Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • 2014: Year in Review for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

    In 2014, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) celebrated its 15th anniversary and five years under President Barack Obama. It has been a year of many milestones, from helping millions of Americans gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, to giving new hope to immigrant families with the President’s executive actions on immigration. WHIAAPI’s created new opportunities and resources for community-based organizations, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned businesses, and researchers and policymakers. We’ve connected with communities across the country, in all ten federal regions, including Guam and Hawaii.

    WHIAAPI is honored to share with you a number of memorable moments in 2014. Please check out some of our photo and video highlights from the year and tweet your favorites using the hashtag #WHIAAPI.

  • Promoting Positive Mental Health and Support for Young AAPI Leaders

    On December 9, 2014 the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) held its second Young Leaders Dialogue (YLD) Google+ Hangout, focused on Mental Health. This is the second installment of a four part YLD series happening in conjunction with the E3! Ambassadors Program, comprised of young leaders across the nation committed to increasing opportunity and improving the quality of life for AAPIs. These E3! Ambassadors aim to “Educate, Engage and Empower” young leaders, by highlighting federal programs and resources for AAPIs around the issues of education, mental health, pathways to public service and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The first YLD on Education took place in October 2014.

    During the recent YLD on Mental Health, Juliet Bui from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and DJ Ida from the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) shared the barriers AAPIs face when dealing with mental health issues, the incredible wealth of resources that are available for addressing these issues, and the benefits of positive mental health. Federal resources like the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline (1‑877‑SAMHSA7) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) serve as valuable tools where callers can get general information on mental health and talk directly to trained crisis workers. In addition, speakers discussed the warning signs of people who may be considering suicide and how friends and family can create a safe, supportive space for the person to talk and how to make a referral to someone trained in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Above all, speakers highlighted that friends and family do make a difference and can raise awareness around mental health for AAPIs. 

    The YLD on Mental Health closed out the event series for 2014, and we look forward to opening the New Year with our YLD on Pathways to Public Service in February 2015. YLDs are a way for young leaders to learn about federal resources available around issues that affect them, and share their personal stories. Each dialogue features Administration officials, community leaders, and other experts on the topic and can provide valuable information to increase access and opportunity for young AAPIs.

    To find ways to engage your community around these issues, check out our mental health toolkit, and stay tuned for our upcoming YLD on Pathways to Public Service in February 2015.

    Jason Tengco is a Senior Advisor and Bessie Chan is an Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Empowering AAPI-Owned Businesses Through Federal Resources

    With the holidays coming up, it is an opportune time for us to recognize the businesses that support and help our economy grow healthier and make the season more special. The White House recently released its employment situation in November and shared the good news that the private sector has added nearly 11 million jobs over 57 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. A big contributor to this success is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned businesses throughout the country. AAPI-owned businesses, like other minority-owned businesses, continue to grow and create jobs in difficult times, testifying to their important role in helping drive economic recovery and growth.

    In just five years, the number of small businesses owned by Asian Americans grew 40 percent. The number of small businesses owned by Pacific Islanders grew by 30 percent. With more than 1.5 million AAPI-owned businesses in the United States generating more than $500 billion in sales annually and employing more than 2.8 million workers, their success is critical to the overall economy.

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Executive Order speaks explicitly to the power of the Initiative to connect AAPI-owned businesses to business development, counseling, and capital in the federal government. To that end, we are excited to launch a website dedicated to connecting AAPI-owned businesses to federal resources.

  • White House Engages Asian American and Pacific Islander Business Leaders

    Business leaders convene to discuss best practices and resources to advance the AAPI business community

    Business leaders convened at the White House to discuss best practices and resources to advance the AAPI business community, November 14, 2014. (Photo by WHIAAPI)

    Today there are roughly 1.6 million Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than $500 billion in sales and employing more than 2.8 million people. In addition, half of AAPIs hold college degrees, providing a steady stream of educated workers into our country’s growing workforce. Yet despite these important achievements, AAPIs face unique challenges, such as being less likely to seek government services or advance to the highest levels of government or in corporate America.

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) strives to advance access to the federal government for all AAPIs in the country. This includes promoting business development opportunities in the AAPI community by fostering more collaborative public-private partnerships that will create new, sustainable jobs; build leadership in government and in the private sector; find solutions for workforce challenges; and expand opportunities that advance arts and culture as means to demonstrate the value we as a community bring to business.

    On November 14, 2014, WHIAAPI partnered with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship (ACE) to hold a National Employee and Business Resource Group (ERG/BRG) Summit for AAPI business leaders at the White House. Seventy-five business leaders and members of ERG/BRGs from various industries, including banking and finance, retail, utilities, telecommunications, technology, manufacturing, health care, insurance, and food, convened to discuss collaborative opportunities, best practices, and resources to advance the AAPI business community.

  • Understanding Salon and Domestic Work: Opportunities for Public-Private Partnerships

    Participants at the “Low-wage and Immigrant Women’s Work: Opportunities and Challenges for Improving Salon and Domestic Work in the U.S.” briefing

    Participants gather at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. for the “Low-wage and Immigrant Women’s Work: Opportunities and Challenges for Improving Salon and Domestic Work in the U.S.” Philanthropic Briefing, November 13, 2014. (Photo by the U.S. Department of Labor)

    Many may not be aware of the harsh conditions that beauty salon and domestic care workers face on a daily basis. Among hair and nail salon workers, the vast majority (95 percent) are female, and 42 percent are of Vietnamese descent. These women often work in poorly ventilated workspaces with little protective equipment, putting them at risk of exposure to toxins in the workplace that can cause respiratory and reproductive harm. On the other hand, domestic workers can become victims of wage theft and human trafficking. In fact, much of the domestic care industry is composed of immigrant women who work for private employers, often inside homes, and have no established work standards such as minimum wage, overtime, and sick and vacation pay. In both industries, many of the struggles and challenges for workers occur out of the public spotlight.

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) has been working to elevate awareness of the barriers that these workers face. On November 13, 2014, WHIAAPI, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor, held the final Salon Safety Interagency Working Group (IWG) meeting to acknowledge the accomplishments of IWG members as well as discuss the ongoing need to protect salon worker health and safety. Members of the Salon Safety IWG, including EPA, OSHA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the Small Business Administration (SBA), have been working together since May 2011 to raise awareness, coordinate, and implement plans for the improvement of salon worker health and safety.

    At least 20 members from federal agencies and salon worker advocates from the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (Alliance) were present and shared their progress and achievements such as translating materials on nail salon safety and health in Korean, Nepali, Spanish, and Vietnamese as well as launching educational web resources on hair salons, nail salons, and dangerous chemicals in beauty products. Several salon owners and workers also shared their stories of working to limit exposure to toxins in their own salons. Finally, the IWG and the Alliance members discussed opportunities for collaborating to continue progress towards greater safety of the salon industry. 

    Participants gather at the Department of Labor for the final Salon Safety IWG meeting

    Federal representatives and community members gather at the Department of Labor for the final Salon Safety IWG meeting, November 13, 2014. (Photo by WHIAAPI)

    In the latter half of the day, WHIAAPI partnered with foundations and funder affinity groups such as Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Ford Foundation, Grantmakers In Health, Groundswell Fund, Health & Environmental Funders Network, Ms. Foundation for Women, Rachel’s Network, Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and Women Donors Network, for a special philanthropic briefing, “Low-wage and Immigrant Women’s Work: Opportunities and Challenges for Improving Salon and Domestic Work in the U.S.”  

    A domestic worker speaks at the salon and domestic work briefing

    A domestic worker (second from left) shares her positive experiences working with an advocacy organizations represented at the Philanthropic Briefing held at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., November 13, 2014. (Photo by WHIAAPI)

    The briefing showcased critical issues facing both salon and domestic workers, who are predominantly low-wage, immigrant women of color working in industries falling outside traditional workforce protections. WHIAAPI was joined by over 60 attendees, including salon and domestic workers, advocates, philanthropic leaders, and officials from several federal agencies. The goals for this event were:

    1. To raise the profile of salon and domestic workers through their testimonials;
    2. To educate and engage a wide set of funders/donors on the opportunities and challenges facing low-wage and immigrant women salon and domestic workers;
    3. To discuss policy and regulatory reforms needed to advance workers health, safety and rights; and
    4. To explore opportunities for unique public-private partnerships.

    Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu provided remarks commending the workers for their courage to speak out and share their stories. He also recognized that the greatest successes and advancements in our history have come from cross-sector partnerships among private companies, nonprofit organizations, and the government. Afterwards, four women shared their experiences of hardship while working as salon or domestic workers. It was truly inspiring to hear from impacted women on the issues that they face at their respective workplaces. Their testimonies provided a solid foundation to discuss opportunities for pubic-private partnerships to ultimately improve the quality of life for women in these fields.

    Overall, the briefing helped solidify for me that more people need to be educated on these issues and that different sectors must partner in order to impact meaningful change.

    N. Nina Ahmad is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

  • Thankful for New Hope for Families with the President’s Executive Action on Immigration

    Speaking at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, where he laid out his principles for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform nearly two years ago, President Obama delivers remarks on the new steps he will be taking within his executive authority on immigration.

    Last week, I had the great pleasure of joining President Obama at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas as he spoke about new steps he is taking to start fixing America’s broken immigration system. President Obama announced executive actions that can provide nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants, including approximately 400,000 Asian immigrants, with temporary relief from deportation. With over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, nearly 1.3 million are from Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Standing before a packed auditorium, President Obama inspired hope for me and so many Americans, as well as those who already consider themselves Americans. These executive actions will provide sweeping reforms to the current immigration system by securing our borders and protecting Americans by prioritizing the removal of felons, not families. It will provide a way for those living in the shadows to come forward if they pass national security and criminal background checks, pay a fine, and contribute their fair share of taxes. The President’s actions will also grow our economy, reduce our deficit, and create jobs.

    Audience members, Lorella Praeli (left) and Chela Praeli (right), react as President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    I was brought to tears hearing the story of Astrid Silva, a young undocumented student who knew she could not have the same childhood as her peers and who was unable to attend the funeral of her grandmother overseas. Like Astrid, millions of undocumented individuals live in fear and are separated from their families. With the President’s executive actions, Guo Qiang Ye, father of four children all born in the United States, can now apply for deferred action to be with his family without the fear of deportation. If approved under the program and granted permission, Mr. Ye will also be able to visit his ailing mother in Hong Kong who he has not seen since 1996.

    The President’s reforms will also provide relief for millions of undocumented workers. With deferred action, they will be better able to avoid exploitation, allowing them to earn at least minimum wage, which also helps protect native-born workers. Families can go to work with the peace of mind that they will not be deported while simply trying to make an honest living. Undocumented workers will also be able to report their income and pay their fair share in taxes.

    Due to the inaction of Congress on immigration reform, President Obama is taking actions -- within his executive authority as President -- to make America's immigration system more fair and just. These reforms, however, do not change the law or fully fix our broken system. Only Congress has the authority to create a new law that can replace these actions and fix the whole system. President Obama reiterated that he will continue to work with Congress to make permanent, comprehensive, common-sense immigration reform a reality. As an undocumented child, I received my legal status when Congress last acted on immigration reform in 1986. Now serving at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I look forward in the coming months to working with federal agencies and immigrant families on implementing President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions. And I stand alongside families across the country in being thankful this holiday season for a new hope for the future.