Asian Caucus meets with Cabinet Secretaries: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders have voice under Obama leadership (Rep. Mike Honda)


I am proud to work with President Obama and his Administration to ensure that underserved populations within our community have equal access to government services. To date, CAPAC has met with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.  We look forward to meeting with the Attorney General later this month, and are continuing to schedule meetings with the other cabinet secretaries.

On Wednesday, CAPAC discussed with Secretary Sebelius its support for a robust public option in health care reform, and the need to address the ethnic and racial disparities within our current healthcare system. As we get closer to a historic vote on legislation that could revolutionize America’s healthcare, it is imperative that we ensure affordable, quality healthcare for all, and address disparities in minority communities, particularly those that are linguistically isolated.

CAPAC is working closely with the Census Bureau to ensure a fair and accurate count of everyone in our country, including AAPIs. Yesterday, we met with Census Director Groves to discuss strategies for preventing an AAPI undercount in the upcoming 2010 Census, and fully involving the AAPI community in its outreach efforts. CAPAC has been a strong advocate for census funding, particularly for the Partnership and Outreach Program and paid advertising that are critical for reaching hard-to-count communities, including those with limited English proficiency.

This week’s meetings with Secretary Sebelius and Director Groves are not the culmination, but rather the beginning of a long-term effort to make sure the Caucus’ priorities are met within the upcoming year. Yesterday’s meeting with the Census Director follows an earlier meeting with Secretary Locke to discuss CAPAC priorities for the Census Bureau, as well as ensure business development opportunities for AAPI-owned businesses.

As Secretary Duncan prepares for discussions on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, CAPAC members shared with him the caucus’s priorities to ensure that every student has access to a quality education, particularly underserved AAPI students. As a former teacher, principal, and school board member, I understand firsthand the challenges teachers face in the classroom, particularly with diverse student bodies that include first generation Americans and English language learners. During CAPAC’s meeting with Secretary Duncan, members shared their ideas to promote opportunities for English language learners, collect and disaggregate data on AAPI student achievement, promote diversity of teachers and administrators, improve teacher quality for all students, increase graduation rates, and utilize growth models to assess student learning rather than one-time high stakes tests.

Finally, CAPAC met with Secretary Chu to urge increases in funding for nanotechnology industries and renewable energy technologies. With increased funding to alternative energy research, we can decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and enhance climate change education for future generations.

Under the leadership of President Obama, the voices of AAPI communities are being heard in domestic policy debates. As we promote economic recovery, address housing counseling needs after the financial crisis, and promote comprehensive immigration reform, CAPAC will continue to meet with high-ranking officials within the Obama Administration to ensure that voices of AAPI communities are heard in federal policymaking.