By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
“Howz it,” said President Obama to the crowd Wednesday night at the annual gala of the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies in Washington, D.C.
“Being with the Asian American Pacific Islander community is like being with family. As many of you know, I grew up in Hawaii, I spent time in Indonesia as a young boy. The food, the culture, the spirit of the Asian Pacific region, that’s who I am.”
The president pointed to the numerous successes of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in both private and public life, but cautioned that is not the complete picture.
“Given that success sometimes its easy for people to buy into myth of the model minority and gloss over the real challenges and discrimination that still exists,” said the President. “We know certain AAPI groups still face higher drop out rates, obstacles to employment, even higher rates of some diseases.”
He urged them to support improved disaggregated data of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders so the problems the community still faces can be addressed. Mr. Obama pointed out that the uninsured rate of Asian Americans has dropped 60 percent due to Obamacare. He also scolded the community for not voting in greater numbers, for not registering to vote or even after registering, not going to the ballot box.
Obama recognized the limitations of his executive actions on immigration that have been stalled in the courts.
“We can’t be complacent. The action I’ve taken on my own can’t take the place of what we really need, Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform bill. It’s the right thing to do. Smart thing to do. You have the power to push congress to do it. You can’t give up that power.”
He also took a shot at political candidates who espouse anti-immigrant sentements for their own political gain and headlines.
“We got to push back against anti-immigrant sentiments in all its forms. Especially by those who are trying to soak it just to try to get political gain and soak it for the headlines.
“Just as we moved beyond No Irish need apply signs, just as we moved beyond questioning the loyalty of Catholics, just as we moved beyond the active persecution of Chinese immigrants and just as we learned the stain on our history from our treatment of Japanese Americans, we are going to move beyond today’s anti-immigrant sentiment, as well. We will live up to our ideals. We just have to keep speaking out against hatred and bigotry in all its forms”
He applauded those AAPIs who are rallying around Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities who are still facing the sting of 9/11 and recent terrorist acts they have little to do with.
“In the eyes of the law we’re supposed to be treated equally. If one person is being oppressed, if one group feels that justice is being denied, that’s an affront to all of us.
“We can be proud of our individual heritage and we can be fighting every single day for the democratic values and pluralism that allows us all to live together.
“We were all strangers once until America welcomes us home. In the end this is the work of self government. It is hard, it is slow, it can be frustrating. Sometimes its scary to speak out against wrongs. Ultimately our job is not just to fight for our own rights to fight for the rights of all people everywhere.”
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