WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2013) — President Barack Obama held a meeting with Asian American and Pacific Islander national leaders last week. They discussed the President’s call for commonsense immigration reform that will strengthen the economy and grow the middle class.
Participants included members of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 30 groups dedicated to amplifying policy issues facing the fastest growing racial group in the country. The meeting, held in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, also included senior White House officials and top staff from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Leaders echoed many of the issues contained in NCAPA’s Policy Platform.
“These issues include needs of low-income and limited-English proficient individuals, bullying and harassment, federal recognition of native lands and immigrant integration. “This meeting represented a historic moment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders across the nation to press for long-needed policy changes directly with the President of the United States,” said Deepa Iyer, chair of NCAPA and executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). “President Obama acknowledged the growth and political power of the AA & NHPI community, and also said that his administration’s policy agenda aligns with the community’s interests.”
Iyer also raised the importance of appointing qualified AA & NHPIs to federal agency positions, and addressed the spike in hate violence in our country that has affected many community members. “We are thankful to President Obama for taking the time to sit down and talk to us,” Iyer said. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue between our community and his administration.”
The President emphasized that commonsense immigration reform continues to be a top legislative priority and that he looks forward to working with the AAPI community to achieve that goal. The leaders expressed their support for the principles that the President and key Senators working on immigration reform have laid out and their strong desire for a bill that provides a pathway to earned citizenship and supports family unity. The leaders also expressed their commitment to working with Congress to strengthen the legislation that is being considered.
The President and the leaders also discussed a number of issues of importance to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, including efforts to provide affordable, accessible health care to AAPI communities. Finally, the President thanked participants for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that the American Dream remains attainable for all communities and families, as well as generations to come.
The meeting came as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and on the heels of U.S. Senate Bill 744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which was introduced in mid-April by a bipartisan group of senators and viewed by NCAPA as an important step towards fixing our nation’s broken immigration system.
Regarding immigration, leaders urged President Obama to go much further by making sure immigration reform ensures strong family reunification policies and health insurance benefits for all.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), said, “We share the President’s goals of achieving immigration reform now, but are deeply concerned about the family separation policies in the current Senate bill. We strongly urge the Senate to support family reunification as a priority for our legal immigration system and make sure that fixing the broken system does not result in broken families.”
Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), said, “Immigration reform will continue to exclude a large number of immigrants from health insurance and undermine the major domestic health achievements of the ACA. We asked the President to work with Congress to fix health reform and allow undocumented immigrants to pay for health insurance with their own funds, and without any fiscal impact to taxpayers.”
Participants in the meeting included:
- Jeffrey Caballero, Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
- Gregory Cendana, Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
- Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
- Robin Danner, President and CEO, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
- Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
- Tom Hayashi, Executive Director, OCA National Center
- Bill Imada, Chairman, Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship
- Deepa Iyer, Chair, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans & Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together
- Daphne Kwok, Chair, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Floyd Mori, President and CEO, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies
- Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center
- Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League
- Doua Thor, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
- Miriam Yeung, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
- Dae Joong “DJ” Yoon, Executive Director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), founded in 1996, is a coalition of thirty Asian Pacific American organizations around the country. Based in Washington D.C, NCAPA serves to represent the interests of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA & NHPI) community and to provide a national voice on policy issues and priorities.
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. www.ncapaonline.org