White House unveils strategy to boost AANHPI communities

by Ricky Rillera

President Biden and Vice President Harris meet with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House Thursday, August 5, 2021. (Official White House Photo)

NEW YORK – The Biden Administration unveiled its National Strategy to Advance Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Communities at a special virtual launch on January 17, 2023. The groundbreaking report includes the White House Initiative on AAs and NH/PIs (WHIAANHPI) ‘s report and action plans from 32 federal agencies.

“These 32 agency action plans are the result of more than a year of work by dedicated public servants in collaboration with community advocates, and detail specific commitments to advance justice and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders,” said US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai. “These commitments are bold, ambitious, and deeply aligned with the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader equity agenda. This national strategy also builds upon our shared progress to ensure the safety and prosperity of our families, neighborhoods, and communities.”

Krystal Kai | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

WHIAANHPI Executive Director Krystal Ka’ai moderated the event. It included panel discussions moderated by Erika Moritsugu, Deputy Assistant to the President and AA and NHPI Senior Liaison, and Sonal Shah, Chief Commissioner of the President’s Advisory Commission on AA and NHPIs.

President Joe Biden signed Executive Order (EO) 14031 in May 2021 as anti-Asian hate surged throughout the country. It established a federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) to coordinate WHIAANHPI strategies across different agencies comprised of senior executives from 45 different departments, agencies, and offices.

In the Summer of 2022, under the guidance of WHIAANHPI, federal agencies began creating action plans to help the AANHPI communities. The plans target six priorities:

  1. Promoting belonging, inclusion, and combatting anti-Asian hate and discrimination;
  2. Data disaggregation for AANHPI communities;
  3. Language access for AANHPI communities;
  4. Promoting equitable and inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery efforts;
  5. Capacity building for AANHPI communities;
  6. Federal workforce diversity;
  7. Outreach and engagement with AANHPI communities

The initiative also identified three areas of central domestic policy to prioritize:

  • Combat anti-Asian hate and discrimination and promote greater inclusion and belonging of AANHPI communities;
  • Promote greater language access for AANHPI communities; and
  • Prioritize data disaggregation for AANHPI communities.

Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), applauded the tremendous work that WHIAAHPI and the Biden-Harris administration have achieved over the past two years.

“We are thrilled that the Biden-Harris administration has raised the visibility of AAs & NH/PIs, and have outlined action plans with community input toward equity, justice and opportunity,” she said in a statement. “The commitment to address some of the largest issues in our communities, including anti-Asian hate, data disaggregation, investment in communities and workforce diversity, is a tremendous step in the right direction.”

Likewise, Judy Chu (CA-28), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said the launch is a historic step forward for all AANHPI communities nationwide. “As Chair of CAPAC, I look forward to continuing our caucus’ ongoing work with the White House, WHIAANHPI, and federal agencies to implement these significant plans together.”

The strategy also expands language access across federal programs for limited English proficient communities and delivers greater equity for the diverse AANHPI community. Associate attorney general, US Department of Justice Vanita Gupta acknowledged how important language access is to many AAPI citizens.

“Language access can be the difference … between life and death. Being able to access public safety professionals if something is going wrong, being able to access any type of program for benefits,” Gupta said at the launch event.

Similarly, the Internal Revenue Service developed landing pages on IRS.gov in 20 foreign languages, including Tagalog. The 2020 Census Detailed Demographic and Housing Characteristics will include statistics on detailed disaggregated data on AAPI groups. It will be released in the summer of 2023.

Among those present at the White House event releasing the national agenda was Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim, who sits on the Advisory Commission on AANHPI.

“Our communities have experienced pain and trauma with lasting mental health impacts, including depression and anxiety,” he said. “But history has also taught us how resilient and strong our communities are. I’ve never seen our community come together the way it has over the past few years.

“And I’ve been so heartened by the support of this administration that has gone beyond the usual political rhetoric.”

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