Engage and Connect

President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

Thumbnail from a video where a boy and a man are sitting together.

Latest News

  • National Tribal Day of Action for Affordable Care Act Enrollment

    Today is the National Tribal Day of Action for Affordable Care Act Enrollment!  Enrollment events are taking place across the nation and President Obama wants to ensure that every American Indian and Alaska Native has the information they need to take advantage of the health care options available under the health care law. 
     
    Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke directly to tribal leaders and community members on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Secretary encouraged action from tribal leaders and community members, to get them, their friends, and their relatives enrolled!  Today’s National Tribal Day of Action on Affordable Care Act enrollment is a perfect opportunity for Indian Country to rally with community partners in health to get yourself, your friends, and your family enrolled.  Please join us in this effort to get covered with quality, reliable, and affordable health care insurance.
     
    Many Native Americans currently use an Indian Health Service (IHS) or a tribal health facility and that is not changing. But private health insurance offers new protections. Taking advantage of the new health insurance options provided by the Affordable Care Act can give American Indian and Alaska Native families the peace of mind of knowing they have comprehensive health insurance, even outside of the IHS system. 
     
    If you’re a member of a federally-recognized tribe and under a certain income level, you might even qualify to pay reduced or no costs for a private health care policy, including low or zero out-of-pocket costs. Also, you can check to see if your state has expanded Medicaid, as you might now qualify!
     
    Many American Indians and Alaska Natives who have signed up for health insurance coverage through the healthcare marketplace report that they were surprised at just how affordable it can be to get covered. Many are eligible for assistance to lower or even eliminate their monthly insurance premiums. And, if you’re a member of a federally recognized Tribe and you choose to buy a private health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may not have to pay any out-of-pocket costs like co-pays or deductibles. Many American Indian and Alaska Native families are also finding that they are now eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Overall, this can add up to more reliable and more comprehensive health care at little to no cost.
     
    The new health care law is another way the federal government is honoring its trust responsibility and obligations to Tribes. Ensuring that additional health care options are available for all Native Americans is simply another step in our ongoing efforts to promote well-being and economic prosperity in Indian Country. 
     
    But you need to act to ensure that you and your family fully benefit from the new health care law.  Every American Indian and Alaska Native should learn more about how the Affordable Care Act can benefit them as soon as possible. The best way to review your options is to go to HealthCare.gov/tribal.  You can also visit your local IHS or tribal clinic, or you can call 1-800-318-2596.  
     
    Raina Thiele is Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House.

  • Observing National Transgender Day of Remembrance

    Today, November 20th, 2014, we observe National Transgender Day of Remembrance, as a solemn occasion to honor those who have lost their lives or experienced violence because of their gender identity or gender expression. We honor those who continue to experience violence and recommit to changing hearts and minds in order that all people are free from discrimination, hatred, and violence including transgender people.

    Here at the White House, President Obama and the Administration are committed to continuing to support transgender Americans and protecting their rights from harm and oppression. This year marked the five-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, critical civil rights legislation that have since expanded federal hate crimes protections to include gender, gender identity, disability, and sexual orientation. 

    At the recognition of the 5th Anniversary of the Shepard Byrd Act, we highlighted the fact that never before had gender identity or gender expression been included under federal protections against hate crimes. More importantly, we recognized the heroic leadership of transgender people across the country who made this federal inclusion possible, and who bravely worked to implement the law through education of communities and law enforcement officials across the country. We recognized Mara Keisling, a prominent leader in the transgender community for her work toward securing equal protection under law for transgender Americans. We also heard from Kylar Broadus on the continuing challenges in the way of preventing hate crimes, and his unique perspective experiencing discrimination based on gender identity plus race, reminding us of the need to address the intersectionality of these issues as we work together to prevent and respond to violent hate crimes more effectively.

    Across President Obama’s Administration, agencies are taking steps to expand equality for transgender Americans:

    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overturned the exclusion of Medicare for transition-related care
    • The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance clarifying that Title IX’s existing sex discrimination prohibition includes "gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity"
    • The U.S. Department of Justice issued firm implementing guidelines for the first-ever non-discrimination provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization, providing clear guidelines prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination under federal law

    The continued commitment by President Obama and the Administration is a reflection of the unwavering and courageous leadership of the transgender community, whose lives are often in jeopardy as they come out or simply live their lives. Today, we stand proud of the work we’ve done as a community, but reaffirm that much work remains so that the countless innocent lives were not lost in vain. Together, we can continue to make that difference.

    Aditi Hardikar is the Associate Director for the Office of Public Engagement

  • Tune In: The President Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House blog. See the original post here.

     

     

    Our immigration system has been broken for decades -- and every minute we fail to act, millions of people who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules and pay taxes have no way to live right by the law and contribute to our country.

    So tomorrow night, President Obama will address the nation to lay out the executive actions he’s taking to fix our broken immigration system. You can watch the President live tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET at WhiteHouse.gov/Live.

    This is a step forward in the President’s plan to work with Congress on passing common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. He laid out his principles for that reform two years ago in Del Sol High School in Las Vegas -- and that’s where he’ll return on Friday to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform.

    The Senate passed a bipartisan bill more than 500 days ago, and while the country waits for House Republicans to vote, the President will act -- like the Presidents before him -- to fix our immigration system in the ways that he can.

    So tune in tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET to learn what the President is doing to ensure that America will continue to be what it has always been: a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

  • Responding to Sexual Violence in Indian Country

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Justice's blog. See the original post here.

    Sexual violence is a devastating and pervasive problem throughout the nation, and its shocking prevalence on tribal lands is especially troubling.

    Particularly in recent years, the Department of Justice has made it a top priority to put an end to that unacceptable status quo – from our work to secure and pass important new protections for women in Indian Country, as part of last year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, to the creation of an American Indian/Alaska Native Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Sexual Assault Response Team Initiative through the Department’s Office for Victims of Crime.

    Bringing together diverse federal offices, as well as tribal nations and organizations, this Initiative’s critical mission is to strengthen the federal response to sexual violence in tribal nations. On Friday, I had the privilege of meeting with the Initiative’s Coordination Committee to discuss ways to take this work to a new level – and to receive the Committee’s formal report and concrete recommendations on improving federal agency response to sexual violence in tribal nations.

  • Promoting Prosperity and Security in Central America

    Today, the Vice President and other senior Administration officials participated in the Inter-American Development Bank Conference, “Investing in Central America: Unlocking Opportunities for Development.” The Vice President emphasized the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to working with Central American countries to address the underlying causes of the dangerous migration of families and unaccompanied children north to the United States. The Vice President’s speech follows important meetings held by President Obama this summer with the presidents of three Central American countries and the Vice President’s visit to Guatemala in June to meet with regional leaders.

    The Obama Administration is taking an integrated and comprehensive approach to address the gaps in economic opportunity, institutional deficiencies, and security challenges that helped contribute to the migration that happened during the summer – developing a strategy that emphasizes and balances prosperity, governance, and security objectives. 

    A sustainable solution requires effective regional cooperation and partnership, with an active role for the private sector, development banks, and international donors.  Trade and investment, which are essential to creating more jobs and opportunities for the young people joining the labor market every year, need the right conditions to flourish.

    The United States will work closely with the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as with other international partners, as they implement the “Alliance for Prosperity” presented by the leaders of the three countries at the Inter-American Development Bank.  Central American leaders have recognized that they have to take the lead in creating the economic, social, governance, rule of law and citizen security conditions to address factors contributing to increases in migration.  We will support violence prevention programs and policies; efforts to professionalize the security forces; increased transparency and accountability in Central American government finances; and improvements to regional efforts to lower energy costs and make trade more efficient.

    The Obama Administration has mounted a significant effort to respond in an efficient way to the influx of Central American migrants at the Rio Grande Valley over the summer.  The President took decisive action by surging border enforcement and Department of Justice resources, ramping efforts to go after criminal smuggling networks and engaging in aggressive diplomacy to make sure that all countries in the region are working in concert to break the flow of migrants and to address the underlying causes of the migration. These efforts built upon the unprecedented investments in border security that the Administration has already made, and reaffirmed the Administration’s commitments to enforcing our borders and deterring illegal migration.

    And today, there are encouraging signs that these actions are working and the situation is improving, as the numbers of unaccompanied children at the border continue to decline. The monthly numbers are now the lowest they’ve been in almost two years. Despite this progress, we must and will remain vigilant and continue to aggressively work to address underlying causes of migration and deter future increases.

    As part of this effort to improve safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are undertaking, the United States is establishing an in-country refugee/parole program in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries. Children who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis. 

    The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States. Instead, the program will provide certain vulnerable, at-risk children an opportunity to be reunited with parents lawfully resident in the United States. This program will begin accepting applications in December 2014. You can learn more about the in-country refugee/parole program HERE.

    The President, Vice President and the Obama Administration look forward to continue to work with Central American countries to address the underlying factors contributing to increased migration and develop a regional solution that provides greater economic opportunities for Central America, with strong democratic institutions, more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and where citizens feel safe and can build their lives in peace and stability. 

    Ricardo Zúñiga serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, for the National Security Council. 

  • Honoring the Contributions of Immigrants Serving in the Military

    President Barack Obama Listens During Naturalization Ceremony

    President Barack Obama listens as Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security administers the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On this Veterans' Day, our country will honor and recognize the contributions that our service men and women have taken to ensure peace and freedom around the world. These service men and women have answered the call to duty and have contributed to making our Armed Forces the finest the world has ever seen. The success of our military, and indeed, our nation as a whole, is rooted in the courage, spirit and sacrifice demonstrated by generations of immigrants who have responded valiantly to the call to duty.

    Our American journey, our success, would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from all corners of the globe. They have tirelessly fought for American independence and defended our ideals, since our earliest days as a nation. Currently, we have more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents who are serving in our Armed Forces. This Administration recognizes the selfless commitment of many individuals who defend a country in which they are not yet citizens. On Veterans' Day -- and every day -- we thank all our veterans, including those who are immigrants, for protecting and strengthening a homeland they valiantly served, even before they were recognized on paper as being American citizens.

    President Obama has continued to support immigrants serving in the Armed Forces through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) initiatives that streamline procedures and help qualified individuals navigate our complex immigration system. Since 2002, more than 102,000 men and women, including individuals serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan and elsewhere, have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. Additionally, more than 9,000 Afghans -- over 6,000 since last October -- who have worked for the United States in Afghanistan have benefited from the Special Immigrant Visa process. We have the highest respect for these men and women who take enormous risk in supporting our military and civilian personnel.

    From now until November 14, USCIS will welcome more than 3,000 new U.S. citizens at nearly 40 naturalization ceremonies nationwide. Last week, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, USCIS Director León Rodríguez administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented the candidates for naturalization at a ceremony for military members and their families whom we can now proudly call our fellow Americans. This event also commemorated the U.S. Marine Corps' 239th birthday and their importance to our nation.

    Other highlights include ceremonies at:

    • Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. on Nov. 7;
    • Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 7;
    • Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida, on Nov. 10; and
    • Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on Nov. 11.

    In addition, the White House will meet with military service members, veterans, and their families who flew to DC this week to share their stories about ways they are directly impacted by our broken immigration system.  The effort known as "Veterans 4 Reform" was established to advocate for immigration reform from a military and veteran perspective.

    At a Fourth of July naturalization ceremony held at the White House earlier this year, the President spoke to the rich tradition of service and sacrifice made by service men and women, and military spouses:

    Each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment -- journeys that began in places like Jamaica and Germany, China and Guatemala. And yet somehow -- either because your parents brought you here as children, or because you made the choice yourselves as adults -- you ended up here, in America. And then many of you did something extraordinary:  You signed up to serve in the United States military.  You answered the call – to fight and potentially to give your life for a country that you didn’t fully belong to yet.  You understood what makes us American is not just circumstances of birth, or the names in our family tree.  It’s that timeless belief that from many we are one; that we are bound together by adherence to a set of beliefs and unalienable rights; that we have certain obligations to each other, to look after each other, and to serve one another.

    Immigration revitalizes our nation and positions our nation to lead in the 21st century, including our Armed Forces. These are some of the many reasons the President still believes it is critical to pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform.

    The Senate immigration reform bill (S. 744), would continue to strengthen border security, create a path to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants, hold employers accountable, and modernize our legal immigration system so that it better meets the needs of families, employers, and workers. Key provisions of the legislation would have significant and lasting benefits for the Armed Forces. For example, DREAMERS would be provided an expedited path to citizenship under the legislation and would increase the military’s pool of eager and talented youth.

    The President has vowed to fix as much of our immigration system as he can on his own, while we continue to urge Congress to work with us to pass legislative reform.

    On this Veteran’s Day, we come together as a nation to honor our veterans -- including our immigrant veterans. We thank them once again for their service, dedication and sacrifice to our great nation.

  • Promoting Rural Opportunity by Expanding Access to Broadband

    President Obama has made expanding broadband access a key priority throughout his Administration. He launched the ConnectED Initiative in June 2013, ensuring that 99% of our students will have high-speed broadband in their classrooms by 2017 and that broadband infrastructure will reach rural areas. The White House Rural Council has supported these efforts to expand access to affordable broadband networks to support community benefits such as education, health care, and job creation.

    Just this week, the White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA members are rural, independent, telecommunication companies from across America. NTCA advocates on behalf of these companies to ensure that they can drive innovation and deliver service throughout rural America. Our dialogue was focused on NTCA’s Smart Rural Community initiative, which recognizes a small selection of NTCA members who are exceptionally serving their communities by using their broadband systems to improve health care infrastructure, education, government services, among other needs.

    White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association

    The White House Rural Council hosts a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. (Photo courtesy of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association)

  • Helping Those Who Help Themselves

    Les Lak

    Les Lak is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

    My grandparents came to this country from Poland with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a strong work ethic, and desire for a better life. Today, their children and their children’s children are part of the backbone of this country. Because of the struggle of my grandparents, I can empathize with our employees at Blasch Precision Ceramics who are immigrants. We currently employ immigrants from countries all around the world, including Sudan, Yemen, Russia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of these people endured – and still endure – the same challenges that my grandparents endured almost a century ago. We are passionate about providing our employees with tools necessary to becoming U.S. citizens.

    The Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County have played a key role in opening the door of opportunity to those who work for us looking for a better life in the United States. Founded in 1968, Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County (LVORC) is a nonprofit volunteer organization helping hundreds adults, families, and children learn how to read, write in, and speak English. Blasch works closely with our local chapter to provide workplace literacy instruction to our foreign-born workers. We understand that providing this service has enormous benefits to both the employees and Blasch. Employees participating in these classes increase are motivated to contribute more to the success of Blasch, ultimately contributing to our bottom line.

    As part of this program, employees are able to take advantage of citizenship preparation classes, civics classes, computer training, money management training, high school equivalency instruction, and math tutoring. Because of this extensive training, six of our current employees have received their U.S. citizenship.

    We feel that it is important to recognize the sacrifices and struggles that our immigrant employees faced just getting to the United States. From the beginning, they have demonstrated a strong will and determination to succeed.

    The sheer number of people that this program touches makes it a real feel-good story. Employees hail from war-torn countries seeking better lives. Volunteers give up their own time to help them prepare for citizenship. This is their award, too.   

    I have gotten to know many of our employees. They tell me about their families, their countries, how well their kids are doing, their hopes and dreams.  I highly respect them and enjoy hearing their success stories.  This award is their story, and it is the same beautiful story played out over decades by millions seeking a better life who have helped make America great.

    Les Lak is the Vice President of Operations and Systems at Blasch Precision Ceramics in Albany, NY.