By Ed Diokno
In President Barack Obama’s first year in office, he reinstated the White House Initiative for AAPI that was first created by President Bill Clinton but had lain moribund during George W. Bush’s two terms.
As President Donald Trump took office, the White House website was redesigned within a hour of his swearing in. Gone are any mentions of civil rights, environmental protections and climate change. In their places are jobs and law and order. Unfortunately, the Initiative appears to be another casualty in the change of leadership. The link to the Initiative has been taken off the White House website, a pretty good indication that the Initiative is no longer in existence.
Obama did more than any other president to ensure AAPIs had a voice and was represented in his government. The AAPI community has benefited from Obama’s two terms in office as outlined in President Obama’s Record With the Asian American Pacific Islander Community.
Some of the actions that impacted the AAPI community during Obama’s eight years, many under the purview of the Initiative, include:
-President Obama has appointed more AAPI judges than all Presidents in history combined. He has appointed more than four times as many women of AAPI descent to the Federal judiciary as all Presidents in history combined, including the first woman of AAPI descent to ever serve as a federal appellate judge.
-The Department of Justice successfully recommended the addition of an “Anti-Sikh” category, an “Anti-Hindu” category, and an “Anti-Arab/Anti-Middle Eastern” category to the hate crime reporting in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Form.
-The same executive order that created the Initiatives also created the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, which is also housed at the Department of Education and is comprised of community and business leaders representing the diverse AAPI community.
-In November 2014, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services launched the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to increase awareness of federal resources and remedies within the AAPI community, analyze data to better understand the prevalence of bullying among AAPI students, and explore and recommend effective policies to address the community’s concerns.
-Data.gov/AAPI launched the most comprehensive hub of government data on AAPIs.
The data collected by all government agencies will help the AAPI community write grants, and develop programs and services for years to come.
-During his administration, great strides were made to recognize the contributions and heroism of the Filipino veterans of World War II culminating with his signing the bill awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal.
-His executive orders creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs ,allowing undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the U.S., affected the approximately 18,000 undocumented Asian American immigrants who registered.
With the apparent demise of the White House Initiative for AAPI, which provided a presence of our community in the highest circles of government, the question arises: What happens next during the Trump presidency?
We might not see another U.S. President as sympathetic to AAPI causes and issues again in our lifetimes. Obama’s eight years as POTUS coinciding with the increased rate of immigration from Asian countries has given the AAPI community the momentum to step up to the plate of our republic. In the inclusive environment that he fostered, the AAPI community realized our potential.
With Obama no longer in office, it will be up to us – especially the young people who were brought up during the last eight years – students and parents, community activists and leaders and our elected officials and business community – to continue carrying that torch of progress. We must not and we cannot return to being the forgotten minority. We have come too far to go back.
Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.
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