“We need to have our voices heard. We need to have a place at the table.”
Federal leaders from Kansas and Missouri overwhelmingly heard this sentiment repeated by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members last Thursday, November 7, at the White House Initiative on AAPIs Regional Interagency Work Group community convening in Overland, Kansas.
Hosted at the 30-year old Filipino Cultural Center, the roundtable gathered over 40 individuals representing immigrant communities from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Participants discussed critical community issues with federal representatives from the Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
According to the U.S. Census, there are 77,900 AAPIs in Kansas, and 114,400 in Missouri. Together, the AAPI population comprises a small yet significant force in our region. For many of these local AAPI leaders, our roundtable was the first time they had come together for a substantive discussion with federal government leaders.
Many of us came away from the discussion with a significant list of follow up activities, ideas, and the promise of fruitful partnerships in our region. Everyone at the table wanted to ensure that Kansas and Missouri AAPI communities and small businesses can learn more about the Affordable Care Act. SBA and HHS committed to doing more hands-on outreach and education about the health insurance marketplace in the AAPI community. USCIS discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and how to involve AAPI community leaders into its current engagements.
I have worked at SSA for over 25 years, and I have not been this inspired by a community roundtable for a long time. This roundtable motivated and moved everyone in the room to commit to working in coalition with the AAPI community for years to come.
Jewell Colbert is the Regional Communications Director of the Kansas City Region for the Social Security Administration.