Washington, DC – President Barack Obama on Wednesday (May 8) met with a group of US Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders to discuss with them, “his call for commonsense immigration reform that will strengthen the economy and grow the middle class.”
According to the White House, 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 AAPI leaders expressed their support for the principles that President Obama and key Senators working on immigration reform have laid out, as well as their strong desire for a bill that provides a pathway to earned citizenship and which supports family unity. They also expressed their readiness to work with Congress to strengthen the legislation that is being considered.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), voiced deep concerns about policies in the current Senate bill which deal with family separation. Moua strongly urged the Senate to support “family reunification as a priority for our legal immigration system,” and called on them to “make sure that fixing the broken system does not result in broken families.”
President Obama and the group 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.
Commenting on the meeting, Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), stated that she feared the latest immigration reforms will result in the continued exclusion of a large number of immigrants from access to health insurance. She said AAPI leaders 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.”
Deepa Iyer, chair of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 30 groups, provided perspective on the event, saying, “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.”
The White House noted that President Obama 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, held in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, included senior White House officials and top staff from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. AAPI leaders participating in the meeting included:
· JeffreyCaballero, Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
· GregoryCendana, 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 meeting took place as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and on the heels of US 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.