Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog
- Posted byon January 27, 2012 at 4:40 PM EDT
Earlier this week, in his annual State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out his Blueprint for an America Built to Last. This includes our Administration’s unwavering commitment to preserving the American dream for all, including the nearly 17 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) across our nation. Below, read more about how the Initiative will help carry the President’s message to AAPIs across the country. Also, learn about our upcoming Weekly Web Chat Series and other exciting federal work.
In his State of the Union Address, the President laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values. The President believes this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. What’s at stake is the very survival of the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put enough away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent; no debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while more Americans barely get by, or we can build a nation where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. At stake right now are not Democratic or Republican values, but American values – and for the sake of our future, we have to reclaim them.
- Posted byon January 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM EDT
Yesterday, the President delivered his State of the Union address and laid out his vision for the next year. He laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last. That blueprint includes this Administration’s steadfast commitment to keeping the American dream alive for all, including Asian American and Pacific Islander families across this country. No challenge is more urgent; no debate is more important. That’s why I’d like to invite you to make your voice heard in our post-State of the Union office hours. This is an opportunity for you to respond to us with your thoughts, your questions and your concerns.
Office hours for the AAPI community will take place on January 26 at 6 p.m. EST, led by Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary and Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on AAPIs. Here's how Office Hours work:
- Ask your question or submit your comment on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
- Chris will respond to your questions in real-time via Twitter starting at 6 p.m. EST
- Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
- If you miss the live session, the full Q&A will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse
- You can also follow Chris Lu on Twitter at @ChrisLu44
We look forward to hearing from you! Please see below for the full Office Hours schedule:
- Posted byon January 19, 2012 at 6:00 PM EDT
In advance of the upcoming holiday, President Obama recorded a message sending his best wishes to all those celebrating the Lunar New Year, both in the United States and around the world:
Read his full message below:
Michelle and I want to send our best wishes to everyone celebrating the Lunar New Year, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Growing up in Hawaii, I remember all the excitement surrounding the Lunar New Year – from the parades and the fireworks to the smaller gatherings with family and friends. It has always been a time for celebration and hope. And this year, as Americans here at home and around the world welcome the Year of the Dragon, it’s important to remember that our country is stronger because of our diversity. We are richer because of the different cultures that make up this country.
So to all those celebrating the Lunar New Year, I wish you and your loved ones peace, prosperity, and good health.
- Posted byon January 17, 2012 at 4:56 PM EDT
Last week, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders kicked off the New Year by hosting a briefing for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student leaders. The purpose of this briefing was for Administration officials to engage a new generation of AAPI community advocates on the Obama Administration’s agenda to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
As Executive Director of the Initiative, I have had the distinct honor of working with many young leaders committed to serving AAPI communities and making positive change.
With our roots tracing back to nearly fifty different countries, the AAPI community is one of the most culturally diverse groups in the United States. Our everyday challenges are as different as the places we come from, and with the rapid growth of the AAPI population in the last decade, it has become increasingly important to address these issues and barriers.
Today, significant portions of the more than 16 million AAPIs live in poverty, face significant health disparities, and struggle with accessing linguistically-appropriate services and resources. To tackle these pressing issues, we must make sure that every generation, especially the younger generation, is activated and engaged in developing strategies and being part of the solutions.
The Initiative’s outstanding student intern, Bessie, put this into perspective with her own personal story:
As an intern at the Initiative, I have had the opportunity to work on diverse projects like bullying prevention, diversity in federal employment, affordable healthcare, and a host of other issues central to improving the lives of AAPIs. The experience has opened my eyes to the importance of having AAPIs in public service.
My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. They left Hong Kong to pursue graduate degrees in the United States, and eventually settled in Maryland, where they raised a family of five children. Growing up, I was generally unaware of the significant barriers and challenges AAPIs face in this country. Because my parents were able to provide me with a comfortable living, I believed that all AAPIs were as lucky as myself and were doing fine. But starting college opened my eyes to the vastly different experiences of AAPIs. My new friends helped me realize that across the country, the AAPI experience varies greatly. They were the children of refugees; they were first in their families to go to college; and their own family experiences and struggles were much different than mine.
Enlightened with this new perspective, I recognized the need to become more active and more engaged. At the Initiative, I’ve had an invaluable opportunity to meet passionate individuals committed to tackling these diverse issues through public service and leadership. And there is still much work to be done in improving the lives of AAPIs. That is why I encourage my AAPI peers to think about a career in public service.
- Posted byon January 9, 2012 at 2:42 PM EDT
One of the most meaningful experiences during my time at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders was helping to organize a roundtable on integration with the White House Domestic Policy Council in Honolulu, Hawaii last August. For most of my career, it has been difficult to draw attention to small, underserved communities in the Pacific Islands and highlight their positive contributions to this country. In this instance, the Administration was at our doorstep, listening, learning, and proactively thinking about ways to meet our community’s needs regarding integrating newcomers and assisting those who want to learn and work in America. It was a humbling and inspiring experience.
I am highlighting this roundtable for a special reason: we got results. There were clear deliverables that we have acted on and make me proud to serve in this Administration. My experience with this roundtable is a demonstration of how government can put words into action.
One of the biggest issues articulated at the roundtable was the impact of U.S. immigration laws under the Compacts of Free Association (COFA). These are bilateral agreements between the U.S. and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, which allow citizens of these countries visa-free access to live and work indefinitely in the U.S. in exchange for the U.S.’ unrestricted access to their lands and waterways for strategic purposes. Community leaders expressed how COFA migrants are experiencing difficulty obtaining or maintaining jobs due to challenges with E-Verify or the Form I-9, both methods by which an employer can verify that an individual is legally authorized to work in the U.S.
The Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Verification Division responded by taking immediate steps to improve their outreach and policy. USCIS, with collaboration from OSC, issued special Form I-9 and E-Verify guidance for employers who hire individuals from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
- Posted byon December 15, 2011 at 2:47 PM EDT
Last month, I had the honor of joining an historic convening of AAPI community leaders from across the country organized by our Office of Community Affairs here at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Raj Date, the Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the CFPB, shared his vision for the Bureau with the National Coalition of Asian Pacific American Community Development Organizations (CAPACD). This coalition is comprised of AAPI community leaders representing diverse constituencies from around the country.
Many of the assembled leaders represent communities directly impacted by fair lending and consumer finance issues. They know from first-hand experience that no one is immune from predatory lending that deceives households seeking the American Dream.
We all know that mortgage paperwork is complicated. As Nam Pham, a community leader from Dorchester, Massachusetts, explained, if American-born citizens with fluent English are getting cheated or misunderstand the mortgage process, how are AAPIs with limited English proficiency supposed to get a fair deal?
We heard from Michael Byun, from Asian Services in Action in Cleveland, Ohio, that fair homeownership needs to be more accessible, both through providing more loan documents in plain English, and translating those documents into AAPI languages. Participants were excited to learn that the CFPB currently offers a complaint helpline that has interpretation available in 189 languages.
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