aapi initiative

Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and their allies hold up flags during a rally on the National Mall on May 31, 2021 in Washington, DC., to speak out in response to a rise in anti-Asian violence in the U.S. National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Indian American executive director Priya Purandare applauded the appointment of Krystal Ka’ai as the executive director of the new White House Initiative on Asian Americans, saying: “(Ka’ai’s) experience working on nearly every important legislative and policy priority affecting the AA and NHPI populations makes her uniquely situated to lead the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders during the most critical times for these communities.” (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The White House May 28 said that President Joe Biden will sign an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and delivering on the president’s commitment to reinstate and reinvigorate this historic Initiative.

Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities together constitute the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States and make invaluable contributions to society, economy, and culture in the country, the release said.

Yet for far too long, systemic barriers to equity, justice, and opportunity have put the American dream out of reach for many AA and NHPI communities, and racism, nativism and xenophobia against AA and NHPI communities continues to threaten safety and dignity of their families.

The new initiative is charged with driving an ambitious, whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities, the release continued.

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, it said.

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. To ensure that the federal government is mitigating COVID-19 related anti-Asian bias, advancing health equity for all AA and NHPI communities, and ensuring AA and NHPI communities can equitably recover from these crises, the initiative will be led out of the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House news release continued.

Additionally, Biden also announced that Krystal Ka’ai has been selected to serve as executive director of the initiative.

Ka’ai has served as the executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus since 2013, leading legislative, communications, and outreach strategy for a bicameral caucus composed of more than 70 members in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Many Asian American-led organizations applauded the initiative and appointment of Ka’ai by Biden.

The AAPI Victory Alliance was among those giving kudos to Biden.

“The AAPI Victory Alliance applauds President Joe Biden for establishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. This commission is the first step towards harnessing our AAPI growth and power and allows our communities to have a seat at the table with the issues that matter most to us.

“From stopping AAPI hate, to ensuring an equitable COVID-19 recovery, to harnessing our growing influence and power in our electoral systems, the time for AAPIs to have a seat at the table has never been more crucial. We commend President Joe Biden for recognizing our communities and installing this initiative,” the AAPI Victory Alliance statement read.

Also releasing a statement on the appointment was the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

“We applaud President Biden for reestablishing WHIAANHPI and congratulate our colleague Krystal Ka’ai on becoming the first Native Hawaiian to serve as head of the Initiative,” said Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke, APAICS president and CEO.

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Indian American executive director Priya Purandare added: “(Ka’ai’s) experience working on nearly every important legislative and policy priority affecting the AA and NHPI populations makes her uniquely situated to lead the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders during the most critical times for these communities.”

“NAPABA is proud to have supported her candidacy, and we look forward to working with her in her new role and strengthening our relationship with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders,” Purandare said.

The executive order establishes a renewed Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

The commission will advise the president on ways the public, private and non-profit sectors can work together to advance equity and opportunity for every AA and NHPI community, the release said.

The commission is also charged with advising the president on policies to address anti-Asian xenophobia and violence, ways to build capacity in AA and NHPI communities through federal grantmaking, and policies to address the intersectional barriers that AA and NHPI women, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities face.

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