Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Blog

  • Tune In: White House Diwali Celebration

    First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during Diwali

    President Barack Obama watches as First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during a Diwali candle lighting and performance at Holy Name HIgh School in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Tomorrow, the White House will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, for the fifth time since President Obama took office. This year, First Lady Michelle Obama will provide remarks and light the diya, or lamp.

    Watch the First Lady’s remarks live at  starting at WhiteHouse.gov/Live 4:00 p.m. EST

    And check out this statement from President Obama on the Observance of Diwali.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Once Undocumented, Now an Immigrant Advocate

    As a first-generation American whose own family emigrated from the Philippines, I always relish the opportunity to hear personal stories of immigration. As Filipino American History Month comes to a close, I want to share a story from Angelo Mathay, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) law fellow at the National Immigration Law Center. This past summer, Angelo shared his immigration experience during an immigration reform briefing at the Department of Education. The story that Angelo shared is one that reminds me that while we all have our different backgrounds, our stories hold a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and voices from which we can all learn.

    Before practicing immigration law and becoming a key advocate for social justice and equality, Angelo was born in the Philippines and when he was six, he and his mother set out to find a better life in the United States.

    The next thirteen years were unrelentingly harsh for Angelo. He and his mother, who overstayed their tourist visas, found themselves moving frequently between apartments in California’s Daly City, a major Filipino American community. While his mother worked tirelessly day after day, Angelo struggled with English in school as early as second grade. He recalled at the briefing in June, “I would heat up leftovers my mother had set aside for my dinner and wait for her return.  And when she arrived, my mother always made sure I had completed my arithmetic, reading, and writing homework.  She knew how valuable an American education would be to provide a better future for us both.” Despite their everyday obstacles, they never let go of their dream to “render [their] presence in the country a legal right, not a fleeting reality.”

    With hard work and perseverance, Angelo took on the challenge of pursuing higher education. He explained, “Though I lacked a social security number to obtain loans and scholarships, thanks to California Assembly Bill 540 — signed into law just before my freshman year — I was able to qualify for in-state tuition and attend UCLA.”  Finally, at the age of 19, Angelo was able to become a naturalized citizen thanks to a petition by his new stepfather.

    Angelo now believes that through his work on immigration, he had “the privilege of working with the community that [he] was once a part of – undocumented youth.” As of August 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recorded 552,918 DACA requests had been accepted with 430,236 approved, including many from Filipino youth.  Angelo continued, “The DACA experience shows that with an active, supportive legal community and responsive governmental agencies, we can build the road to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens.” 

    However, the goal of fixing our broken immigration system doesn’t end with DACA.

    In a speech on immigration last week, President Obama discussed the bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support earlier this year, noting that it addresses "the core challenges of how we create a immigration system that is fair, that’s just, that is true to our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants." And, if the bill were to become law, it would grow our economy by $1.4 trillion over the next two decades while cutting the deficit by nearly $1 trillion.

    As an undocumented immigrant, Angelo Mathay has escaped “poverty, violence and discrimination.” Yet he dreamed bigger. He worked harder. He recognized that his challenge was an opportunity, saying “The decision to leave the Philippines was no more mine than being born, but the ensuing years taught me several invaluable things: how to overcome adversity, preserve hope, and fight for what I believe in.”

    AAPIs are a rapidly growing immigrant population in the U.S. In 2011, 25% of the foreign born population in the United States came from Asian countries. Asian immigrants also make up 11% of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, living and working in the shadows, unable to fully participate in our society. This is an issue that is of tremendous importance to the AAPI community. Now is the time for us to fix our country’s broken immigration system.

    Victor Diaz Zapanta is a communications advisor at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Join a Google+ Hangout on November 6 to Discuss the Health Insurance Marketplace in Vietnamese

    Join a Google+ Hangout on November 6 to Discuss the Health Insurance Marketplace in Vietnamese
    Maria Pastrana Lujan is an Advisor on Community Engagement at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

    The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders invites you to join our Google Hangout and chat about the Health Insurance Marketplace in Vietnamese on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm ET.  You can submit your questions during the event via the Google+ ‘Ask a Question’ feature, via Twitter at @WhiteHouseAAPI, or before the event via email. More information on the in-language Hangouts can be found at WHIAAPI’s website, and more information about the Affordable Care Act can be found at HealthCare.gov.

    Learn About the Health Insurance Marketplace in Vietnamese.

    Gia Nhập Google Hangout vào Thứ Tư, Ngày 6 Tháng Mười Một để đối thoại về Thị Trường Bảo Hiểm Sức Khỏe bằng tiếng Việt
    Maria Pastrana Lujan là Cố Vấn Giao Liên về Sáng Kiến của Tòa Bạch Ốc về Người Á Châu và Đảo Thái Bình Dương.

    Sáng Kiến của Tòa Bạch Ốc về Người Mỹ Gốc Á Châu và các Quần Đảo Thái Bình Dương (AAPIs) kính mời quý vị cùng tham gia vào Google Hangout và đối thoại về Thị Trường Sức Khỏe của chúng tôi bằng Tiếng Việt vào Thứ Tư, Ngày 6 Tháng Mười Một, Năm  2013,  lúc 3:00 chiều (giờ Miền Đông- ET).  Quý vị cũng có thể nêu ra các câu hỏi của mình trong dịp  này qua mục ‘Ask a Question’ (Đặt một Câu Hỏi), của Google+ hoặc hỏi trước qua email, hoặc Twitter tại @WhiteHouseAAPI.  Để biết thêm thông tin về các Hangout bằng ngôn ngữ bản xứ,  quý vị có thể vào trang mạng của WHIAAPI, và tìm hiểu thêm về Đạo Luật Chăm Sóc Sức Khỏe Với Lệ Phí Thấp tại HealthCare.gov.

    Tìm hiểu về Thị Trường Bảo Hiểm Sức Khoẻ bằng tiếng Việt.

  • Learn About the Health Insurance Marketplace in Vietnamese

    I’m excited to announce that we will be continuing our Google+ Hangout Series on the Health Insurance Marketplace, with the next session to be held in Vietnamese.  Having come to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam and now providing medical care and conducting research on Asian American health, I know that the Vietnamese community faces challenges in accessing quality health care. One in five Vietnamese Americans lacks health insurance coverage. Vietnamese Americans are also among the highest limited English proficient populations in the nation. Over half, or 53 percent, of all Vietnamese Americans report speaking English less than very well. So, access to information on health care in Vietnamese is critical to increasing health insurance coverage and access to health care among Vietnamese Americans. 

    During the Hangout, there will be a live question and answer period with Vietnamese-speaking representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They will respond to your questions and provide information on how to obtain health care coverage through the new Marketplace.

    The Vietnamese in-language Hangout will take place on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 from 3:00 - 4:00 PM (EST). We hope you will join us by watching live at a local viewing party or online by joining our Google+ Hangout.  You may also submit your questions in advance by emailing whitehouseaapi@ed.gov or tweeting them to @WhiteHouseAAPI. More information about the in-language Hangouts can be found on the WHIAAPI website, and more information about the Affordable Care Act can be found at HealthCare.gov.

    We hope you will join the conversation – in Vietnamese!  Our goal is to bring greater awareness of health care to the AAPI population, so that all people can achieve their full potential for health.

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

    Tìm Hiểu Về Thị Trường Bảo Hiểm Sức Khoẻ bằng Tiếng Việt 

    Bởi Bác Sĩ Nguyễn Thanh Tùng

    Tôi rất phấn khởi khi tuyên bố là chúng tôi sẽ tiếp tục các đợt Google+ Hangout về Thị Trường Bảo Hiểm Sức Khoẻ, với buổi trình bày kế tiếp sẽ được nói bằng Tiếng Việt.  Sau khi đến Hoa Kỳ với tư cách là người Việt tị nạn và  hiện đang cung cấp dịch vụ chăm sóc y tế và nghiên cứu sức khoẻ của người Mỹ gốc Á Châu, tôi biết rằng cộng đồng Việt Nam hiện đang đương đầu với những khó khăn trong việc tiếp cận sự chăm sóc sức khoẻ có phẩm chất . Một trong năm người Mỹ gốc Việt  không có bảo hiểm sức khoẻ. Người Mỹ gốc Việt cũng thuộc thành phần các sắc dân có trình độ tiếng Anh giới hạn trên toàn quốc. Trên phân nửa, hoặc 53%, người Mỹ gốc Việt cho biết là họ nói Tiếng Anh không khá . Vì thế, việc thu thập tin tức về chăm sóc sức khoẻ bằng Tiếng Việt là điều trọng yếu để gia tăng số người Mỹ gốc Việt có bảo hiểm sức khoẻ và được sự chăm sóc sức khoẻ. 

    Trong  chương trình Hangout, sẽ có phần hỏi và đáp trực tiếp với các đại diện nói bang tiếng Việt từ Bộ Y Tế và Dịch Vụ Nhân Sinh Hoa Kỳ. Họ sẽ trả lời thắc mắc của quý vị và cung cấp tin tức về cách để có được bảo hiểm sức khoẻ qua Thị Trường mới.

    Buổi Hangout bằng Tiếng Việt sẽ diễn ra vào Thứ Tư, Ngày 6 Tháng Mười Mot, 2013 từ 3:00 - 4:00 CHIỀU (GIỜ MIỀN ĐÔNG- EST). Chúng tôi hy vọng quý vị sẽ tham gia bằng cách gia nhập Google+ Hangout cùng với chúng tôi để xem phần trình bày trực tiếp được tổ chức tập thể ở địa phương hoặc trên mạng.  Quý vị cũng có thể gởi trước các câu hỏi của mình qua email tại mailto:whitehouseaapi@ed.gov hoặc gởi qua Twitter đến @WhiteHouseAAPI. Để biết thêm tin tức về các Hangout bằng ngôn ngữ bản xứ quý vị có thể vào trang mạng WHIAAPI, và có thêm thông tin về Đạo Luật Chăm Sóc Sức Khỏe Với Lệ Phí Thấp ở HealthCare.gov.

    Chúng tôi hy vọng quý vị sẽ tham gia cuộc đối thoại – bằng Tiếng Việt!  Mục tiêu của chúng tôi là đem lại cho các sắc dân AAPI ý thức cao hơn về việc chăm sóc sức khoẻ , để tất cả mọi người có thể đạt được hết tiềm năng sức khoẻ của họ .

    Bác Sĩ  Nguyễn Thanh Tùng là một thành viên trong Uỷ Ban Cố Vấn của Tổng Thống về người Mỹ gốc Á Châu và Đảo Thái Bình Dương. Bác Sĩ Nguyễn cũng là Giáo Sư Y Khoa tại Trường Đại Học California ở San Francisco. 

  • Prioritizing Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Engagement in the Pacific

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell speaks with participants at an event in the Marshall Islands

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell speaks with participants at an event in the Marshall Islands. (by Louis Shelden)

    This past week I had the distinct privilege to engage with Native Hawaiian leaders in Hawaii.  In partnership with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we met with a diverse group of leaders and public officials on a range of issues impacting Native Hawaiians, including education, health, preservation of cultural and native historic sites, fish and wildlife, Hawaiian homelands, and federal recognition.

    On Wednesday, September 4, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered the keynote address at the 12th annual Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) Convention in Honolulu, HI – one of the largest gatherings focused on Native Hawaiian issues.  She received a special welcome – fourteen leis that represented each decade the Department of Interior has worked with the Native Hawaiian community, and the 40 years since an U.S. Interior Secretary has met with Native Hawaiians.  In her remarks, the Secretary underscored the importance of Native Hawaiian issues within the Department of the Interior, and the Department’s special oversight role under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

    The Secretary highlighted the Department’s commitment to consulting with and strengthening its relationship with Native Hawaiians.  Finally, Secretary Jewell reiterated the President’s support for congressional efforts to establish federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.

    Our two days of activities in Hawaii ended with a traditional luau in Papakolea, a Native Hawaiian Homestead, organized by the Papakolea Community Association. Homesteaders from around the islands traveled to Oahu to meet with the Secretary, share their culture, and discuss issues important to Native Hawaiians.

    In the same week, Secretary Jewell led a U.S. government delegation to a dialogue hosted by the Pacific Islands in Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The dialogue was held to highlight and build upon our historic relations with the peoples and nations of the Pacific.  The delegation consisted of senior officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Departments of State, Defense (United States Pacific Command), Interior, Energy, Health and Human Services, USAID and the White House.

    Secretary Jewell’s participation in the Dialogue and meetings with Pacific leaders addressed a range of issues with Pacific Island nations, including global climate change and natural resource management, sustainable development, economic growth and security.  During her remarks, Jewell unveiled a $24 million Pacific Climate Fund to help small island-nations prepare for the impacts of climate change.

    Our trip to the Pacific marked an important milestone in the Interior Department’s commitment to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and our obligation to all our citizens.

    Rhea Suh is the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget, at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

  • Building Coalitions to Promote a Healthier Seattle AAPI Community

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett meets with AAPI community leaders at the International Community Health Services Clinic in Seattle, WA

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett meets with AAPI community leaders at the International Community Health Services Clinic in Seattle, WA September 4, 2013. (by ICHS)

    As a Member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), I have the privilege to work on connecting the country’s AAPI communities with their Federal government. Yesterday, I was honored to facilitate a roundtable conversation with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and a small group of AAPI health, business, and civic leaders from around the Seattle area.

    The roundtable was hosted at the International Community Health Services (ICHS) International District medical and dental clinic.  We began with a tour of the facility hosted by Teresita Batayola, CEO of ICHS, and senior members of her staff.   The ICHS team highlighted for Ms. Jarrett the wonderful work being done from their facility to provide access to high quality and culturally sensitive health care, to address the challenges facing many in Seattle’s AAPI community.

     Following the tour, there was a vibrant discussion on the need for culturally sensitive outreach services under the Affordable Care Act, the importance of disaggregating data for AAPI communities to address health disparities, ways to promote more venture capital investments in AAPI entrepreneurship, and the critical need for a balanced approach to comprehensive immigration reform that embraces family unification as well as the needs in high-tech or high-demand industries.

     As Ms. Jarrett noted at the close of the roundtable, all of these issues – from health care to community development to small business – are fundamentally interconnected, and our success depends on us all working together. With the continued support and collaboration of partners throughout the Northwest, of President Obama and his team across the federal government, and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I am optimistic about the future and the health of our AAPI community.

    Hyeok Kim is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the Executive Director of InterIm Community Development Association, a Seattle-based nonprofit.