Biden to task White House initiative with coordinating ‘comprehensive’ response to anti-Asian bias

President Biden speaks to the media alongside Vice President Harris in the Rose Garden of the White House
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President Biden signed an executive order on Friday that formally re-established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, which will be led by a longtime Capitol Hill aide.

The initiative, first established under the Clinton administration in 1999 and revived and altered by subsequent presidents, will focus on addressing anti-Asian bias and ensuring equal treatment and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, particularly as the United States recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, the White House announced. It will be led out of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Among the initiative’s goals, it will work to coordinate a “comprehensive federal response” to the recent increase in anti-Asian attacks and address “the systemic lack of disaggregated data” on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in federal systems. The initiative will also work to increase representation of these communities at senior levels of government, the White House says.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate says it has received reports of more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the xenophobic rhetoric used by certain political leaders during this crisis, have led to a tragic spike in acts of anti-Asian bias, violence, and xenophobia,” reads a White House fact sheet on the announcement, a reference to former President Trump’s widely-criticized rhetoric on the coronavirus without naming him specifically.

“At the same time, the pandemic has disproportionately burdened many AA and NHPI communities, and exposed the significant health inequities faced by many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in particular,” the fact sheet says.

Biden is tapping Krystal Ka’ai, who since 2013 has served as executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on Capitol Hill, to lead the initiative as its executive director.

The executive order Biden signed on Friday also reinstated the Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, which will be responsible for advising him on how the federal government can partner with the private sector and nonprofit organizations on the missions of the initiative. 

Friday’s announcement relates to Biden’s pledge to reestablish the initiative earlier in his term. The Biden administration has taken other steps to address bias against the Asian community, and Biden earlier this month signed into law bipartisan legislation aimed at combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the past year. 

Biden has also named Erika Moritsugu as a senior liaison to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities after he faced criticism from some lawmakers on Capitol Hill over a lack of representation of those communities in his Cabinet.

CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) commended Biden’s executive order as a sign he “is taking even more significant action to increase visibility, resources, and opportunity for our community.” Chu also praised Ka’ai and said she “will be a powerful voice for inclusion in the White House.”

Tags AAPI biden administration Donald Trump Joe Biden Judy Chu White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

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