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Southeast Asian communities, for instance, have high rates of poverty and their interests often align with black and Latino communities on affirmative action and other social justice causes.

South Asians, who surveys show are often not perceived as Asian, are among the highest earners and educational achievers; they are also strong supporters of affirmative action.

Meanwhile, some of the most fervent activism against affirmative action comes from a growing movement of recent first-generation Chinese immigrants, academics said.

But some Asian-Americans worry that they might appear to be providing cover for causes that run counter to minority interests.

Debates over affirmative action sometimes turn into arguments with other minority groups over who is more oppressed, obscuring common struggles.

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