba and studied Latino public opinion, WCVI has launched an education and advocacy effort in support of legislation to lift the embargo on foods and medicine.


Certain tactics and strategies are key to effective participation by and advocacy for Latinos:

  • Linking foreign policy to domestic impacts/benefits makes participation important to Latino leadership.

  • Building consensus through Latino-specific educational events is key.

  • Original research on Latino-specific themes reveals the specific consequences or benefits of certain foreign policy proposals or practices.

  • Developing affirmative alternatives allows Latino leaders to play constructive rather than destructive roles, encouraging broader participation and projecting Latinos as leaders.

  • Coincidence with both Latino voter opinion and U.S. public opinion appear to be more important than coincidence with the position of the White House, Congress, or international opinion in determining effective Latino participation and/or advocacy.

The International Interests and Foreign Policy Priorities of Mexican-Americans

Ms. Patricia Hamm

Divisions of class, national origin, and length of residence in the U.S. render Mexican-Americans a heterogeneous group whose views on foreign policy and international stakes are not monolithic.

Mexican-American Interests

Most of the foreign policy and international interests and priorities of Mexican-Americans relate to those of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. These interests include trade, immigration, U.S.-Mexico border issues, narcotics, and Mexican politics.

Trade. At the top of foreign policy priorities are U.S. trade policies, because they are closely linked to employment and business opportunities. Increasing integration between the Mexican and the American economies has fundamental implications for Mexican-Americans. The large trade volume with Mexico, the high concentration of Mexican-Americans in low-skilled jobs, and the potential benefits from increased trade and investment opportunities to Mexican-American businesses and professionals all point to reasons why discussion about NAFTA is such a priority.

Immigration. Due to the large number of recent immigrants, and to limit or prevent discriminatory measures, Mexican-Americans have a large common stake in U.S. immigration policies that effectively, but fairly, regulate and limit immigration flows; foster safe and legal immigration; and speed naturalization processes.

U.S.-Mexico Border. The Southwest is the home of most of the population of Mexican origin. Given that the lives of the communities on both side of the border are so intertwined, the lax Mexican environmental and urbanization regulations, the explosion of the maquiladora industry, and increased migrant populations have contributed to the worsening of the quality of life for U.S. and Mexican residents. Hence, questions of the infrastructure and environment on the U.S.-Mexico border have been redefined as trade-related issues in NAFTA.

Narcotics Trade. Mexican-Americans are among the groups most directly and severely affected by high levels of illegal drug consumption and drug-related criminal activity. It is in their interest to push for greater emphasis on a dual track approach to drug enforcement measures.

Mexican Politics and Development. Due to their cultural, linguistic, material, and familial ties to Mexico, Mexican-Americans have a stake in U.S.-Mexican policies that assist Mexico to achieve sustainable development and overcome economic and financial crises. Simultaneously, Mexican-Americans would have a better chance of being viewed positively in the U.S. when democracy, peace, and prosperity materialize in Mexico.

Minority-Shared Interests

Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans share a common interest to democratize the definition of national interests by incorporating their visions, perspectives, and priorities. They share several distinctive minority interests:

  • Ethnic minorities are likely to disproportionately suffer the negative effects of NAFTA because they are disproportionately concentrated in industries experiencing increasing international competition.

  • Ethnic minorities suffer the consequence