Friday, April 16

President Obama Meets with Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Leaders

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 Meeting Focuses on Immigration Reform, Health Care Access


 Leaders ask Obama to support family reunification, ensure health and language access, strengthen civil rights protections and diversify federal appointments  


WASHINGTON – National leaders representing Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AA & NHPI) organizations met Wednesday with President Barack Obama to discuss immigration reform, access to affordable health care for all Americans and civil rights protections. 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.”


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.”


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.”


Leaders in attendance were: Jeffrey Caballero, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations; Gregory Cendana, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF; Robin Danner, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement; Lisa Hasegawa, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development; Tom Hayashi, OCA National Center; Bill Imada, Asian/Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship; Deepa Iyer, NCAPA and SAALT; Floyd Mori, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies; Mee Moua, AAJC; Priscilla Ouchida, Japanese American Citizens League; Doua Thor, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Miriam Yeung, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum; and Dae Joong “DJ” Yoon, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.