Washington, DC – Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) issued the following statement on the State of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community:
“As people across the country reflect upon the President’s State of the Union address delivered last week, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities also are looking back at our accomplishments and ahead for what needs to still be done. At a time where we must put Americans back to work and fight to eliminate healthcare disparities, we must continue to work together to ensure that AAPIs are not left out of policy decisions.
“AAPIs are the fastest growing and most diverse racial group in the United States. We have made tremendous economic, political, and social contributions to our nation.
“This Congress, the first Vietnamese American, Rep. Joseph ‘Anh’ Cao, and the first Chinese American woman, Rep. Judy Chu, were elected to office. Both Reps. Cao and Chu joined the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), which has grown to a caucus of 30 members.
“Additionally, CAPAC has worked closely with the Obama Administration to ensure diversity throughout the federal government, including cabinet level appointments and judgeships. Great strides have been made to improve the visibility of AAPIs across the nation. Looking forward, there are still great needs within the community that needs attention.
White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
“This year marks the tenth anniversary of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which was established by President Clinton to improve the quality of life in underserved AAPI communities through increased participation in federal programs.
“CAPAC members are pleased with President Obama’s executive order to reestablish the Initiative with the broad mission of ensuring that all federal agencies are addressing the needs of underserved AAPI communities. President Obama once again displays his leadership and his commitment to giving voice to our community in his administration. We look forward to working closely with the Initiative to ensure that the policy priorities of our communities are addressed at the federal level.
“This recession has produced immense hardships for families across the country, particularly intensifying problems for many minority households. Minority businesses make substantial contributions to the US economy, potentially able to generate $2.5 trillion in gross receipts.
“According to the Minority Business Development Agency, Asians have the highest rate of business ownership among all minorities, but are most likely to use personal family savings to start or expand their business. The current economic crisis and tightening of credit markets will pose sever challenges for minority businesses to meet their potential of creating 16.1 million jobs. These jobs are important to help lift families out of poverty and into economic sustainability, yet it has been shown that minority owned firms are less likely to receive loans, more likely to be denied loans, and more likely to pay higher interest rates when compared to their non-minority counterparts. If the U.S. wants to remain competitive and innovative globally, then minority businesses, particularly Asian businesses must receive adequate resources and equitable access to credit.
“Across the board, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also saw the unemployment rate double during the recession. Asian Americans aged 25-54 had unemployment rates increased to 11.3 percent. Despite these startling numbers, there is still a tendency to lump all of those in our communities into one category. Limited disaggregated data masks diversity within our community making it difficult to gauge the effects of the recession on our distinct ethnic communities.
“In addition, the fastest growing groups of homebuyers are immigrants and minorities, yet Asian homeownership rate suffered the steepest decline among minority groups. While AAPIs have made significant advances in homeownership, much of this equality has been reduced with the current housing crisis. Loss of equity, usage of subprime loans, language accessibility all attribute to the unstable homeownership environment for AAPIs.
“CAPAC will continue to work with the Obama Administration and with our colleagues in Congress to ensure that our voices will be heard in upcoming debates.
“Despite the dramatic achievements in health and health care over the past century, disparities in insurance coverage, access to health care, and quality of care continue to exist in many communities. Many AAPI communities are linguistically and culturally isolated leaving the provision of quality healthcare a challenge. The increasing diversity within our communities and throughout our nation brings both opportunities and challenges for health care providers, health care systems, and policy makers to address these disparities. Furthermore, there is a lack of data collection on AAPI ethnic subpopulations that leaves unnoticed many healthcare disparities within our communities. Facilitating the collection of useful and accurate data on our communities will remain a top priority for the caucus.
“CAPAC Members will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and the Congressional Native American Caucus, as well as with the Obama Administration, to eliminate health disparities throughout our country.
“CAPAC also strongly supports the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Fixing our broken immigration system, and ensuring that the AAPI community has a seat at the table remain a top priority. In particular, caucus members support: Ensuring a robust family reunification system, earned legalization for undocumented workers and DREAM Act students, the restoration of due process and judicial review in our immigration system, humane treatment of immigration detainees, and the integration of new American communities.
“There is much at stake in our communities with respect to comprehensive immigration reform. 1.5 million Asian immigrants are undocumented. This is 12% of the 12 million undocumented population which is disproportionately large to our 5% population in the U.S.
“In addition to an earned pathway to legalization, CAPAC strongly supports family reunification as a top immigration priority. Ninety percent of legal immigration from Asia is family-based, and six out of the top ten countries facing family immigration backlogs are Asian nations, namely, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
“Our caucus is committed to the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that would strengthen all of our diverse communities.
“At a time when America is focused on restoring our economic prosperity, we cannot afford to let our workforce fall further behind. We need to equip our students with the skills and schooling necessary to be successful. Asian Americans have long struggled with the stereotype of being a “model minority,” implying that Asian Americans have successfully overcome obstacles. While Asian Americans are over represented in the top scores, they are also over represented in the bottom scores. Consider that among Southeast Asians adults, 59.6 percent of Hmong, 53.3 percent of Cambodian, 49.6 percent of Laotian and 38.1 percent of Vietnamese have not completed high school. This is nearly three times greater than the national average.
“One of CAPAC’s top education priorities has been to support the establishment of the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) program, a Minority Serving Institutions program provides grants to colleges and universities with significant enrollments of low income and AAPI students to help schools improve and expand their services.
“As Chair of CAPAC, I am hopeful for what lies ahead. In the course of a year, we have made immense progress both on the policy advocacy and education around AAPI issues. There is great potential to advance our policy priorities by continuing our work with our colleagues in the 111th Congress. Moreover, our caucus members are eager to further enhance our partnership with the Obama Administration and the White House Initiative on AAPIs. We will focus on rebuilding our economy and bringing jobs back to our communities and families. We will continue to fight for healthcare and comprehensive immigration reform. We will restore our promise to our students and ensure that our voices are heard in education debates. As we look forward, please view the caucus as a resource to you on Capitol Hill. There is important work to be done to ensure that the voices of all of our communities are heard.”
Learn more about the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) by following our blog.