Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog
- Posted byon December 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM EST
For the past three years, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has gone across the country to hear from communities and to learn how we can make the federal government work better for AAPIs. And we’ve learned that, many times, it takes government, communities, philanthropic organizations and corporations working together to create solutions.
As part of our recent community engagement efforts, I had the honor of attending the Nonprofit Congress in Guam to meet with leaders representing the “Blue Continent,” the unifying name given to the Pacific Islands by their residents. The leaders discussed how the Islands’ location and low population density often are barriers to attracting and retaining health care workers and accessing educational and training opportunities. Ensuring that American Pacific Islanders have a voice in the federal arena – something most Americans take for granted – has been a challenge.
After the Nonprofit Congress ended, I visited Guam Community College – a Department of Education-designated Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-serving Institution. Combined sources of federal funding contributed to the college’s first student center, a place where students are now able to stay after class to collaborate in study groups and access reference materials. I then visited Guma’ Mami, a group home funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where adults with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities were building a community garden. My tour ended with a stop at Sagan Mami, a drop-in center that provides shelter and medical care for homeless individuals and employment training for people with mental illness. Funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Sagan Mami also operates a peer mentorship program to aid in the healing and recovery process.
These places reminded me of all the things we can accomplish together. Together, we can build better communities.
Audrey Buehring is Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon December 7, 2012 at 3:52 PM EST
This week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., formally installed Grande H. Lum as the ninth Director of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service (CRS). See the press release here.
The Community Relations Service (CRS) is an agency created within the U.S. Department of Justice by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the time of its inception, CRS worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders to address tensions arising from differences of race, color and national origin. CRS continues that work today, and pursuant to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, supports local efforts to prevent and respond to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
As the agency’s director, I am proud of being the leader of an elite group of conciliation specialists. Like so many families who have immigration in their history, my grandparents and their children came to this country at a time when they were faced with immense challenges. My maternal grandfather first lived in New Orleans and my paternal grandfather within various Northern California communities including rural ones. My grandparents struggled but they made opportunities possible for their children and grandchildren that they themselves would never have.
My mother often reminds me that her father, who passed away before I was born, was considered a wise mediator in his town located within the Guangzhou province of China. I am honored to follow in his footsteps, serving as the director of the component of the Department of Justice that is dedicated to resolving conflicts over issues that have historically divided this great country. To be leading an agency that is dedicated to creating a safer and more welcome environment for my daughter and son as well as for all of America’s children is a humbling thought.
This mission of CRS came into sharp focus for me on Sunday, August 5, 2012 and the days thereafter. Within hours of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara shootings that day, CRS was in contact with national and local Sikh officials, the US Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and White House Counsel on Faith Based Initiatives. CRS helped facilitate improved communication between law enforcement and community members, providing contact information for key law enforcement officials.
On Wednesday, August 8, CRS, along with United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin James Santelle, facilitated a key leadership meeting to discuss hate crimes, analyze community concerns over the shooting, coordinate law enforcement and assess community needs for funerals, as well as planned and moderated a larger community meeting on Thursday, August 9 for more than 250 people from the greater Milwaukee area at Oak Creek High School. CRS also participated in three community calls with a total of over 200 participants following the shooting to identify resources, provide technical assistance, and address concerns. On Friday, August 10, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech at the Oak Creek Memorial Service, honoring the victims and families affected by the tragedy, and on Thursday, August 23, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Sikh American families affected by the tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
CRS facilitated sessions across the country with Sikh community leaders and law enforcement officials to address fear and concerns raised in communities across all CRS regions. CRS has also responded to requests from Muslim communities following the shootings. These included sessions with USAOs and federal and local law enforcement offices. CRS provided services such as dialogue facilitation, meeting of federal and local government officials, and cultural training for law enforcement and communities seeking to better understand Sikhism and Islam. These meetings provided resources, information and demonstrated a Federal presence indicating willingness to serve all the communities in the wake of the shootings. There are numerous follow-up meetings scheduled around the country with Mosques and Gurdwaras seeking CRS’ assistance in educating about their communities and creating dialogue and understanding.
But even before the August 5th tragedy, CRS had been playing an educational and preventative role. CRS has helped communities navigate racial and national origin tensions that have resulted from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Such tensions have affected Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. CRS has maintained a close relationship with Sikh, South Asian and other civil rights organizations and has worked in communities throughout the country to help reduce post-9/11 related backlash directed at Sikh Americans and Muslims. CRS’ training films, “On Common Ground” and “The First Three to Five Seconds” serve as valuable tools for instructing law enforcement, airport personnel and others about the contributions of the Sikh and Muslim communities in America.
The agency is often the Justice Department’s first responders to community conflict. CRS’ conciliators help build trust and bridges where there is distrust between communities, law enforcement and government. The Community Relations Service is known as the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Peacemaker” and is neither a law enforcement agency nor a prosecutorial authority. CRS conciliation specialists build bridges by enhancing communication and building relationships.
The Community Relations Service is statutorily required to provide its’ services impartially and in confidence. The Agency’s staff is comprised of individuals with professional backgrounds in law enforcement, human rights, mediation, psychology, business and other disciplines. You can contact CRS by reaching out to our headquarters office in Washington, D.C. or any of our ten regional and four field offices.
At CRS, we are privileged to serve the American people. CRS strives to work together with local communities to come closer to realizing our “founding ideal, of a nation where all are free and equal.” On October 16, 2011 President Obama spoke on the dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall and heeded Dr. King’s call on “us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain.” Ultimately individuals and communities must be engaged in doing so and take ownership to resolve long-standing conflicts and CRS greatest success lies in helping them accomplish exactly that.
Grande Lum is the Director of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service
- Posted byon December 6, 2012 at 6:04 PM EST
President Obama knows that the best way to keep our economy growing is by ensuring a strong, secure, and thriving middle-class. By the end of the year, the President and Congress must take action to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” and make long-term changes in how much money the federal government takes in and how much it spends. While the President is committed to working with Congress to reduce the budget deficit in a balanced and responsible way, there is no reason to hold the middle-class families hostage while we debate tax cuts for the highest income earners.
If Congress doesn’t act by the end of the year, a typical middle-class family will see its taxes go up by about $2,000.
President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a bill that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. That means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up at all. And even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their incomes.
The President is asking as many Americans as possible to add their voice to the debate by speaking out about what a $2,000 tax hike would mean to them. So share your story here or speak out on Twitter using the hashtag #my2k.
Here are some simple facts as to why Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families need to speak out about the importance of a balanced approach to reducing the deficit:
• A median-income AAPI family of four (earning around $82,000) could see its income taxes rise by $2,200.
• The 96 percent of AAPI families that make less than $250,000 a year would not see an income tax increase under the President’s plan.
Click here to learn more about how the middle class tax cuts will impact AAPI families.
Chris Lu is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary. He also serves as the Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- Posted byon November 14, 2012 at 4:43 PM EST
On Tuesday afternoon, for the fourth year, the White House celebrated Diwali, a holiday observed annually by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhist throughout India and across the world. Known as the “festival of lights,” Diwali offers time for both reflection and celebration. Its stories and rituals focus on the triumph of light over darkness and compassion over hatred. The day signifies the renewal of life and the promise of prosperity for the year to come.
- Posted byon November 14, 2012 at 3:15 PM EST
Two weeks ago, the East Coast was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, a powerful storm that halted our transportation systems, shut off power for millions, flooded our communities, and displaced families. Two days after the hurricane made landfall, President Obama visited the devastated areas, reassuring families and residents that the federal government would be on hand to provide support and assistance until our homes and businesses are rebuilt. Since that time, the President and the entire federal government has committed all available resources to recovery and relief efforts. Federal, state, tribal, local, faith-based and voluntary agency partners have been working around the clock to ensure coordination in the impacted areas and provide necessities to survivors and families, such as food, bottled water, clothing, infant formula, and housing.
In addition, the federal government, in partnership with state, tribal, local, faith-based, voluntary agency leaders, is committed to ensuring that all populations who have been impacted by the hurricane, including immigrant communities and individuals and families with limited English proficiency have the ability to access disaster services and resources in their languages.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been on the ground even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall to ensure that emergency preparedness plans were in place. Since then, FEMA has been working tirelessly to coordinate federal recovery efforts, and currently has more than 7,400 personnel working alongside state and local partners in the impacted areas.
Click here to learn more about just some of the federal disaster resources available for survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these services and information can be accessed in languages other than English.
Courtney Chappell is a Senior Advisor with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Posted byon October 17, 2012 at 3:00 PM EST
Filipino Americans have been an important part of our nation’s diverse history. Since their first documented arrival in Morro Bay, California in October 1587, Filipino Americans have made remarkable contributions to every sector of American life, including government, business, and the military.
Indeed, in 1941, more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-arms and later fought under the American flag during World War II. Many made the ultimate sacrifice as both soldiers in the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and as guerilla fighters during the Imperial Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Later, many of these brave individuals became proud United States citizens. For over 60 years, Filipino veterans and community advocates have fought to obtain compensation for those who served with American soldiers during World War II.
President Obama recognizes the extraordinary contribution made by Filipino veterans. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the President signed into law, contained a provision creating the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. Eligible veterans who are U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $15,000; eligible veterans who are not U.S. citizens receive a one-time payment of $9,000. The Department of Veterans Affairs established a process, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, to determine eligibility to receive payments from the Fund.
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