Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • New Data Sheds Light on Need to Expand Opportunities for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Young Men and Boys

    In February, the President launched his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to expand opportunity for all young men and boys of color. This initiative builds upon collaboration between leading foundations and businesses to ensure that all young men and boys are able to achieve their full potential, regardless of their background. 

    As an educator who works closely with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth and students on a daily basis, I have seen firsthand the many challenges and barriers that young men and boys of color face. Low graduation rates and bullying are among these challenges. My Brother’s Keeper is an important step in furthering the President’s commitment to improving the quality of life and opportunities for all, including the AAPI community.

    In order to work effectively to address the needs of young men and boys of color, we need to have compelling datadata that is disaggregated and detailed enough to illuminate the areas where the community’s needs are the greatest.

    On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released the results of its 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). With data collected from every public school and school district across the country, the CRDC provides a detailed portrait of student equity and opportunity trends locally and nationwide for Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (NHPIs).

    The data is disaggregated by seven race and ethnicity categories, and this year marks the first time the CRDC has included disaggregated data on NHPIs and multiracial students. The CRDC shows that during the study, 7 percent of NHPI boys received out-of-school suspensions whereas only 3 percent of NHPI girls received out-of-school suspensions. In addition, in Mississippi, the out-of-school suspension rates for NHPI boys and girls reached 41 percent and 22 percent respectively. Furthermore, in kindergarten retention, boys represented 52 percent of kindergarten students and 61 percent of the kindergarten students retained and 10 percent of NHPI boys were retained in kindergarten.

    With this new disaggregated data, the CRDC joins the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study as an immensely important tool in shedding light on the experience of young men and boys in our communities.

    The Higher Education study, produced by the department’s National Center for Education Statistics, examines gaps in educational participation and attainment between males and females overall and within racial/ethnic groups. The report includes data on Asian Americans and NHPIs and looks at 46 indicators of important developments and trends in the education of males and females within and across specific racial/ethnic groups to explore the educational achievements and challenges of males and females.

    The incredible opportunities presented by the CRDC and Higher Education study in addressing our community’s needs fuel a growing demand for greater data disaggregation. The data provided in these reports allow us to see a more complete snapshot of the daily needs and challenges our young men and boys face and are a great tool for school officials, federal agencies, policymakers, and educators.

    Boys and young men of color of all backgrounds are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives. The data presented in the CRDC and Higher Education study paint a complex picture of just how early we begin to see these risks. By observing and understanding these risks, and addressing them through efforts like the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, we can work to overcome the challenges young men and boys of color face early on.

    Sefa Aina is Director of the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College and Vice Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Meeting Atlanta’s AAPI Community

    AAPI Community Roundtable in Atlanta, GA

    Federal officials and community leaders convene for the first AAPI Community Roundtable in Atlanta, Georgia, March 18, 2014. (by the Center for Pan Asian Community Services)

    Last Thursday, the Region IV Interagency Working Group hosted its first Community Roundtable for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders in Atlanta, Georgia. This meeting was co-hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS). Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council issued proclamations to CPACS for its collaborative effort in working with the AAPI community.

    It was wonderful to see community members and leaders, community organizations, partners and federal agencies come together, to learn about and discuss strategies for addressing the needs of the AAPI community. Importantly, the Region IV IWG was committed to moving beyond words to action, and also hosted an AAPI Affordable Care Act Enrollment Summit immediately after the AAPI Community Roundtable.

    During the AAPI Community Roundtable, the first presentation provided a brief history of the AAPI community in the South. I appreciated hearing from AAPI community leaders and members who shared their stories about their lives in Atlanta. This provided an important framework for the conversations that would follow.

    Next, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) District Director Denise Frazier spoke about immigration and the AAPI community. She shared important information about programs available to assist AAPI immigrants and their families. Immigration plays such a large role in emerging AAPI communities, it was critical to have this conversation with the AAPI leaders in Atlanta.

    After this plenary session, the attendees split into four issue-based discussions focused on: (1) Health and Human Services, (2) Housing and Education, (3) Employment and Small Business, and (4) Emergency Preparedness and Civic Engagement. The discussions were each led by a member of the Region IV IWG and facilitated by officials from nine federal agencies, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education, Small Business Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, General Services Administration, Social Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Department of Justice.

    These small groups provided an opportunity for community members and leaders to engage directly with federal officials, making these discussions much more meaningful and a great start to building working relationships between the federal government and the AAPI community in Atlanta.

    Although it had already been a very productive day, the first AAPI Affordable Care Act Enrollment Summit at CPACS was held directly after the Region IV roundtable. The March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is rapidly approaching, so CPACS made sure that more than 20 in-person assisters were available on-site to help community members learn about the Health Insurance Marketplace in over a dozen languages and receive assistance to enroll in health insurance.

    This Summit was a much-needed effort for the AAPI community, and many individuals and families benefited from this event, including one mother who had been struggling to enroll in health insurance since January 2014. With the assistance provided by CPACS, she received in-person help to enroll in a health insurance plan. Over 50 families were able to enroll as a result of this event.

    After a busy and informative day, I am grateful that stronger relationships are being built between Region IV’s federal agencies and the AAPI community. There are many passionate and dedicated people working on issues that are vital to the AAPI community and, with more events like this, I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of a meaningful partnership. Together through solidarity and commitment, we can help serve the needs of all Americans and build a stronger nation.   

    Dr. Renard L. Murray is co-chair of the WHIAAPI Regional Interagency Working Group and the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the Atlanta and Dallas Regional Offices.

  • Helping Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders #GetCovered During AAPI Enrollment Week of Action

    For the past eight years, Maly Xiong, a Hmong-American entrepreneur and single mom, was uninsured because she could not afford health insurance. Every night she prayed that her children wouldn’t get sick because they did not have health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Maly was able to finally sign up for health insurance. Maly and her six children are now insured, healthy, and free from worry. “Getting covered has been a blessing,” she said.

    Maly Xiong AAPI ACA Graphic

    Stories such as Maly’s make the March 31 Affordable Care Act open enrollment deadline even more critical for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to take action and get AAPIs enrolled in health coverage.

    This is exactly what the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), the White House Office of Public Engagement, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with many passionate community leaders, did during the AAPI Enrollment Week of Action last week. Through collaboration between federal agencies and AAPI community leaders, the message was clear: #GetCovered.

    Kicking off the week, HHS released a report that announced eight out of 10 uninsured Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders may be eligible for financial assistance in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The White House also released a new infographic about AAPIs and the ACA

    During the week, I was honored to participate in a community conference call with Vice President Joe Biden to personally thank the many Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders leaders from national, state, and local community organizations who are working hard to educate the AAPI community about the importance of the ACA. 

    I was also excited to participate in a Google+ Hangout with actor Maulik Pancholy; Meena Seshamani, Deputy Director of the HHS Office of Health Reform; and Gautam Raghavan, Advisor for the White House Office on Public Engagement. We highlighted the important benefits of signing up for the Health Insurance Marketplace:


    During AAPI Enrollment Week of Action, we re-released the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ series of in-language Google+ Hangouts on the Affordable Care Act. This series included Google+ Hangouts in KoreanVietnamese, and Chinese (Mandarin)

    And people across the country, including celebrities and community leaders, helped get the word out both on the ground and online. 

    Community organizations in Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York hosted enrollment events to walk individuals through the process of signing up for health coverage. For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services held an AAPI Enrollment Summit with over 40 assistors who spoke 16 languages available to provide in-person and in-language enrollment assistance for local community members.

    I would like to thank every individual who has helped with outreach and enrollment efforts in your neighborhoods and communities. Our simple actions are part of a larger movement for the overall health and well-being of the AAPI community.

    With only a few days left of open enrollment, please continue to direct members of the community to and to the 24/7 call center, available in over 150 languages, at 1-800-318-2596.

    Dr. Howard K. Koh is Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • March 26 Webinar on Hepatitis B Data Collection and Management

    Please join the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and Hep B United on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST for a webinar on Hepatitis B Data Collection and Management featuring speakers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Hep B United.

    Hepatitis B affects up to two million Americans  yet the disease is often overlooked and largely underdiagnosed. Join us for this interactive session to learn more about hepatitis B surveillance in the United States and discuss tools and best practices toward reducing hepatitis B health disparities. Panelists will share innovative strategies in community-based screening settings, data collection and management.

    • Date:
      Wednesday, March 26, 2014
    • Time:
      3:00-4:00 p.m. EST
    • Register at:
      A confirmation email with information on how to join the webinar will be sent to you after you register.


    • Kate Moraras, Senior Program Director, Hepatitis B Foundation and Director, Hep B United


    • Alek Sripipatana, PhD, MPH, Chief, Data Branch, Office of Quality and Data, Bureau of Primary Health Care, HHS Health Resources and Services Administration
    • Aurora Wong, Coordinator, Hep B Free Las Vegas, Hep B United Partner

    Note: This webinar is off the record and not for press purposes.

    Christine Soyong Harley is Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Increasing Participation through Stronger Partnerships

    Members of the RIWG Discuss Worker's Rights Issues

    Members of the RIWG discuss workers’ rights issues during a regional roundtable in Boston, March 18, 2014. (by Roberto Medina)

    Recently, we had the pleasure of organizing the first Regional Interagency Working Group roundtable with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Boston. One of the RIWG's goals is to bring the Federal government to local communities. We had a constructive dialogue about how we could further develop partnerships with the AAPI community in order to tackle the challenges of accessing government services and programs. Speakers from the US Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Small Business Administration, and the Social Security Administration assembled to not only present their respective agency's work, but to also answer questions from attendees.

    We are proud to report that the inaugural roundtable for Region 1 was a success. Staff from the Federal agencies responded directly to questions about issues surrounding workers' rights, economic development and assistance, and health and social services. The discussions included how limited English proficient individuals not only had difficulty accessing programs for small business and home loans, but also did not know how to access the technical assistance programs designed to assist applicants, due to the language barrier. Issues of language access arose again concerning access to worker protections laws and the importance of providing that information in culturally sensitive and linguistically relevant ways.

    Roundtable attendees also requested there be more opportunities to engage with each individual agency to further strengthen and build new partnerships between their friends and neighbors and the Federal government. Given that Region 1 RIWG members possess decades of experience in the Federal government, we are well-positioned to help open the doors of the government to those who have been left out for too long. But most importantly, we also have the energy and the commitment to continue to confront these and many other issues with the AAPI community in the days and weeks ahead.

    Roberto Medina is the Regional Public Affairs Officer for the Social Security Administration. Kenneth An is the Director of the Boston office for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both are members of the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ Regional Interagency Working Group, Region 1.

  • White House Engages Filipino American Leaders

    Filipino American Leaders Forum

    175 leaders gather for a White House Briefing for Filipino American Leaders, March 14, 2014. (by White House Office of Public Engagement)

    Last week, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the White House Office of Public Engagement brought together 175 Filipino American leaders at the White House to discuss key issues of importance to the community. Participants came from diverse sectors of society – non-profits, businesses, government, and philanthropy – and traveled from the far reaches of the country, including New York, California, and even Hawaii.

    The briefing opened with remarks by the Honorable Lorna Schofield, the first Filipino-American Article III federal judge, who spoke about her journey to becoming a lifetime judge and how her mother encouraged her to reach for her dreams. 

    In the wake of the devastation brought on by Typhoon Haiyan, Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), discussed her November 2013 visit to Tacloban and her amazement at the resilience of the Filipino people who were impacted by the typhoon. To date, the United States has provided more than $87 million in humanitarian funding to the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan relief. Gloria Steele, USAID Mission Director for the Philippines and the Pacific Islands, provided a video testimonial on how the most effective way that people can assist relief efforts is by making cash donations to reputable humanitarian organizations.

    Kiran Ahuja, WHIAAPI Executive Director, engaged participants in an interactive dialogue about the Initiative’s cross-cutting priorities and the reports by the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund Interagency Working Group. She also highlighted several efforts to better connect the AAPI community with the federal government, including WHIAAPI’s call for ideas to expand opportunities for AAPIs and request for feedback on federal agency plans.  

    Representatives from the White House National Security Council and Domestic Policy Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration shared updates on the President’s planned trip to the Philippines in April, commonsense immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Affordable Care Act, and small business resources. In group breakouts, participants discussed how the Administration can continue to partner with Filipino American leaders and organizations to serve the community’s needs. The briefing closed with remarks by Cris Comerford, the first Filipino American White House Executive Chef, who encouraged participants to continue persevering in their efforts to uplift the community.

    As a proud second-generation Filipino American, I continue to be inspired by community leaders throughout the country who have worked collaboratively to help our kababayan, or fellow countrymen – whether it’s providing humanitarian assistance in the Philippines or spreading awareness about key federal resources throughout the United States. I look forward to continued collaboration, advocacy, and engagement between the Filipino American community and the federal government in the months and years ahead.

    Jason Tengco is a Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.