Today, over 16.2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up one of the fastest growing and most diverse populations in the United States. Each of the 45 distinct ethnic groups and 28 language groups offers a rich history that contributes to the fabric of our nation. By 2050, there will be 40.6 million U.S. residents identifying as Asian alone or in combination with one or more other races, to comprise 9% of the U.S. population.

Through the caucus’ collective efforts, CAPAC has been able to direct and bring focus to significant issues affecting the AAPI community including dispelling the model minority myth through increased disaggregated data collection to supporting the passage of comprehensive immigration reform to establishing the designation of the Asian American and Native Pacific Islander Serving Institutions to securing compensation for Filipino World War II veterans.

CAPAC has led the way in many vital issues and will continue to fight for legislative change and raise awareness on the diverse needs of the AAPI community.  CAPAC has built solid relationships with congressional leaders. Every year, CAPAC along with House and Senate leadership organize an AAPI summit to increase the visibility of the caucus, the AAPI community, and the issues at stake.

In addition, CAPAC along with the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus, forming the congressional Tri-Caucus make up 37.7 percent of the House Democratic Caucus. The Tri-Caucus’ formidable bloc has helped strengthen the voices of their respective underserved communities. During healthcare reform, the Tri-Caucus was able to include provisions in the legislation what would help end health disparities, collect disaggregated data, and include the US territories in our health care system.

Beyond legislative efforts, CAPAC has also effectively engaged with the Executive Branch. The caucus has met with the majority of President Obama’s cabinet to discuss priorities important to AAPI communities.

CAPAC successfully pushed for the establishment of the White House Initiative on AAPIs under the Clinton Administration, fighting for reauthorization under the Bush Administration, collaborating on community hearings on small business, entrepreneurship and healthcare.

More recently, the caucus successfully advocated for the re-establishment of the White House Initiative on AAPIs under the Obama Administration.

As Chairman of the caucus, Rep. Honda has traveled to nearly 40 states and territories to ensure that the voices of AAPI communities around the country are heard.  From The East to West Coasts, to Bangladeshi Americans in Kansas to Vietnamese American fishermen in the Gulf Coast, each AAPI community have stories to tell,  and these need to be heard in Congress and throughout our federal government.  In his travels, he has seen our communities become more and more sophisticated, engage politically, and eager to participate.

Each Congress, new AAPI Members of Congress are elected, and they help pave the way for our community. Anh “Joseph” Cao of New Orleans elected as the first Vietnamese American Member of Congress, Judy Chu of Los Angeles was elected as the first Chinese American woman, and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan was the first Member to represent the Northern Mariana Islands. Most recently, Hansen Clarke of Detroit was elected as the first Bangladeshi American.

The growth that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have experienced has been an intrinsic part of the legacy of this great caucus. CAPAC will continue to be at the forefront, ensuring that linguistically and culturally isolated AAPIs have access to resources and a voice in our government.

Although Rep. Honda is stepping down as chair, the leadership of CAPAC will remain steadfast with incoming chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu. She and her staff have proven that they have the talent and energy to continue with carrying out the mission of CAPAC.

Rep. Honda will remain an active and engaged member of the caucus. He plans to continue his work as CAPAC’s lead on immigration. As a former principal, school teacher and school board member, Rep. Honda will also continue to focus on education reform and equity for all of our communities will. He will also continue to provide guidance and assistance to the caucus as a Member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees, and as a Senior Democratic Whip. 

Michael Shank is the communications director and a senior policy advisor for Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.), who chaired the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) for seven years.