Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • Thank You for Your Service

    November brings a time to reflect and give thanks as we celebrate Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. We remember the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen who are serving and the veterans who have served our country.  This history of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) service dates back almost two hundred years to the last battle of the War of 1812 where Filipino sailors, or “Manilamen,” under Jean Baptiste Lafitte came to the aid of General Andrew Jackson to defend New Orleans from the British invasion.  

    Since then, thirty-one AANHPI soldiers and sailors have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the most recent were Japanese American WWII veterans honored in 2011. Military service is a proud tradition of AANHPI men and women that has continued to this day.  For more information on AANHPI veterans, view our new fact sheet.

    At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we are constantly working to improve access, promote benefits and services, end the claims backlog, and end homelessness among all veterans.  The VA Center for Minority Veterans strives hard to actively conduct outreach and encourage every eligible veteran to fully utilize benefits and services they have earned based on their military service.

    The following are a few examples of recent VA initiatives and events that have had a direct impact on AANHPI veterans:

    • In 2012, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki hosted an AANHPI roundtable that gathered high-level VA officials, other federal leaders, and community advocates in discussions on access to health care, access to benefits, data collection, and outreach.
    • VA collaborated with the White House Initiative on AAPIs, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Department of Defense, and the National Archives and Records Administration to increase transparency and provide a thorough accounting of the process to verify valid military service for Filipino World War II veterans.  This Interagency Working Group effort marked the first time all organizations involved in the verification process were brought together to examine the process from start to finish, which culminated in a set of findings .
    • In Guam, VA recently opened a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) on the perimeter of the Naval Hospital property. VA partnered with the Naval Hospital in Guam to provide inpatient, specialty, ancillary and emergency room services for eligible veterans on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. In addition, VA is providing assistance to officials in Guam as they attempt to make improvements to their veterans cemetery.
    • The VA Pacific Islands Healthcare System (VAPIHCS) conducts a consistent variety of outreach activities which encompass the service catchment area of the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.
    • The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans submitted its annual report to the Secretary and Congress.  The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans is currently comprised of 12 members, four of whom represent the AANHPI community. 
    • VA collaborated with AANHPI-serving organizations to increase the recruitment of AAPI students in internship programs.

    VA is honored to serve AANHPI veterans, their family members, and their survivors. To learn more about the Center for Minority Veterans, visit our website.

    Ron Sagudan is the Asian American Pacific Islander Veteran Liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Small Business Saturday

    With Thanksgiving and Small Business Saturday around the corner, it’s a great season to highlight Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) small businesses.  This day is a great reminder of the small businesses that help keep our economy running.   

    In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a Survey of Business Owners, which revealed that between 2002 and 2007, Asian-owned businesses increased at a rate of twice the national average (40.4 percent), bringing in more than half a trillion dollars in sales.  The survey also found that Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHPI) owned businesses generated 6.5 billion dollars in sales and grew at a rate of 31.1 percent, above the national average. 

    The success of the AAPI small business community continues to fuel our economy, and the Administration continues to explore partnerships to accelerate this growth.  The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE).  This partnership will play a key role in connecting AAPI business owners and entrepreneurs with opportunities to expand or start their business.

    In order to increase the AAPI business community’s access to federal resources, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) is partnering with SBA and other federal agencies to launch specific programs for the community in the coming year.  For example, WHIAAPI is embarking on a series of community roundtables with our Regional Interagency Working Group.  We are excited about utilizing these roundtables to engage AAPI business leaders across the country and learn about the challenges they face and the ways in which we can help.

    Congratulations to our AAPI small business owners, and Happy Small Business Saturday!

    Michele Chang is the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

  • Why Immigration Reform Matters to the AAPI Community

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration, at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco, Calif

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on immigration, at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco, Calif., Nov. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, President Obama spoke to community members at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown, calling for the urgent need to pass commonsense immigration reform

    As my own parents are immigrants to this country from India, the immigration reform movement at this particular moment is personally moving. My parents, along with many other Asian immigrants, came to this country – in the words of President Obama – “drawn by a belief in the power of opportunity; in a belief that says, maybe I never had a chance at a good education, but this is a place where my daughter can go to college.” 

    “America is a place where you can make it if you try,” said President Obama. “And that’s why it is long past time to reform an immigration system that right now doesn’t serve America as well as it should. We could be doing so much more to unleash our potential if we just fix this aspect of our system.” To achieve immigration reform, the President is urging the House to vote on immigration reform as soon as possible. The Senate has already passed a bill a wide, bipartisan majority that would help grow our economy and create jobs so now it is time for the House to finish the job. Immigration reform would also help strengthen families by reuniting loved ones.

    At the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), we have heard AAPIs across the country share their immigration stories and how the broken immigration system continues to impact their families and communities. We’ve seen the inspirational work of advocates, such as those who have been fasting for weeks as part of the Fast for Families campaign on the National Mall, sacrificing themselves to get Congress to act. Visiting the fasters last week, I was deeply moved by their tremendous passion for bringing justice to this country and their own stories about why immigration reform matters to them.

    Our broken immigration laws impact the AAPI community, as there are more than one million undocumented Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants. There are more than two million Asians and Pacific Islanders waiting abroad in family and employment visa lines. Like many, they all yearn to be full American citizens and contribute to our country’s prosperity.

    Speaking just miles away from Angel Island, President Obama reminded us about one of the defining promises of America that we are a nation where no matter who you are, what you look like or where you come from, you can make it if you try.

    The path is clear, for AAPI communities, and for all Americans: we need commonsense immigration reform. And the time is now.

    Learn more:

    Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.



  • Pride, Hope & Partnership in Demystifying the Federal Government

    Members of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Regional Interagency Working Group.  November 16, 2013.  (Photo courtesy of Paul Chang)

    Members of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Regional Interagency Working Group. November 16, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Paul Chang)

    I had the pleasure of recently attending the Asian Americans Advancing Justice national conference in Los Angeles.  I came to the conference with great pride and hope: pride in our collective efforts advocating for AAPI communities, and hope that our ongoing discussions might materialize into a deeper connection between our White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG) and the people we serve, AAPIs who strive to find a voice for their communities across the country. 

    The RIWG hosted a workshop entitled, “Demystifying the Federal Government: Your Toolbox for Asserting Your Rights & Navigating the Federal Agencies.”  Speakers from the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Labor, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration assembled to discuss available governmental resources for AAPIs with respect to civil rights, grants, financial aid, training, language assistance and law enforcement.  The audience included a group of regional representatives from agencies like mine, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, ready to address as many questions as possible.

    Our hope came into fruition with rich dialogue between the RIWG representatives and workshop attendees who came from geographically diverse locations such as Cincinnati, Atlanta, Boston, and California.  We discussed the various linguistic and cultural barriers that exist among AAPI communities and how to overcome them, namely with the assistance of AAPI community-based organizations as the bridge.  The group also delved into how our agencies partnered with WHIAAPI to create and implement agency plans to improve language access and workforce diversity for AAPIs.

    "How can we open doors to federal services that have been closed to us in the past?" one participant asked.  It was a defining moment where our RIWG members pledged our assistance, sharing contact information for RIWG members across the country and WHIAPPI's “Guide to Federal Agency Resources.”  A Federal Executive Board director also chimed in to help make local connections.

    We were as it should be: One united front of federal agencies, working together to demystify the work that we do by engaging with our community partners.  I look forward to the RIWG's continued dialogue with AAPIs throughout the country, a powerful conversation toward meaningful change.

    Christine Park-Gonzalez is a Program Analyst for Outreach, Training, and Public Relations for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  She is also a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Regional Interagency Working Group.

  • WHIAAPI Webinar: Recognizing and Addressing the Needs of AAPIs with Disabilities

    On Thursday, December 12, from 3:00-4:00 PM ET, please join us for a conference call and webinar on Recognizing and Addressing the Needs of AAPIs with Disabilities with the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC).

    Due to unique challenges, including service and cultural barriers such as stigma, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) with disabilities are likely to be underserved.  Therefore, efforts to address the needs of AAPIs with disabilities and their families require a culturally focused approach.

    Join Daphne Kwok, Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs; Sharon Lewis, Acting Principal Deputy Administrator of ACL, Department of Health and Human Services; and Jean Lin, Outreach Coordinator for APIDC, in an interactive session to discuss issues facing AAPIs with disabilities and resources for addressing the needs of AAPIs with disabilities and their families.

    If you would like to participate, please find the log-in information below:

    Conference Call-in number: 888-989-4712
    Participant Passcode: 36448

    Web Chat / Webinar Information:

    1. Click Here
    2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
    3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: welcome
    4. Click "Join".
    5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

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

    Juliet Bui is a Policy Advisor on Health for the White House Initiative on AAPIs.

  • The Burden of Diabetes on the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Community

    As a physician for more than 30 years, I have seen the tremendous burden that diabetes places on patients and their loved ones. As November marks National Diabetes Month, let us recommit to educating ourselves and our communities about how to prevent, manage, and treat diabetes.

    Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans, but the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community is at particular risk. In fact, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, compared to non-Hispanic whites. This is due to higher rates of risk factors such as being overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Within the U.S. Pacific Islands themselves, the prevalence of overweight and obesity exceeds 90 percent and diabetes approaches 50 percent in some areas.

    I encourage all Americans, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, to take advantage of preventive care, which is critical to improving health and outcomes and identifying early signs of disease or risk factors. The Affordable Care Act offers quality health insurance to uninsured Americans, including nearly 240,000 uninsured Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

    The law ensures that Americans at higher risk for developing type-2 diabetes can receive diabetes screenings, diet counseling, and obesity screenings with no out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, screening for gestational diabetes is available with no co-payment for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. Beginning in 2014, Americans cannot be denied health coverage because they have diabetes or any other pre-existing health condition.

    Additional initiatives, such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, and the National Diabetes Education Program (a partnership of the National Institutes of Health and the CDC) are helping Americans of all ages take action to improve their health and that of the nation. Help spread the word on the importance of preventing and managing diabetes, so that all Americans can live their full potential for health.

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