Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • Working with Higher Education Institutions Serving Asian American and Pacific Islanders

    In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama outlined the Administration’s plan to strengthen the middle class by equipping every American with the skills to secure the jobs of a new economy. To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.

    At the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), this means investing in educational opportunities that provide the fastest growing racial group – Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) – with the chance to access and to succeed in post-secondary education.

    Through Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), our community can achieve these goals. AANAPISIs provide culturally sensitive and relevant curricula, environments that encourage students to develop a sense of identity and self-worth, and invest in students with need.

    On March 27, 2013, AANAPISIs from across the country gathered in Washington D.C. for the Higher Education Programs Project Directors Meeting. This gathering provided the opportunity to brief program directors about WHIAAPI’s educational priorities, including plans to increase federal investments to AANAPISIs by providing greater access to resources like grant opportunities; funds to increase staff, faculty, and programming resources; best practices; and federal internships for students.

    The briefing also gave AANAPISIs the chance to share their ideas with WHIAAPI. Several schools noted they are 2-year institutions that award associate degrees and other professional and technical certifications. The challenge, they added, lies not in securing a large research grant designed for a 4-year institution, but finding resources to support English language learners or adult vocational education.

    The briefing also included a presentation by Fatima Pashei, Program Analyst in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the Department of Energy. Fatima spoke about some of the unique resources at the Department that support AANAPISIs. She shared information about federal grants awarded to AANAPISIs and encouraged the schools to think creatively about finding similar opportunities amid scarce resources.

    We look forward to continuing to work with AANAPISIs to better serve the educational needs of the AAPI community.

    Phil Olaya is a Policy Advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • The AAPI Community Celebrates Three Years of the Affordable Care Act

    Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) work hard to care for their families but are unable to get health insurance to help care for themselves. For them, and for all of us, as we reflect on the passage of the Affordable Care Act three years ago this week, we see it as the most significant event in the last 40 years with respect to our health, already making a difference in AAPI communities. And how the Affordable Care Act will be implemented in the next coming months will have a dramatic impact on AAPI communities all across the United States.

    Even though health insurance is one of the most important determinants of health for AAPIs, nearly 1 in 5 AAPIs is uninsured. The Affordable Care Act will make approximately 2 million AAPIs who would otherwise be uninsured eligible for health insurance coverage by 2016. The Affordable Care Act ensures that hard-working AAPI families will get the security they deserve. It already is holding insurance companies accountable, bringing down costs across the system, and helping more families get the peace of mind of affordable health insurance. And, starting next year, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions or charging women more just because they are women.

    In addition to increasing health insurance coverage for AAPIs, the Affordable Care Act ensures that preventive services, including flu shots, mammograms, hepatitis B screenings for pregnant women, and recommended cancer screenings are covered without cost-sharing – such as copays or deductibles. The implementation this provision has already expanded coverage for at least one preventive service to 3.8 million AAPIs who have private health insurace. This will help address the fact that cancer screenings and prevention are particularly important for AAPIs, who are the least likely among all racial groups to receive routine mammograms and pap smears.

    Also, as our economy continues to recover, the Affordable Care Act helps small businesses offer coverage to their employees through tax credits, making it affordable for the many AAPIs who either own or work for small businesses.

    And expanded health insurance coverage is only the beginning of a better health care system for AAPIs under the Affordable Care Act. The health care law has helped 6.3 million Medicare beneficiaries save $6.1 billion on their prescription drugs. Last year, Medicare beneficiaries who received a discount saved an average of $706

    Many AAPIs get care from community health centers, which have received increased funding to provide culturally competent care. New models of care delivery and payment supported by the Affordable Care Act will also reduce health care costs while improving quality of care. Combined with the Recovery Act’s investment  in electronic health record (EHR) systems, the Affordable Care Act supports better quality of care for all Americans, including AAPIs. The Affordable Care Act has also expanded research and data collection on health for different AAPI groups through improved data collection, which will provide more accurate information for patients, providers, and policy makers to ensure better health for AAPI communities.

    Because of the Affordable Care Act, AAPIs will be able to get affordable, high-quality health care, treat and control their health conditions, and continue to take care of their families. As the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented and enrollment begins on October 1, 2013, we all need to work together to ensure that AAPIs seeking affordable coverage enter the Health Insurance Marketplace. This lifesaving law will help AAPIs stay healthy so that they can take care of their families and be productive members of this great country. I invite you to click here for more information (including in-language material) about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and how to get updates on enrolling for health care coverage.

    Dr. Tung Nguyen is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and serves on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • A Conversation with AAPI Women

    On Tuesday, in collaboration with the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House Office of Public Engagement, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Women’s Roundtable. The roundtable brought together distinguished AAPI women leaders and advocates from across the U.S. and Pacific Islands to engage in a dialogue with senior Administration officials about the challenges and concerns facing the AAPI women’s community. Their issues related to immigration, domestic violence, human trafficking, working conditions, especially in nail salons, small business opportunities, health care, and equal pay.

    At the roundtable, the Initiative also released its AAPI Women and Girls Fact Sheet. The fact sheet highlights the many ways in which the Obama Administration is supporting AAPI women and girls across the country, including:

    • Supporting AAPI women in the workplace by creating the first interagency working group to address salon worker health and safety, ensuring fair labor standards for in-home care workers, and expanding education and career opportunities;
    • Improving health outcomes, expanding access to quality, affordable health care for AAPI women and their family members and improving data collection through the Affordable Care Act;
    • Promoting a common sense immigration reform proposal that supports the AAPI community and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants;
    • Taking unprecedented government action to combat human trafficking and reauthorizing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act; and
    • Expanding opportunities for AAPI women-owned businesses through increased access to credit and ensuring AAPI women-owned businesses can compete for government contracts. 

    The Obama Administration has taken concrete steps to improve the quality of life and opportunities for AAPI women and girls. Tuesday’s roundtable continues the conversation with the community to better ensure that the federal government and all AAPI women have a voice in  the conversation. 

    AAPI Women's Roundtable March 19, 2013

    AAPI women gather to discuss the challenges AAPI women face. (by Office of Public Engagement)

    Frances E. Francis is currently Of Counsel with Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP, a Washington DC law firm specializing in energy, telecommunications, and regulatory matters. Ms. Francis is a Commission Member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Announcing AAPI Women Champions of Change

    We know that the American people are the source of some of the best ideas and most innovative solutions. That’s why the White House Champions of Change series spotlights ordinary citizens who are demonstrating extraordinary commitment to their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.

    Across the country, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future.  In business, the arts, civil rights, health, and so many other fields, AAPI women are helping to improve the lives of their fellow Americans.

    This May, on the occasion of AAPI Heritage Month, the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Council on Women and Girls, and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will honor a small group of AAPI women as Champions of Change. And we want your help! Members of the public are invited to submit nominations online until Friday, March 29, 2013. A small group of AAPI women who represent diverse experiences and backgrounds will be honored as Champions of Change and invited to the White House for an event in early May.

    Click here to nominate an AAPI woman as a Champion of Change before Friday, March 29, 2013 (Note: Under “Theme of Service” please choose “AAPI Women Leaders”)

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact For the latest news on this and other efforts by the Obama Administration to engage the AAPI community, please sign up for updates.

    Tina Tchen is Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. 

    Ruchi Bhowmik is Deputy Cabinet Secretary.

  • Leveraging Technology and Modernizing Government Boosts AAPI Communities

    Many compare the internet of today to another communications game changer – the introduction of the printing press five centuries earlier. However, the internet’s impact may be even more profound. Returning on the heels of the World Conference on International Telecommunications, a UN based treaty conference in the United Arab Emirates held in December 2012, where the United States successfully supported the current open and transparent structure for the internet, we appreciate more astutely the Internet’s uniqueness and how this Administration has prioritized technology policy and innovation. In Dubai, the focus of the UN conference was to update a 1988 telecommunications treaty regarding traditional international telecom services, but a few countries sought to use the conference to establish new international rules to govern the Internet.

    The U.S. State Department, joined by industry, like minded governments and civil society, successfully opposed this and other proposals of other countries in UN and UN affiliated organizations. This past year, similar proposals have been recently discussed in multiple bodies under the aegis of the United Nations – including, for example the General Assembly, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the International Telecommunication Union – and our continued opposition to them reflects the bi-partisan approach to internet governance that has prevailed since the privatization of the Internet in the 1990s.

    The internet has changed the global landscape much like electricity changed the physical landscape of cities around the world, with elevators, skyscrapers, subways, and street lights. The internet bridges vast distances like the airplane, and makes the world flatter like roads, by allowing instant access to an almost endless stream of information via smart phones and tablets.

    And U.S. cities are embracing the transformation that these innovations bring. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee created the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (MOCI), which utilizes government as a platform for innovation. MOCI works closely with San Francisco residents and local creative and tech-minded communities to collectively design solutions for three strategic focus areas: economic development, citizen engagement, and government efficiency. Mayor Lee also chairs the Technology and Innovation Task Force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which just announced the 2013 Mayors Innovation Summit to be hosted by their President, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The Summit will explore how innovation and technology can engage communities, improve the quality of life and drive the creation of cities as places of choice for both residents and visitors.

    This Administration’s prioritization of technology policy and innovation distinctly impacts AAPIs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20% of Asian Americans still live in a household without internet use. To close the digital divide, through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the Administration has been working to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved areas including immigrant communities. And according to Pew Internet and American Life Project, studies show that Asian Americans are much more likely to use social networking than any other demographic group; raising the profile of an often overlooked community.

    The human rights and economic considerations regarding technology policy and innovation are mutually reinforcing. As President Barack Obama remarked at the Holocaust Museum last spring, “technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.”  Interfering with the use of the internet inevitably imposes economic as well as political costs. Serious reductions in the free flow of ideas harms a society’s ability to engage in innovation and thus handicaps economic growth.

    As the U.S. continues to lead the world in innovation and adoption of advanced broadband, our government policies recognize the unique and positive impact that this rapid technological growth and acceptance has had on the United States as a whole and on AAPI communities in particular. In the next four years, we will continue to see the Administration bolstering strong innovation in the United States to meet our global 21st Century challenges.

    Rhonda Binda is Deputy Director in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. State Department, a former White House staff member, and a technology and telecommunications attorney.

    Manu Bhardwaj is a Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff to two U.S. Ambassadors at the U.S. State Department, a former White House and Commerce Department staff member, and litigation attorney.

  • Engaging the Texas AAPI Community

    Chris Lu Delivers The Keynote Address At The Texas Regional Conference

    White House Cabinet Secretary and WHIAAPI Co-Chair Chris Lu delivers the keynote address at the Texas Regional Conference, Houston, Texas, Saturday, February 23, 2013 (photo by WHIAAPI staff member Edmund Chiang)

    A record attendance of over 500 AAPI community members converged on the University of Houston on Saturday, February 23. But this should not come as a surprise. Texas has experienced phenomenal growth over the last decade, with the AAPI population growing to more than 575,000 or by 72.4%, which included growth not only among Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Koreans, but also among more recently-arrived immigrant communities like the Bhutanese. Recent Census data also reflects that the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community experienced a significant growth rate of 50 percent, with the Guamanian or Chamorro community comprising the largest Texas community, followed by Native Hawaiians.

    Participants came from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and other cities throughout the state. They were professors and students, seniors and small business owners, employees and immigrants. They joined the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), federal agency representatives, and local and state leaders  to address a range of issues important to the community, including  civil rights, economic development, education, health, housing, immigration, , and jobs, and to connect with federal resources in the region.

    The record attendance attracted local leaders including Houston Mayor Annise Parker, former Mayor Pro Tem Gordon Quan, San Antonio City Council Member Elisa Chan, State Representative Gene Wu, and U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green. White House Cabinet Secretary and WHIAAPI Co-Chair Chris Lu, delivered the keynote address, highlighting the Administration’s priorities on creating opportunities for the middle class and urging the community to be active in coming together to address local challenges.

    Participants also attended ten different technical assistance workshops that addressed civil rights, economic development, health disparities, the Affordable Care Act, and senior, education, housing, labor, and immigration issues.

    The success of this conference highlights the strengths of the Texas AAPI community. More importantly, it reflects the potential of this community to provide a leading voice in the effort to strengthen the middle class through increased access to federal resources and opportunities for underserved communities like AAPIs. As one community participant stated, “the importance of connecting our local communities cannot be understated. Looking forward to building stronger AAPI bonds here!

    Ramey Ko is Associate Judge of the City of Austin Municipal Court and serves on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.