February 22, 2024

California MENA Inclusion Act – Bill Explainer

The State of California is incredibly diverse, and home to a plethora of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities, including the largest population of Iranian Americans. The 2020 Census indicated that Iranians represented 34% of the MENA population, or the largest sub-group of individuals with MENA heritage. However, neither the federal government nor the State of California has ever measured these communities in an official capacity. This has meant that Iranians have to select “other” in racial and ethnic category surveys and self-identify, or choose from other categories that do not reflect their unique background, such as “White.” This gap in official representation has presented challenges for our community in understanding its unique needs, as well as accessing state and federal resources to address them. 

The introduction of the MENA Inclusion Act, or AB 2763, in the California state legislature seeks to close the significant gaps between California’s MENA communities and the state. 

Current law mandates that any California state agency, board, or commission that collects demographic data based on ethnic origin use separate collection categories for each major Asian and Pacific Islander group and to make such data publicly available. However, there is no similar requirement for the state to collect such information for MENA communities – though this would change if the MENA Inclusion Act becomes law.

AB 2763 would require a collection category designated for Middle Eastern and North African communities – including Iranians – and the data from this category would also be made publicly available. Official representation would then empower the large Iranian-American community of California to secure a myriad of benefits and resources for our communities, including:

  • Tracking and addressing health disparities faced uniquely by MENA communities
  • Accessing state-allocated funds for community programs and initiatives
  • Boosting economic growth through date-fueled policies that stimulate minority business development
  • Encouraging more MENA political participation
  • Creating more culturally and linguistically appropriate resources for different MENA communities in health, education, and welfare spaces
  • Monitoring discrimination and civil rights violations

While the implementation of a MENA category in the federal U.S. Census is still being considered, significant progress can be made at the state level with bills like the MENA Inclusion Act, especially in a state as large and diverse in its MENA communities as California.

The text of the bill can be found here, and you can message your local representatives about supporting the bill here.

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