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Hyunja Norman, executive director of Woori Juntos, leads her group through the state Capitol rotunda as they make their way to their next lawmaker meeting on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy Day on March 9, 2023. The group hoped to speak with lawmakers and seek support for bills that would improve language access for Korean and Spanish speakers in regards to health and social services,
Asking to be Heard

Houston language advocates race to keep their one small request from disappearing in Capitol bedlam

Woori Juntos began the legislative session hoping to win over a majority of legislators to their cause — making it easier for Texans who speak no or limited English to communicate with state agencies and access crucial services. First, they needed a lawmaker to file their bill.


Nicole Ma, Organizing and Policy Associate for Woori Juntos, waits in the office of state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, to speak with an aide about their proposal to create language access plans for health services, on Feb. 9 2023.

Widespread need

Steven Wu and Sarah Syed prepare to meet with lawmakers to discuss legislation for creating language access plans at the state Capitol on Feb. 9, 2023. They hope to convince lawmakers that the surplus budget is an opportunity for funding to be allocated for translating common documents and applications in health agencies and other state departments into languages beyond English and Spanish.

A first major hurdle

Steven Wu and Sarah Syed of Woori Juntos, a nonprofit dedicated to improving language access to health and social services, go over talking points for their legislation proposal before meeting with lawmakers at the state Capitol on Feb. 9, 2023.
Steven Wu, Sarah Syed, and Nicole MA speak with an aide of state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, in his office about their proposal for legislation improving language access in health services at the state Capitol, on Feb. 9 2023.
An aide of state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, examines an info sheet while Sarah Syed explains their proposal to create language access plans for health services, on Feb. 9 2023.
Group 1, led by Hyunja Norman, the executive director of Woori Juntos, huddle and cheer together before heading out to meet with lawmakers to seek support for bills that would improve language access for Korean and Spanish speakers in regards to health and social services, on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Austin on March 9, 2023.

Down to the wire

A woman sorts folders with info on the lawmakers and bills that members of the Woori Juntos group will be meeting with, during the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Austin on March 9, 2023. The group had travelled from Dallas and Houston to ask lawmakers to consider supporting bills that would improve language access for Korean and Spanish speakers in regards to health and social services.
Jong Song of Woori Juntos, center, follows Hyunja Norman as the group navigates the underground extension of the state Capitol in Austin while searching for lawmaker offices on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy Day on March 9, 2023. The group hoped to speak with lawmakers and seek support for bills that would improve language access for Korean and Spanish speakers in regards to health and social services,
Hyunja Norman and her group pause beside the Medal of Honor plaque in the basement of the state Capitol to look over a map and search for the way to their next lawmaker meeting on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Advocacy Day on March 9, 2023. The group hoped to speak with lawmakers and seek support for bills that would improve language access for Korean and Spanish speakers in regards to health and social services,
Women members of Woori Juntos dance and play drums during a cultural performance after a press conference by the Texas Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Collective, outside the state Capitol in Austin on March 9, 2023.

A final sprint

 

Women members of Woori Juntos dance and play drums during a cultural performance after a press conference by the Texas Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Collective, outside the state Capitol in Austin on March 9, 2023.
Members of the Texas Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Collective hold signs during a press conference at the state Capitol on March 9, 2023.
Steven Wu, Nicole Ma and Hyunja Norman of Woori Juntos hug before beginning the journey back to Houston after a long day of advocating for improved language access on March 9, 2023.

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