AAPI Community Leaders Briefing


Uploaded by whitehouse on 09.05.2012

Transcript:
Gautam Raghavan: Well, thank you all so much for being here.
Welcome to the White House.
I know for some of you this is a repeat visit,
but for some of you this is your first time.
So welcome.
It's a pleasure to have you here.
I just threw in a little namaste at the beginning
whenever I get the chance.
My name is Gautam Raghavan.
I serve as the liaison to the AAPI community here in the
White House Office of Public Engagement.
I'm on week three, and it's a real pleasure and a real honor
to be here.
And, you know, it's not often that we get the chance to have
so many distinguished leaders from all over
the world here today.
So I just want to say thank you so much for being here.
We're honored by your presence.
Congresswoman Chu, Dr. Koh, Congresswoman Underwood,
I think I saw.
We're honored by your presence, as well.
Thank you so much for being here.
I'll be really quick, because I know we have a lot to
share with you this morning.
Like I said, I'm with the Office of Public Engagement,
and we look forward to working with all of you in the months
and years ahead to ensure that the voices of AAPIs are being
heard here in the federal government.
You'll hear more about what we're doing,
what the President's commitment to AAPI issues and the community
later this morning.
And we also really want to hear from you.
We want to hear about the challenges you're facing.
We want to hear about what's working in your communities,
in your daily work.
And we want this to be an opportunity for conversation.
So, again, thank you for being here.
Without any further ado, I will turn it over to Congresswoman
Judith Chu.
(applause)
Congresswoman Judith Chu: Well, good morning.
Audience: Good morning.
Congresswoman Judith Chu: I am so happy to see all of you here
today and happy to welcome you to this year's community
leaders briefing hosted by the White House initiative on AAPIs.
Over the last couple of days, I've had the opportunity to meet
so many of you who have flown in from places all across the
country, some as far away as from Hawaii and Guam.
And it is so terrific, because this year we've had the largest
attendance ever at our Asian Pacific American Heritage
Month in our nation's capital.
(applause)
Now let me say that Asian Pacific Americans have come such
a long way in Washington, D.C.
There was a time when AAPIs were invisible in
the nation's capital.
We were so invisible that if you walked by an AAPI in the
capital, you just had to turn around and look,
it was such an unusual phenomena.
But how things have changed.
Today, out of President Obama's 19 cabinet members,
three that have been appointed are -- were Asian Americans,
Steven Chu, Eric Shinseki and Gary Locke.
In fact, Gary Locke went on to be the first Chinese American
to serve as the U.S.
Ambassador to China.
Today we have 12 members of Congress of AAPI descent,
one of the highest numbers of AAPI Cabinet members and
Congress members in history.
And as chair of CAPAC, I'm proud to say that CAPAC
is growing stronger.
We're gaining a real voice at the table and we are having
tremendous success.
In fact, this year, CAPAC added 12 new members to our caucus,
reaching an historic high of 42 members,
together with the Congressional Black Caucus and the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus, or what we call the Tricaucus.
We make up over 40% of the Democratic members of the House.
That means that we have a strong voice to advocate
on issues of need.
Well, since becoming chair, I've been able to visit AAPI
communities all across America from New York to Houston,
from New Orleans to Seattle, from Michigan to Minnesota.
I've been able to see the great potential in our community,
as well as the great need.
I went to Nevada, the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis.
Nationally, AAPI home ownership rates have dropped more than
any other group, three times more than for whites.
As a result, AAPIs have suffered a disproportionate decline in
equity, whereas the average home value loss for Americans
in general is 9,000.
Guess what it is for AAPIs?
It's 43,000.
And what is even worse is that AAPIs are more likely to enter
into foreclosure instead of seeking alternative means that
might save them like home modifications,
because of the cultural and language barriers.
I went to New Orleans and saw the effects of unemployment on
the Vietnamese, who were one-third of the shrimping
industry, and have been devastated by the BP oil spill.
Their situation reflects the fact that nationally amongst
all racial groups, AAPIs are unemployed for
the longest periods of time.
And certain groups are hit particularly hard.
While the unemployment rate nationally is 8.3%,
for Native American -- Native Hawaiian and Pacific islanders,
it's 13.2%.
And for Samoans, it's twice as high at 17%.
I went to Minnesota and talked to the Hmong community,
struggling with gaining access to the most basic of services
from health care to education.
Language access is the barrier and it says in all that
while 8.7% of the U.S.
is limited English proficient, for the Hmong it is four times
as high at 37%.
I went to New York and learned about the massive spying that
the NYPD is doing with the CIA on the Muslim American
community, a blatant example of racial profiling.
And in my home state of California,
I participated in numerous events regarding the issue of
health equity in our communities.
I heard from Asian Americans all across the country, in fact,
who voiced the concerns about hepatitis B,
a disease which so disproportionately affects AAPIs
and is the leading cause of liver cancer deaths for us.
And I heard from native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
who voiced concerns about the alarming rate of obesity
experienced within the native Hawaiian Pacific
Islander community.
These voices are why CAPAC had to take action.
We've advocated for funding for housing,
counseling and language access programs.
We've held town halls in Louisiana and Texas and have met
with the BP and gulf claims claims -- gulf coast claims
facility to ensure that the Vietnamese fisher folk are
properly compensated for their losses.
With regard to racial profiling, we've wrote a letter to U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder demanding an investigation into
NYPD practices, and met with the TSA regarding discriminatory
practices with the Sikh community at the airports.
We've pushed hard for a national initiative on hepatitis B.
And we're overjoyed when there was the breakthrough last year
when Dr. Howard Koh led this incredible report for the first
historic national strategic plan to address viral hepatitis.
And we've participated in the first historic Pacific Islander
health and fitness day put on by the White House initiative that
Sefa Aina led and how amazed I was to see 1,000
Pacific Islanders doing jumping jacks at that event.
(laughter)
Well, these voices, your voices, are why we pushed so hard to
have a successful AAPI heritage month.
We know that we have to raise our voices.
We know what's at stake.
Our history has shown what happens when people do
not use their voices.
I think of the Japanese American interment camps when 120,000
people were taken off to remote locations,
losing everything that they had.
I'm reminded of the passage of the Chinese exclusion laws which
split apart families and took away the ability to vote.
And why did that occur?
Well, there were not enough voices in our government to say,
this is not right.
Today, we must have those voices to say, this is not right.
Today, we must have the voices to stand up for what is right.
We must have AAPI communities from all across the nation
to mobilize and to organize.
We must have Asian Americans in all spheres,
from community activists to elected officials.
And we must ensure that we have a seat at the table.
We must have allies whose issues we support,
who will support us on our issues,
and we must have the strongest coalition with them that we can.
We can do it.
We must do it.
That's why I'm so glad that you are all here today,
because I know that together we can make a difference.
With your involvement, we can have an America where we
reignite the American dream, an America where every person can
climb the ladder of opportunity, and an America where no one
feels unsafe, unequal or unAmerican because of their
faith or ethnicity.
That's the America I want.
Let's work together to make that happen.
(applause)
Miya Saika Chen: Thank you, Congresswoman Chu.
She's such a tremendous leader and ally in advocating
for AAPI communities.
Thank you so much for being here.
My name is Miya Saika Chen.
I serve as Senior Advisor in the White House Initiative on Asian
Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Welcome to the White House, and thank you all so much
for being here today.
We're having an amazing and incredible week celebrating
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Our commissioners and others are trickling in because,
as many of you know, we have had multiple
meetings going on today.
So pardon the moving around.
But I wanted to introduce someone very special, my boss,
the amazing Executive Director of the White House Initiative on
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Kiran Ahuja,
to share with you all about our initiative and the direction
that we're trying to take this administration in meeting the
needs of the AAPI community.
Thank you.
(applause)
Kiran Ahuja: Good afternoon, everyone.
I guess the question is how many times do I get to see
Dr. Koh in one week?
(laughter)
It's like AAPI week, right.
So it's about five or six.
Welcome to the White House.
It's so good to see everyone.
I know, we just came out of an IWG meeting,
and I have to say everyone's eyes are a little glazed over
from the night before.
We had a tremendous night last night with the
President speaking.
Happy AAPI Heritage Month.
This is a wonderful month that brings us together to celebrate
all our many accomplishments and also where our community has
been and where we're going.
I wanted to mention also that it is Mental Health Awareness
Month, as well.
I believe we're also celebrating World Hepatitis Day this month.
Am I right about that?
And also AAPI HIV/AIDS on May 19th, if I'm correct, right.
I am trying to keep track of all the days.
So I think it's a month packed with a lot of very important
dates and a time to really think about the great work that's
taking place across the country.
So as I was referencing in the beginning,
this has been a full week of activities that I hope some of
you have taken advantage of.
I know tons of folks are in town.
And I actually hope that this continues every year.
I mean, I think this is a really tremendous effort.
And I know something that we've been promoting is to have this
full week where we have all these folks coming into town
from across the country celebrating AAPI Heritage Month.
I mean, one, I think it's so important for us to connect
and network and get to know one another.
At the same time, I think it's so critically important being
here in Washington for people to see you and to have a presence
here in Washington, D.C.
So not just the people that come in and out all the time,
but those of you who don't come here as often.
So I hope next year it's going to be bigger and better.
I don't know how we top the President,
but maybe we'll think of something.
And to bring your friends and colleagues with you.
I did want to touch on the part of the President's
speech last night.
Who was there last night?
Do you have quite a few.
Whoa, okay.
So speaking to a lot of folks who were there.
I really thought it was a beautiful, beautiful,
very moving speech, very poignant.
And the part that I really -- that spoke to me was when
he emphasized that in all our families,
there are stories of perseverance that are uniquely
American, whether we're native to this country or we came as
immigrants, whether five generations ago or we're the
first generation in our family.
And I'd actually encourage if -- you know,
the speech is out in script, I think they've also released
the video -- to share with as many friends and
family and colleagues.
I think it's a really important speech.
I think it was a pivotal moment for us last night and where our
community -- how our -- that our community has
arrived in a lot of ways.
And I think it spoke to me because my parents are first
generation immigrants.
They came to the 7 -- they came to the south in the '70s,
and things weren't always easy.
And, you know, what's interesting is now my parents
have actually lived longer in the U.S.
than they have in their home country.
And I used to always talk about how it felt like they had one
foot out and one foot in and kind of straddling
that experience.
And, in fact, what I'm still shocked at,
because I've gone back to India a few times for my own self
discovery, is that my mother has not gone back to
India since 1976.
And now I think she's a little afraid of like what.
Bombay looks very different these days.
And -- but I am encouraging her to go.
So in growing up in Savannah, Georgia, in the '80s,
there were very few Asian Americans.
And I was the one Indian kid in my class or in the -- you know,
there were a few others in the school.
And I was always asked, you know,
was I related to like the only other Indian kid that was at the
school, right, because, you know, we kind of looked alike.
And I know now people always ask me why I don't have a southern
accent or twang.
And I really don't have an answer for that,
except to say that I think that the southern twang was no match
for my parents' strong Indian accent, right.
(laughter)
So I may have been -- you know, and I think it comes
out every once in a while.
Because when I'm in New York, they're like, what did you say?
And so it's -- so it depends on where you are and if people are
really keen on accents.
But, you know, I spent half my time at my house, right, where,
you know, I was listening to my parents, you know,
argue with me and Cindy.
So it was a mix of experiences.
And so my parents may have been one of the first wave of Asian
Americans who came to the south.
But we know that the south looks very different right now.
Speaker: Whooo!
(laughter)
Kiran Ahuja: I'm getting to you, Bonnie, don't worry.
And that it's been -- there's incredible
growth across the country.
I mean, the south -- the deep south is just an
example of what we're seeing.
And that we know that AAPIs are growing faster than any other
racial group, any other racial group in this country.
So we're no longer just in California, New York,
Washington State, even parts of the Midwest like Chicago.
We're in Georgia.
We're in Utah.
We're in Nevada.
We're in North Carolina.
We're in Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas.
We're all over the place, right.
And so, you know, I wanted to mention,
you've probably been hearing a little bit of shouting over
there in the middle of the audience.
And we had a wonderful summit in Atlanta, Georgia, in March,
where we had about 500 people join us for this incredible
event that was organized by some very wonderful people
from Atlanta, Georgia.
Bonnie and Faruq and others, can you stand and just
be recognized for like --
(applause)
Okay, these individuals, plus many, many more,
put together this amazing event.
And believe it or not, we had to provide simultaneous
interpretation for 200 people who were there.
And so that just gives you a sense of the individuals that
we're trying to reach across the country.
And, in fact, what was just amazing to me,
was that there is a county outside of Atlanta -- and,
Bonnie, you'll have to tell me if I'm right about this -- with
an AAPI population of more than 10%, or close to it,
Gwinnett County.
And so I know that may not seem like a lot for those of you from
California or New York City, which are like, you know,
but like that is huge.
That is huge.
I mean, I would never have imagined.
I wish I had had that experience growing up in the south.
And so, you know, what we're seeing take place,
what's being documented by the 2010 Census,
is what's moving us forward as a part of the initiative.
That we are seeking out these emerging communities,
responding to the incredible growth,
and ensuring that these communities are connected to
the federal resources and protections that this
government can provide.
So, of course, this Heritage Month is a time to remember
amazing accomplishments and historical
struggles and milestones.
But as the President stated in his proclamation and in his
speech last night so eloquently is that it's imperative that we
also recognize the challenges that exist today.
Though we have segments of our community who are doing very
well, and we should be very proud of that, no doubt,
and we have tremendous assets.
We know there are many individuals who will struggle
every day to make ends meet.
We don't have to look far beyond the China towns,
the AAPI enclaves, the food deserts in Waianae, Hawaii,
the struggles that are happening out on the Pacific Islands,
the continuing struggles that are taking place even among
Asian American fishermen in the Gulf Coast post,
the post BP oil spill.
So we've witnessed this commitment by the President to
push for policies that seek to rebuild the middle class.
And we're going to hear a lot about those policies from Portia
Wu, who is going to talk about the economic piece,
and also from Dr. Koh, who is going to talk about health care.
And really the origins of the initiative was in response to
these needs and to this growth.
And our initiative was created in 2009,
of those of you who are just learning a little
bit about what we do.
And the President, you know, we authorized the initiative.
We work with 20 plus federal agencies to improve the health,
education, economic status of the Asian American Pacific
Islander communities.
We're the broadest White House initiative that exists
specific to a constituency.
And I think that's very important to take note of.
So we've been on the job for more than two years,
and we work as ambassadors to the community.
Going out and hearing about the kinds of needs and issues that
are taking place in the community and bringing that back
to the federal agencies in order to figure out whether there
needs to be policy changes, or how we can reallocate resources,
or how we can ensure that we're addressing certain issues that
are taking place on the ground.
And this is for the 17 million plus Asian Americans and
Pacific islanders who now live in this country.
So I want to recognize some of the key ambassadors as
a part of our team.
And so I want to ask our commissioners who are here to
please stand and be recognized.
We have Frances Francis on this end.
(applause)
And Dilawar Syed.
If you all can raise your hand.
Hector Vargas.
Amardeep Singh.
Daphne Kwok, our Chair.
Rozita Lee.
Oh, my goodness.
Rozita Lee from Nevada.
Sunil Puri.
Debra Cabrera.
Ramey Ko.
May Chen.
And Sefa Aina back there.
(applause)
So these folks just came off of a commission meeting,
a two-day commission meeting, where they put us to work.
And what's interesting is they've been working very
closely with us around a lot of key issues that I just want to
mention very briefly so you have a sense of what we're doing.
You know, a big piece that we just talked about in this last
meeting is around data disaggregation.
And I know we talk about it so much,
but it's so fundamental to making the case,
to understanding our community.
And we constantly get asked by press, by media,
by folks on the ground, it's like,
what's the impact on the South Asian community,
what's the impact on the Native Hawaiian and the Pacific
Islander communities?
And we do ourself a huge disservice when we don't know
the answers to these questions.
So, you know, I want to also raise up that there's been,
as we're making this progress, there's going to soon be an OMB
report that's going to be released later this month -- and
that's the office of management and budget -- that is basically
looking at all the strategies that are taking place across the
federal agencies that are going beyond the 1997 OMB Directive
that talked about disaggregation on racial and ethnicity data.
And this is wonderful, because the '97 Directive was a
baseline, but what we're encouraging is there's a lot
of different strategies that agencies can take to further
disaggregate data.
And I really hope that's moving in that trend.
And I want to mention, just this last Friday the Department of
Education put out in their federal register -- I know
I'm getting wonky -- but the federal register,
really exciting reading, is an RFI, Request For Information,
for those of you outside of D.C. and all these acronyms,
an RFI that's looking to determine where data
disaggregation is taking place in school districts and states
and higher education institutions around the country,
to look at those models and examples and see how we
can raise those up and how we can think about replicating
those particular models.
So if you know in your county, your state,
and your school district that that is happening,
please encourage those entities to respond to this RFI.
One other thing we're doing is promoting language translation
and interpretation services, which is another big issue for
us, increasing knowledge and support for AAPI serving
institutions, which educate low income,
high needs students across the country, you know.
And I put the statistic out all the time that almost more than
half, almost half of all our students, AAPI students,
are in community colleges, you know.
So what we're hearing about the numbers in the ivy leagues or
in, you know, very well established institutions is
great, it's wonderful, and there are segments of our community
who are doing very well.
But this is also a trend that we're seeing in the past ten
years of this growth at the community college level.
So those dollars, those initiatives that are taking
place, our focus, you know, the President's 2020 goal of having
the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,
that involves our community.
It's not that we necessarily surpass that.
We are organizing agencies to address health and
economic needs of Asian nail salon workers.
We're combating bullying and harassment of our students,
especially our Muslim American and South Asian American
students and Arab American students.
And, most recently, we've been working with philanthropy to
come to the table with the federal government to increase
the resources that are available to the community.
So you have a lot of folks in this administration who are
working on your behalf.
I'm particularly honored to be in this role,
and I often think who would have thought a southern girl,
albeit Indian, would be here.
And, you know, what's interesting is I still have
a father who is a retired physician who still asks me to
this day -- I'm 40 now -- when I'm going to get additional
degrees to add to my resume.
Even though I may not really use them, the point is I have them.
So, and here's someone also who, and I will admit,
didn't learn to use chopsticks until I was like 28 or 30.
And just recently, my staff will laugh at this,
put on a sari last night, the national Indian dress,
which has been almost 20 years since the last time I wore one.
And I think that's what makes us uniquely American, right,
that I can joke about that.
And one of my staff in particular tells me that I need
cultural competency training when it comes to wearing a sari.
(laughter)
So we all can improve in our understanding of culture,
right, even our own.
So I would -- I'm going to close because --
(laughter)
-- I probably have shared too much about myself and many
reasons why I should be disqualified for this job.
But I did want to make a very special announcement and
recognize someone who is near and dear to my heart and ask her
to join me on stage, and that is that our Deputy Director,
Christina Lagdameo, is departing and leaving us for greener
pastures and going back to India.
She's more Indian than I am.
And she is going to be working on human trafficking issues
impacting young boys and girls.
So, Christina, can you come up and be recognized?
(applause)
She's been a wonderful leader and I think we're on
Livestream, right, guys?
So just wave to everybody, Christina.
(laughter)
Okay.
So, you know, we're losing a wonderful Filipina woman.
I don't know how -- we're going to have
to find, right --
Christina Lagdameo: Three more.
Kiran Ahuja: Yes, yes, we're going to have to do that
searching for in the Filipino community.
But she's really been tremendous, a true partner,
and she's had so much experience inside government that we've
been able to utilize to move things forward.
So I wanted to thank her for all her hard work,
and really -- and recognize her in front of the community and
the millions of people who are watching us right
now on Livestream.
So, thank you, Christina, for all your hard work.
(applause)
And as a part of that, I did want to mention that in order
to make sure we have a seamless transition,
because we have to keep those engines going,
is that we'll have Audrey Buehring move in as Deputy
Director of the White House Initiative.
And I don't know where Audrey is.
She's doing some work.
And, but she has been with the initiative for almost,
for more -- since the beginning, really heading
up our interagency work.
And I could really not think of anyone more suitable to pick up
the mantle and really fill some very large shoes.
So I want to thank everyone for the hard work
that they do every day.
And I want to get off the stage, because I think there are much
more important people to come up and talk to
you about the issues.
I did, however, want to recognize former Congressman
Underwood here.
If you could stand up.
(applause)
He's joining us all the way from Guam, all the way from Guam.
Thank you, Dr. Underwood, for being here.
I remember my first, very first conversations was Dr. Underwood
telling me what I needed to accomplish while I was here.
So hopefully he's proud of what we're doing.
So thank you very much.
We look forward to the day.
There's still a ton of events going on.
And we really do want to partner with all of you.
So I hope that you use this as an opportunity to get to know
the people around you and also make sure that
we know who you are.
So, thanks again, and I'm going to call Miya back up.
No?
Oh, you're going to do this now?
Okay, great.
Christina is going to take over.
Thank you, everyone.
Christina Lagdameo: Thank you.
(applause)
So we have a great lineup of speakers for you.
And thank you again for Kiran's kind remarks.
I will miss you all dearly, but my doors will be open in India
if you ever want to visit me, and any of the viewers.
(laughter)
To help survivors of sex trafficking.
And I'll just be doing some volunteer work there.
So we have a great speaker next, Portia Wu.
She's our Senior Policy Advisor here at the White House of the
Domestic Policy Council, and she works on mobility and
opportunity policy.
And specifically she's looking at ways that we
can jump start the economy, right.
And this is really important for our community, especially.
And I just have to say that she wasn't too long into her
position and she came out to Las Vegas for our town hall meeting
with a lot of our commissioners there.
And she had some hard questions.
It was a hard group.
So, don't be afraid to put her on the spot.
(laughter)
So she's a fantastic, brilliant woman.
Please welcome Portia Wu.
(applause)
Portia Wu: Hi there.
Can everyone hear me?
Thank you.
Thanks for that kind introduction.
It's wonderful to see all of you.
I spoke with some of the state and local folks this morning.
Kiran's story reminded me just a brief one of my own as
I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York.
In a high school of 13, 1400 kids,
there were only three east Asian families.
We were one of them.
And of course one of the other families also had
the last name Wu.
So no one would believe that we weren't related.
And they'd say, well, you guys have the same last name.
And I'd say us and 80 million other people.
But, there you go.
We've come a long way, and it's wonderful to be here,
in this White House and in this administration where actually
there are many, many, senior Asian-American
officials and experts.
And you'll be hearing from more of them later today.
I want to talk with you for a few minutes about what
we're doing to get our economy on track.
As you've heard the President say many times,
this is really a make or break moment for the middle class.
We really need to focus on putting more people back to
work and being sure that everyone who plays by the
rules gets a fair shot.
The President has -- we've already seen some progress after
losing 8 million jobs as a result of the financial crisis.
We've had 4.25 million jobs through 26 straight
months of job growth.
The unemployment situation is definitely improving but we
can't afford to step back.
We still have millions of people who are looking for jobs,
including over 400,000 Asian-Americans.
So what can we do about this?
And the President had laid forth in great detail, in his budget,
his plan to help us secure an America built to last and an
economy built to last.
That's one that creates new jobs,
helps those who are still looking for work,
invests in things like green energy, infrastructure,
and manufacturing.
And Asian-Americans obviously have a tremendous vital role
to play in our recovery.
A key part of job creation is investment in our communities.
One important part of that is small business investment.
And I know that's something, small businesses are not only a
pillar in our economy but also in a lot of our communities.
The President has proposed a small business jobs and wages
tax credit as well as an extension of the 100%
expensing provision that he signed into law in 2010.
And we believe that these proposals would help 2 million
small businesses and encourage an additional 2 to $300 billion
in new wages and jobs.
So we are fighting hard for those in Congress.
We know it's a difficult time.
So we are using any tools that we have available.
And one of the things we focus a lot on is the excellent
work of the small business administration.
One thing we hear over and over again is that small business
does lack access to credit.
And so the SBA has really been gearing up to do more there,
securing commitments from the largest lenders
to increase lending.
In FY 2011 alone, SBA lent over $30 billion to over
60,000 small businesses.
They are looking to fill gaps in the smaller loans and minority
community markets, working with community based organizations
to access SBA's loan programs.
And I also don't want to forget the important role that
community development and housing investments have.
I know there are a number of you here who work in that arena and
I was asked to talk about that for a moment.
So I wanted to highlight that the community development
financial institution's fund has awarded over $250 million
in technical and financial assistance to financial
institutions that serve AAPI communities.
HUD's been partnering with stakeholders in the community
to address discrimination and housing and in lending.
And they have awarded numerous grants in housing counseling
to help specifically in the Asian-American community.
It's also -- earlier the Congresswoman mentioned and
others have talked about the importance of language access in
all of our government agencies.
And I know that HUD in particular has increased the
number of AAPI language documents that they are using.
They went from 7 to 15 actually.
Some now they have their vital documents offered in 15
AAPI languages which is really wonderful.
Job creation is incredibly important.
But we also have to be sure that our workers and our young people
are prepared to take the jobs of the future.
We know that there's going to be growth and high
tech and health care.
We need to be sure people have the skills to take those jobs.
And I think you're going to be hearing in more detail
later from the Department of Education.
But I did want to touch on a couple of things that the
President is working on and our administration has been working
on that have relevance for your local communities.
One of them is the extension of unemployment insurance that was
passed earlier this year.
First of all, those benefits are incredibly important
for AAPI communities.
Our workers tend to be longer term unemployed than all other
groups of Americans, actually.
And so, having those benefits while people are looking for
work is absolutely vital.
Another thing that was part of that bill earlier this year out
of that law, was allowing up to 10 states to do pilot programs
with their unemployment funds to create this sort of back-to-work
program so they can partner with employers.
You can go to a job opportunity, not lose your
unemployment benefits.
It's sort of like a trial run, an interim training period.
That guidance has gone out from the Department of Labor.
States are submitting their applications now.
So I encourage you to work with your states to see if they are
interested in this, see how your community can be included
in any of those proposals.
We've also put out a number of grants through the TAA community
college grants which have gone to all 50 states,
and that's to build curriculum and infrastructure
in community colleges.
Kiran just alluded to the fact that 50% of AAPI students
are at community colleges.
That's where a lot of people get valuable skills.
And community colleges are really working to create
training, at least directly to jobs,
so people are getting a lot out of their education in terms
of being able to be viable in the job marketplace.
So those grants have gone to all 50 states and there are going
to be multiple future rounds of grants that go out
that have already been approved by Congress.
So again, another opportunity for involvement and partnership
with community colleges.
Finally, we also have some H1-B technical
skills training grants.
Those are H1-B workers, folks.
Probably folks in our families have come over on these visas,
who come from other countries to fill skilled jobs that we can't
find people here to fill.
So we use this training money to provide training here locally
for people of families who are already here.
And this year the Department of Labor has been focusing on the
long-term unemployed.
And that includes many members of the Asian-American community.
Finally we are -- we have proposed additional investments.
But this is where we are starting.
What we have on the table, that's actively
moving forward now.
We are also overhauling our Americanjobcenter.gov which is
actually a new website, www.Americanjobcenter.gov that
we'll be launching shortly, and that brings together all
of these resources, for not only workers,
but also for businesses.
So if you're looking for skilled workers,
or you're saying I need to figure out how to get people
some technical training, how can I partner with my community
college to be sure they have the right course work for my
workers, that's a resource for everyone.
I want to touch for a minute too on youth.
We do have a really pressing unemployment problem,
not just among Asian-American youth.
But other young people under 25 because of the tough economy,
we're still facing double digit unemployment for young people.
And that's a problem.
Some of you have heard me say this before, not just today,
but also tomorrow, because it means these people will not have
the workforce attachment and the skills they need to have a
longer term successful career and help build our economy.
So the President has proposed investments building on the
recovery act to provide funds to state and local governments,
allow them to repeat really successful summer jobs programs.
We haven't gotten that money from Congress yet.
However, we are now waiting for that.
He has launched a summer jobs plus initiative.
Many of you may be familiar with it.
Secretary Solis -- it's a partnership with business asking
them to come forward, hire young people this summer.
Even if they can't afford, bring them on for a paid job.
Maybe it's mentoring, internships,
some shadowing opportunities.
So people can learn about other kinds of careers and start
networking and getting connections.
Secretary Solis just announced two weeks ago that we've
hit over 300,000 commitments of respecting
positions from employers.
So that's really exciting news.
We'd love to keep going further.
If you are involved with businesses or your local
communities, who would like to do more,
we are happy to partner with you.
So with that I'll just leave it.
As the President remarked last night and Kiran touched on this,
I thought his remarks were very inspiring.
He talked a lot about how we are all community and we always face
diversity together.
And you know with all the challenges that we face ahead we
are only going to do it if we are all in it together.
So we look forward to continuing to work with you.
Thank you.
(applause)
So I guess I'll take questions now.
Not really tough ones.
(laughter)
Speaker: We actually had
(inaudible)
sides so everyone could come down and queue up.
(laughter)
(chattering)
Frank Irigon: I'm Frank Irigon.
I'm with the National Asian Pacific American Families
Against Substance Abuse, but I'm also on the executive board
for the Puget Sound Alliance, retired Americans.
And my concern is we only speak about the middle class.
Why are we leaving out the poor?
Portia Wu: I don't think we mean to leave out the poor.
I think -- first of all, we believe that everyone should
be able to get to a middle class standard of life.
It's not that the President hasn't invested
in those programs.
I mean some of the summer jobs initiatives that I was talking
about, for example, and subsidized jobs that were so
successful in the recovery act, they were really for
lower-income people.
I think our point is that it's lower income people that are
definitely suffering and we have to do a lot for them.
We also are acknowledging the reality that in this recovery
a lot of middle class families are hurt.
And part of the reason we talk about it also is when you talk
to people who are even really quite low income,
they don't think of themselves as poor.
So if you're saying, like to them a middle class message like
they are hearing themselves, that's part of why I think
we talk about it.
It's not that we are not acknowledging people
in this situation.
You're absolutely right.
And I was talking about some of these investments
in job training.
So much of the work we are doing, for example,
HUD is looking in its public housing programs,
bringing housing support and job training together and
working to help people there.
So obviously that's talking about a much lower income
segment.
It's very important, I absolutely agree.
Christina: Miriam
Hi, Portia.
Portia Wu: Hi Miriam.
Miriam: They asked me to ask you a hard question but I know
you know a lot of things, so I'm not going to
be able to stump you.
But I did want to ask you to focus on women workers
for a little bit.
As we know, immigrant women workers are disproportionately
small business owners, right, but also often tracked in low
wage highly unregulated often dangerous work.
I just wonder if you could provide a gender lens to some of
the analysis you've provided and also some of the President's
plans to address women workers.
Portia Wu: I would love to do that.
Especially because I skipped one of my bullets on that.
So it gives me a chance --
(laughter)
-- I mean there are many things the President is doing.
One of them is you've heard him talk over and over again about
his commitment to equal pay and the Paycheck Fairness act.
He recognizes there still is a real gender gap in this country
and there are many things we need to do to address that.
Another is in terms of AAPI community specifically,
first of all, I really want to applaud the work the initiative
has done, focusing on workers in nail salons.
They have been working very closely with federal agencies
in terms of safety there.
Our wage and hour department at the Department of Labor
is looking at a lot of these work places,
trying to help employers come into compliance,
enforcing the law for minimum wage and overtime.
And also very importantly, the President has proposed -- this
administration has proposed a regulation to extend minimum
wage and overtime protection to home care workers.
There are about 2 million workers who do care in the home.
you know, feeding, bathing, some basic medical stuff.
They are overwhelmingly women.
They are a majority of women of color,
and many people are surprised to learn they are not covered
by our minimum wage and overtime rules.
So we have proposed that.
Hopefully that rule will go final sometime soon.
Miriam: Okay, thanks.
Portia Wu: Great question.
Christina: Thank you for being here.
In terms of the high long-term unemployment amongst AAPI
workers, is there any kind of tracking in terms of UI
benefits and race ethnicity?
I ask this because I think sometimes in our community we
are reluctant to kind of come out of the closet as being
unemployed and then folks don't necessarily get all of the
information in the multiple languages about the fact that
they are eligible for UI benefits because they have been
working their whole lives and paying into the unemployment
benefits fund.
Portia Wu: That's a really good question.
I know -- I mean, these numbers, sort of top line numbers come
from the Bureau of Labor Statistics over at the
Department of Labor.
I know sometimes for example if you were to say how are
our numbers looking in the Chicago area,
sometimes they can't break them down to that level of detail.
But it's something I'll have to follow up with you,
and maybe some folks at the initiative who have been working
closely with the agencies have a better idea.
It's there -- and I know some states actually have even more
granular data, but it might vary from state to state.
Then of course what they do with that is a huge question.
And your role working in the states as advocates to get
them to do that outreach is tremendously important,
because part of what we are doing in our changes to the UI
system, the unemployment system is also providing more
reemployment services and counseling.
So people should take advantage of that.
They should say, oh, it's not just that I have the ability for
income support, but there are also resources available to me
to help connect me with jobs.
If they don't know about it they won't go to it.
(applause)
Christina: Thank you, Portia.
As you can see this is why we are getting amazing work done
with this administration because of folks like Portia,
in such positions.
We also have another great advocate on the inside who is
with the domestic policy council, Felicia Escobar,
and she has been working really closely with our initiative,
especially on the work around new Americans and
immigrant integration.
And I can tell you that she, another brilliant woman here,
I have not seen anyone go so deeply into the DHS,
into Homeland Security's regs, and really nitpick at them and
stay on top of them.
And so, again, fearless woman, and we are really, really,
excited to have her.
Please welcome Felicia Escobar.
(applause)
Felicia Escobar: Well, thank you, Christina.
And welcome.
You, welcome all to the White House.
I know some of you have been here before.
But for some you this might be your first time here.
And I know it's been a busy, crazy week.
We do something similar like this in September for
Hispanic heritage month.
We call it Hispanic hysteria month.
Hispanic hysteria week.
There's also actually, also Hispanic hysteria week in
addition to the month.
So, I hope you all are able to relax in your chairs and learn a
little about bit about some of the work that we are doing
across the administration on these issues that matter to
the AAPI community.
So I work on immigration policy and I've been here at
the administration since August of '09.
My first task when I started here was going to be to review a
legislation, bipartisan bill that Senator Schumer and Senator
Graham were going to introduce bipartisan comprehensive
immigration reform language that we were going to move through
the House and the Senate as quickly as we could.
I've been here almost three years still waiting for that
Schumer/Graham piece of legislation to emerge
for me to review.
But, I mean, I say that just to give you a sense of you know the
fact that we have really since day one have been looking to
find partners that we can work with in Congress to enact
meaningful smart comprehensive immigration reform legislation
that really is common sense and that will help us build the 21st
Century immigration system.
We are still not there yet.
And there's a lot of work that we need to do to get there.
And a lot of the work that we need to do is working with you
all in coalition to build the basis, support,
outside of DC to help support and encourage our members of
Congress to really be courageous again on this issue and
to step forward and with us.
So we have a clear vision of what we want to see in
comprehensive reform and the President has laid that out
several times.
But we also have an immigration blueprint.
If you go to WhiteHouse.Gov/immigration
you can find that blueprint.
There are a number of different things we think we need to do.
We need to continue to enforce our laws along the board
and in the interior.
We need to create a legalization program for the folks that are
living, the millions of people that are living in
the shadows right now.
We meet to pass the Dream act.
We need to include reform star agricultural workers system.
We need to make important improvements to the family based
and the employment based green card systems that delay people
from getting their green cards for years and years.
And I know certain people depending on the caps that are
in place per country, that impacts the AAPI community in
real ways, both on the employment and the
family based side.
So that's something that we are interested in addressing and we
are obviously interested in creating a -- an employer
verification system that is more 21st Century,
isn't paper based like the INI system that we have right
now that was created really over 30 years ago.
So that's what we would like to see in reform.
And you know, we will continue to voice our commitment to this
issue from the President on down to people like me.
But, we know in the meantime in the absence of reform there's a
lot we can do to actually fix the system now.
We all can acknowledge that it's a broken system that we
are having to work with.
But, we do think there are things we can do.
So, I'll talk a little bit about some of those things
that we are working on.
First, on the enforcement side which I know is a difficult
issue for lots of communities as we grapple with it.
We get a certain amount of money from Congress every year to
enforce our immigration laws.
The President feels strongly that you know he needs
to enforce all the laws on the books,
whether they are immigration laws, education laws,
health care laws.
But there is, there are things that we can do to -- actually it
matters how we enforce our laws and how we use the money
that Congress gives us.
So what we focused on in the last couple of years is making
sure that DHS has priorities that they put in place,
that they set, that actually, instead of focused,
on being focused on picking up anyone you can to remove them
from the country, that they actually have priorities about
who they need to remove from the country.
So from our perspective.
The first and foremost priorities are people who are
national security threats and public safety threats.
People who have been actually convicted of criminal offenses,
those should be the number 1 priorities.
People who have recently entered the country.
People who have been deported and then returned to the country
without an authorized status which is actually a felony under
the immigration laws.
Those should be our priorities.
We have done a lot to improve the percentage of people that we
are removing that really meet those priorities.
In the meantime, if you have priorities in place,
you also have to have a mechanism for how you can
exercise discretion when someone doesn't meet priorities.
So something that we've done in the last year is issue a memo on
prosecutorial discretion that was issued by the Department of
Homeland Security, immigration and customs enforcement focused
on prosecutorial discretion reminding their field of
officers all over the country that you do not have to remove
every person you pick up.
If people have longstanding ties in your country,
if they came here at a young age,
if they are enrolled in college.
If they are married to people who are in the armed forces.
If they are victims of domestic violence or other crimes,
those people are not our priorities,
and those people should be getting -- taken out of the
immigration enforcement system from our perspective.
All of those decisions have to be made on a case by case basis
by law enforcement officials.
But we've set the policy and have also been engaged in a
significant training from the secretary down to ICE director
Morton and field office directors to make sure people
really understand that we mean, if when we say you have the
ability to exercise discretion, as a part of that effort we also
have the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of
Justice reviewing all the cases and all of the pending cases in
the immigration court system.
There are about 300,000 pending cases that were not -- were
probably put in the system way before we got here and so we
need to make sure that we do -- one we have is do a second
look at those cases to make sure that they actually
meet our priorities.
And if they don't that we are using discretion to close or
terminate their cases.
So this is something that's been underway since
about December of last year.
It's a massive effort and unprecedented effort for DHS and
DOJ to be engaged in a second review of cases that are in the
enforcement pipeline.
We have seen that they are actually closing cases.
They are identifying cases that need to be closed.
It takes time to close cases through the court system.
And there needs to be additional background checks and things
like that, that are carried out.
But DHS and DOJ are very committed to that work.
And you know we talk to them pretty much on a weekly basis
about that issue.
Outside of moving outside of enforcement there's also a lot
we can do on the legal immigration side.
So Christina mentioned we've done a lot of work with the AAPI
initiative and with other agencies across the country to
think about integration and how we welcome and integrate
immigrants into our country.
I know the President talked about this theme of welcoming
people, welcoming immigrants into our country last night.
And that's something that he believes very strongly in from
his days in you know, doing, organizing in Chicago at
the local level, how important that work is.
So, you know we have held numbers of round-table
discussions around the country where we've come up with local
community solutions that might just involve connecting the
right players in the community with the federal agencies that
could provide technical assistance and service to them.
Another thing that we've done is we've created an immigrant,
immigration grant program that is funded out of the Department
of Homeland Security's USCIS, US Citizenship and Immigration
Services Agency.
It's a small grant, but we know that it's serving a lot
of people now and helping individuals get the information
they need about the citizenship process.
You all I'm sure are aware that there are millions of people
within lots of communities including the AAPI community
that qualify for naturalization, that qualify for citizenship,
but haven't taken that step yet.
And you know from our perspective we want to
eliminate all the obstacles.
And we know one of the big obstacles is having the
information that they need to actually get, you know,
get across the finish line and become citizens.
Another big component of that is the cost of citizenship, right.
We know that the naturalization rates have gone up over
the last several years.
One thing that we've been very committed to as we think about
every couple of years USCIS needs to set their fees
because they are a fee for service agency,
they don't get a lot of money from Congress to do their job.
So they are dependent on fees.
But one thing that we have -- we've been committed to is not
raising the fees on the naturalization -- the cost of
the naturalization application.
So since the beginning of this administration,
those costs have not gone up.
We are committed to working as hard as we can to make sure that
we can maintain the naturalization fees at the level
they have been for the last couple of years.
The other thing that we put in place is we have a clear and
consistent fee waiver application process.
Before it was kind of you know if you knew somebody,
if you had a lawyer that had a special relationship,
perhaps you could get a fee waiver.
But there was no clear process.
And now there's a clear application,
there's a clear process.
And you know, I would tell you that,
for the most part of a very large number of those
applications actually, those waiver applications actually
get processed and approved.
Which I think is important.
As we think about the employment based system we know that there
are a lot of people who are high schooled immigrants or people
who we educate here who want to come into our country,
want to stay here, want to create jobs, create businesses,
stay and get increased education.
And that's something we are very committed to as well.
We have a new initiative out of USCIS called the entrepreneurs
and residents initiative which is focused on coming up with --
we don't have an entrepreneurs visa, per se, in the law.
That would be one thing we would change if we
pass comprehensive reform.
But in the meantime we have to come up with ways for people to
understand how the current visa program and visa systems work
for, for individuals who want to create jobs here and want
to start businesses here.
So that entrepreneur's and resident's initiative is very
focused on thinking about how to use the existing system to
create pathways for immigrant entrepreneurs.
Many of them are students who study here and so that's
something we are very committed to focusing on as well.
And they are -- there's actually a group of experts from all over
the country who are in the entrepreneurship communities,
and they are coming up with ideas working with USCIS
internally that are new and creative and will hopefully help
us think about ways of using the visa system in the legal way,
but in a way that's also appropriate the new groups
of people that are trying to come into our country.
So I can go on and on, but I won't because I'm sure you
all have questions.
I would just say just a couple of things as we are thinking
about these issues, as we are trying to get towards reform.
There's a lot we have to grapple with as we -- as it relates to
kind of where other folks in Congress are looking at how they
look at immigrants, how they look as these issues.
When you have a tough economic climate it's often an
opportunity that some people take advantage of to blame
immigrants, to blame refugees.
That's something that we just -- we know from the facts on the
ground and also from the stats that immigration is actually an
incredible economic benefit.
It's what's really driven our economy, via global engine.
So we feel very strongly that we need to always be talking about
immigrants from a positive perspective and always
reminding people that immigrants really are,
they are givers to our economy, they help our economy grow.
So you all know right now the house,
the house is actually considering legislation that
targets battered immigrant women.
We have the reauthorization, Violence Against Women Act
that's on the -- will be on the floor probably next week and was
voted out of the house judiciary committee just yesterday.
I would just tell you that it turns the clock back about 30
years as we think about the protections we put in place for
battered immigrant women.
So we have to you know -- that's what we are dealing with as we
are trying to get towards comprehensive reform.
We are also having to play defense on some of the really
good things that we have in the law that we want to -- we want
to keep and maintain that we know is important
to immigrant women.
So we would ask for your help to build a coalition on the
proactive side so we can get to a day where we have
comprehensive reform.
But we also ask for your help in educating our communities and
your communities about the negative things that are moving
through Congress right now that we have to play defense on.
So happy to take more questions.
Thank you.
(applause)
Audience: Hi. My name is Julayne Lee.
I'm on the board of directors for the Council of
Asian-Pacific Minnesotans.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the growing
number of adopted Asian Americans born outside the U.S.
who are being deported to countries that they have very
little familiarity with, adopted into non-Asian families,
their ethnic heritage was not preserved.
So the challenges that they face as they're going back to their
countries of origin are extreme and very serious.
Felicia Escobar: Okay. Yeah.
I've not heard that that's a phenomenon and a trend.
So I would be interested in getting more
information from you.
I know that there are a number of, you know,
concerns that have been raised about potential DREAM Act
students, individuals who might benefit from the DREAM Act.
I don't know if there's overlap on this issue.
But you know, we understand that this is a concern.
That's why we push so hard for passage of the DREAM Act.
We had, you know, half the Cabinet, the President,
Vice President involved in 2010 when we got very close to
passage of the DREAM Act.
But in the mean time, we're thinking about ways to address
those issues, you know, to make sure that discretion
is used because those types of decisions don't
make sense. Right?
If a kid has been in this country for years and years,
knows this country as their own and doesn't even know the
language of the country they may be returning to or forced to,
we need to be making smarter enforcement decisions.
We can't get involved at the White House in individual
enforcement actions per se, but there are people at the agency
that, when things like -- individual cases like this
that get raised need to be brought to the attention
of Homeland Security.
And the White House initiative is, you know,
able to make those connections since they have relationships
with the agencies, you know.
But if this is a trend that you're seeing,
I would be interested in talking to you more about it.
Audience Member: Thank you.
Felicia Escobar: Should I take one on this side?
Bonnie Youn: Hello.
My name is Bonnie Youn, and I'm an immigration attorney
in Atlanta, Georgia.
And I wanted to talk about the prosecutorial discretion issue.
We wanted to get more transparency and information
on the statistics.
I know I personally represented a young Korean undocumented
student who's been here since he was three years old.
He was stopped for a broken taillight and not
having a driver's license.
He was detained for four weeks before we could
get him bonded out.
And the stage charges were ultimately all dropped.
He has a mother, who is a widow and, I would think,
under the Morton Memos, completely eligible,
filed the prosecutorial discretion request.
It was denied in six days.
And the template response was oh,
this person's been convicted of an aggravated felony.
And I said, that's got to be wrong, you know,
that's clearly wrong.
I called up the trial attorney and she says, oh I'm sorry,
that's just a template, we cut and paste it, but, by the way,
he's still denied.
And I said, is there anything else,
that I could submit more equities to demonstrate why he
should be eligible for this.
And she said, no, I don't think so, you know,
I don't think it's worth it.
And so when I went yesterday to the immigration panel on the
AANHPI summit, the representative from Harry Reid's
office says you usually get some sort of congressional
assistance when there's a final order of deportation only,
which is incredibly stressful on the individual who's gone
through that whole point and, if they don't have the assistance
of an attorney -- and this family really was struggling,
even to pay for my services.
They're not going to get that at the end stage.
And, you know, this is a person I think is completely
DREAM Act eligible.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association within Georgia,
we have a listserv.
And we've been posted some other stories of, you know,
why is this person not eligible.
So in terms of it being implemented uniformly or --
you know, you said their secondary review now.
I mean, what are the standards?
I don't know what they are at the chief counsel's office.
Felicia Escobar: Just to be clear,
the secondary review I'm talking about,
once someone has been offered and they decided that they would
like to accept prosecutorial -- the use of discretion --
their fingerprints get run through the system.
That's always been the case.
So it's just a matter of just general background checks.
So just to be clear, there's nothing new.
And there's no secondary review.
Sorry if I was confusing there.
You know, on this individual case,
I don't know all the details of it.
And obviously every case is different.
But, you know, we've been talking to DHS a lot about the
need for continued training and really reinforcement of the fact
that this is something that people should feel they
can use in a real way.
And, you know, these are the types of cases that we need to
know about, because you're right, in certain regions,
as with any federal policy, you always have to continue to
reinforce and make sure that things aren't getting
implemented in an consistent way.
So this is the kind of information we can
take back to DHS.
You know, we would encourage you to also be in touch with the
field office directors there.
And if you need help getting in touch with those people,
we can put you in touch with them.
I know some AILA chapters have really strong relationships
with the field office directors.
And I know it kind of just varies.
But, you know, we should talk more about that off line.
I'm happy to put you in touch with those people.
Bonne Youn: And just anecdotally, I will tell you,
where they are offering prosecutorial discretion,
it's in cases where they know they're going to lose for
cancellation or removal issues.
So I'm like, you know, they're offering the prosecutorial
discretion option when there's real chance for them to
actually win some form of immigration benefit.
So that's not helpful for us.
Felicia Escobar: Right. No, definitely.
And I know DHS is, you know, there.
On a weekly basis, they're trying to compile the
information about, you know, the way that the actual initiative
is getting, is playing out in the field.
You know, they've initially shared with folks, you know,
about 8-10% of cases they reviewed may
potentially qualify.
There's at least flagging it as a potential possibility
for closure under prosecutorial discretion.
So that's a general number that I would share with you.
The numbers will vary by district.
And that's the kind of stuff that -- you know,
we should connect you with the right people at DHS to get you
that information.
There's one other resource at DHS,
and you may not have interacted with him yet but Andrew Straight
-- have you talked to him yet?
Bonnie Youn: I did.
Felicia Escobar: He's the new ICE Public Advocate, which is,
another, you know, resource that's been created more
recently, although Andrew's been here for a while,
that would also be a resource into individual cases but also
into getting additional information and data.
Bonnie Youn: Thank you.
Audience Member: Felicia, first of all,
thank you so much for all that you're doing.
And thank you to the President and the administration for all
the policy initiatives that have come out recently.
And then we're seeing the effects of it in Houston.
I practice immigration law in Houston.
And the Morton Memorandums, we're seeing
wonderful effects of it.
And thank you again.
My question was there was the H.R.3012, I think,
which Senator Grassley has put a hold on it in the Senate.
Could you elaborate on what's going on with that?
And thank you.
Felicia Escobar: Sure.
So for everyone's knowledge, this is legislation that would
make changes to the per country caps law.
So as some of you may know, every year we have a certain
number of family based immigration visas, green cards,
a certain number of employment based green cards
that are available.
And you can apply for them.
But there's a restriction on the number that can be
given out per country.
So that limitation is 7% under the current laws.
We have publicly supported and come out in support of this
legislation that would change the caps or
change those percentages.
So on the employment based side, it would raise the per country
caps from 7 to 15%.
I'm sorry, on the family based side.
And on the employment based side,
it would actually eliminate the per country caps.
This legislation, as you mentioned,
it passed through the House of Representatives with a
bipartisan vote.
It is now being held by Senator Grassley in the Senate who has
raised some concerns about it.
I know that a lot of advocacy groups have been talking to
Senator Grassley to address some of his concerns.
I think his concerns actually have more to do with the H1B and
the L1B visa programs which are temporary worker programs,
not green card programs.
But I guess they're somewhat related so he has
some concerns about that.
You know, I think that it's important to continue to educate
him and others about why we need changes to the per country caps.
And you know we know that advocacy groups are doing that.
I can't tell you who to lobby in Congress,
but it sounds like you're pretty educated.
So, you know, I think that education needs to
continue to happen.
And we are tracking and monitoring that as well.
As I mentioned, we did come out publicly in support
of the legislation.
We have some blog posts, you know,
where we've talked about our support for this.
It's actually in our immigration blueprint, this policy change.
So I think that people are hopeful that we can continue to
-- that they can continue to educate him and that perhaps
he can lift his hold.
I think it demonstrates the complexity of this issue,
that people feel like if you're going to get one little thing
done on immigration that isn't their thing then they're going
to try to hold up your thing, which is why we've always tried
to bundle it in a comprehensive umbrella that
faces other challenges, right.
Because there are some big things that people want that a
lot of other people don't.
So that's the challenge that we're facing on this issue,
whether it's this bill or the DREAM Act or a Startup Visa Act
or, you know, other things.
We're always grappling with this issue.
So you continuing to educate your members of Congress
is really important.
One last question?
Dr. Binh Nguyen: Thank you for taking my question.
My name is Dr. Binh Nguyen.
I'm the Chair of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board.
My question dovetails the question that my previous
colleague asked you.
I would like to focus this on the visa student
process right now.
I'm working with the local universities in the engineering
program in their departments with the students who
are coming here for the engineering degrees,
whether it's a four-year degree or further more into
Masters and Ph.D programs.
So I would like to know if the local, corporate,
and also the people who also receive federal grants,
whether they could set aside summer projects,
summer paid or unpaid internships to work with the
students and whether the student visa could be converted to a
different type of visa where they can work with more
sensitive programs where federal workers have to be cleared,
you know, for the clearance.
And a lot of them do not qualify due to this clearance issue.
Felicia Escobar: That's an interesting idea,
in terms of how we can create partnerships with universities
and the business community.
I mean, we support the idea of, you know,
if people want to stay here and we've educated them here,
it's better for us to keep them here than to send them back so
they can compete against us.
We support those changes.
There's a concept called stapling that people talk
about a lot when they think about immigration reform.
The idea is, you know, certain people graduate with STEM
degrees or Masters or Ph.D degrees that we want to
keep in the country.
And what we would propose in legislative reform is that we
allow these people, if they can show they have a job offer
already pending and they're graduating in good standing,
that they get a green card that would be, you know,
quote unquote stapled to their degree so that they can,
you know, remain in our country permanently.
So that's an idea that's on the table legislatively.
There's a program that the Department of Defense runs
called the MAVNI Program which kind of gets to the thing that
you're talking about, the whole idea that there are foreign
students that we want to keep here that have certain
particular skills that could be beneficial to the federal
government, including the Department Of Defense but
they can't get through the federal clearance levels.
So that's a program that exists.
And the Department Of Defense has been thinking through how to
move forward because it's been a few years since they've
actively used the program.
So that's something that, you know,
perhaps we can put you in contact with some people who
are working on that issue.
It's hard to find a way to move someone from an F1,
a student visa, without kind of implicating other issues.
But there are definitely ways to think about whether the
H1B program or other visa programs might be appropriate.
And it's a matter of just making sure people understand
the immigration tools available to them.
And that's something that -- the Department of Homeland Security
actually has a new initiative called the Steady in the States
initiative which is focused on that issue of, you know,
how can we educate kids as soon as possible when they get here
about their potential immigration options to
stay in the country.
So there's a woman named Lauren Kielsmeier that runs that
program, and she's someone that we can put you in touch with.
And since you're local in Virginia,
perhaps you all can sit down and talk.
Dr. Binh Nguyen: Great.
I'll follow up with you then.
Thank you.
Felicia Escobar: Well, thank you so much.
And enjoy the rest of your day.
(applause)
Christina Lagdameo: Thank you, Felicia.
As you can see, a lot of information there.
And just to point out, Tuyet Duong is also here.
She's an advisor with us working specifically on immigration.
So if you have questions, she's available later.
Our next speaker doesn't really need an introduction because
his reputation proceeds him.
He is the Assistant Secretary for Health.
And you know, we also know him -- he sits on our interagency
working group and gets a lot of awards.
And we actually gave his agency an award for having the best
plan for Asian Americans and Pacific islanders,
if you know about the work of HHS.
And a lot of this is due to his leadership.
He's also receiving an award tonight with his brother by the
conference on Asian Americans and Asian-Pacific Americans in
leadership.
So congratulations Dr. Howard Koh.
(applause)
Dr. Howard Koh: Thanks so much.
And welcome to the White House, everybody.
It's great to see you during AAPI Heritage Month.
I don't know about you, but in my world every month is
AAPI Heritage Month.
Actually, in my world, every day is AAPI Heritage Day.
And I'm absolutely thrilled to see such leaders like yourselves
who have come here to celebrate this week and this month.
And I want to start by thanking you for your pride and for your
perseverance and for your personal journeys in overcoming
obstacles to make such a contribution to our country.
It's always very moving to talk about public health in our
country and how it affects all populations,
particularly AAPI populations.
And when I review this topic, it's not only very professional
but also very personal for me in so many ways.
We were so proud last night when the President spoke and
articulated beautifully his own pride in being raised in Hawaii
and Indonesia.
And then also wasn't it great to hear Hi Jyun Han (phonetic)
sing the Star-Spangled Banner?
All right!
American Idol, let's go.
In moments like this, we reflect about our own journeys and how
far we've come individually and as a community.
We heard Kiran mention for example how isolating it was to
grow up in her community and have everybody assume that the
other minorities in her school were somehow related to her.
Well, in my case, I went to an all boy's prep school in New
Haven, Connecticut.
There were only two other Asian American guys in the school.
Everybody assumed they were related to me, and they were.
(laughter)
They were my brothers.
(laughter)
So one of them, Harold, you're going to meet tonight.
I'm very proud of Harold.
How many of you know my brother Harold Koh?
All right.
That's great.
If you haven't met him and you get us confused like everybody
does in government here, especially in D.C.,
he's Harold and I'm Howard.
He's the lawyer and I'm the doctor.
He works for the State Department.
I work for HHS, Health and Human Services.
He works for Secretary Clinton.
I work for Secretary Sebelius.
But as my mother likes to point out,
we both work for female bosses.
So the pride comes from my family, their journey,
my parent's courage in coming here.
The pride comes from sharing this journey in public service
with my brother Harold as you'll keep hearing about tonight.
My pride comes from sharing with you the tremendous success
we've had as an AAPI community over recent years,
particularly under this administration,
under the leadership of this President.
I had the great privilege of being in the East Wing in the
fall of 2009 when the President signed the executive order
re-establishing the White House initiative on Asian Americans
and Pacific Islanders.
I am very, very proud to be here with Daphne Quoc (phonetic) and
all the commissioners who have helped lead that initiative
with Kiran and others.
It's been tremendous to see the progress we've made just
in a couple years in that whole arena.
And it's been a source of great pride for me to see how much
attention public health has received and how much we've
progressed with respect to talking about the health of
all people in our country.
So you know that I'm a physician.
I've cared for patients for over 30 years.
I've lived and worked within the health system.
And you all know that health is our most precious gift.
And if you've been involved in navigating or trying to navigate
the health system for yourselves or your loved ones,
whether they're born here or born overseas,
it is a challenge.
And we have a system that has lots of great doctors and lots
of great hospitals but is very fragmented.
And we need a better system, a system that really focuses on
the patient, putting the patient at the center,
and also balances an emphasis of treatment along with prevention.
So now we have that promise with health reform that was signed
into law by the President in March of 2010.
We have tremendous progress on health for all people,
particularly AAPI populations.
And we also have tremendous emphasis on reducing racial
ethnic disparities so that all people have a chance to reach
their highest attainable standard of health,
particularly and including AAPI populations.
So for example, before health reform was passed,
you know that there were many people going through very
complex medical situations worrying about whether they were
going to lose their insurance, whether they hit a lifetime
limit of coverage that insurance companies would impose.
Well, because of that new law, those lifetime
limits are now banished.
People can receive the care they need and deserve without
worrying about whether their insurance will
cover them or not.
And that affects millions of Americans,
especially and including nearly 5.5 million Asian Americans,
native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders.
They are free from worry about lifetime limits.
And they can focus on getting better.
And then for those of you who have kids who are young adults
-- and of course young adults have high uninsurance rates.
I have three kids who are young adults.
Even I have to worry about their coverage as they move from
school to a job or in between.
You now know, hopefully, because of health reform,
we have coverage of all young adults on their parent's
plan up to age 26.
That affects some 2.5 million young adults in the first two
years of health reform, including nearly 100,000
Asian American young adults as well.
And then we have lots of emphasis on prevention.
We want people to cherish and protect the gift of health.
We have access to free preventive services for
those who enrolled in new health plans.
So you can get life saving prevention,
like mammography or other cancer screening or smoking cessations
services without worrying about added costs.
And that affects some 54 million Americans,
including close to 3 million Asian Americans and
Pacific islanders.
So these are just some of the ways that health reform has
already made a difference in the country.
It makes me very, very proud as the Assistant Secretary for
Health in living through this historic time that was pioneered
by the President and also our Health Secretary,
Kathleen Sebelius.
And then you've already heard a lot about new data
standards in health reform.
We're very proud of that.
And I'm particularly excited by this as a researcher.
From the time I was a young assistant professor,
I wanted to learn and do research on Asian American
Pacific Islander health.
And time and again, I was told (indiscernible).
There is a lack of data.
And you know and I know that if there's no data,
then the implication is that there's no problem.
And exactly the opposite is true for our populations.
So now, because of health reform,
we have new standards that require federal surveys going
forward to track Asian American, Native Hawaiian,
and Pacific Islander populations with much more specificity
and granularity.
So for example when we were all younger, in a federal survey,
we would have to check the other box.
That really makes me feel special, doesn't it?
Now we have the opportunity to check of Asian
American or Pacific Islander.
But because of health reform -- and we just passed these rules
recently in the department -- you can check off,
in the Asian American category for example,
Korean American or Chinese American or Japanese American.
And in addition to checking off Pacific Islander,
you can check off Guamanian or Chamorran or American Samoan.
So this is going to give us new data and information in
a very special way.
Another great contribution of health reform, and we're very,
very excited about it.
We heard the President mention last night the challenges of
Hepatitis, particularly Hepatitis B.
You heard Congresswoman Chu mention that just now.
And we are very proud to have unveiled the first ever national
strategy for Hepatitis, the silent epidemic, last year.
And this is an area that pioneers like Congresswoman
Judy Chu and Congressman Mike Honda and others have been
pushing for years.
So now we have tremendous forward momentum to bring
some attention to this silent epidemic.
You know that Hepatitis drives u prates of liver cancer and liver
transplant and liver failure, cirrhosis and death.
It's a tremendous public health challenge
domestically and worldwide.
And Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians,
and Pacific Islanders, unfortunately,
make up about half of all people who have Hepatitis B in the
United States.
Some 1.4 million of us are infected.
And therefore, our rates of liver cancer,
liver failure are much higher than the general population.
And another challenge here, our basic challenge is that most
people with Hepatitis don't even know they have it.
So step 1 is awareness and testing.
And then, of course, getting people into treatment and care
that they deserve.
So we now have a national strategy.
That's step 1.
We're inviting all of your help and participation in advancing
the strategy.
Just because this plan was unveiled a year ago,
the CDC has launched a new campaign called KNOW More
Hepatitis, know is spelled K-N-O-W, Know More Hepatitis.
May 19th, coming up soon, will be the first ever National
Hepatitis Testing Day.
We'll be launching a new risk assessment tool online so people
can see if they're at risk and then go to their doctor
and talk about whether they need to be tested.
And also last July, in this room,
we unveiled a proclamation from the President honoring the first
ever World Hepatitis Day, July 28th.
I assume we'll have a similar celebration this summer as well.
So we're raising awareness in a unique way.
I remember when this unveiling happened in this room last July.
We had half a dozen members of Congress here,
including one member who was Hepatitis Positive and very
eager to share his story just to raise awareness and reduce
stigma and advance the concepts of prevention and public health.
So these are all contributions that we're making now in the
public health arena that we're all proud of.
And as we go forward, we need more attention to minority
populations, Asian American Native American,
Pacific Islander populations.
We are unveiling very soon our Office of Minority Health is
updated culturally and linguistically appropriately
services in healthcare, what are called class standards.
We have new initiatives at Health and Human Services
through our Office Of Civil Rights to address health
literacy for limited English populations.
And let me also stress that we are talking about not just
Asian American but also Native Hawaiian and
Pacific islander populations.
How many of you are from Hawaii or the Pacific Islands here?
Okay.
Tremendous.
I want to report to you that two months ago,
I made my first trip to the Pacific Islands, to Guam.
And I'm sorry Congressman Underwood had to leave.
But that was a fascinating visit.
To Micronesia and then to one of the four island states of
Micronesia, Chuuk.
How many of you have ever heard of Chuuk?
Okay.
You're still with me.
This is good.
But going out to that part of the world and seeing the
disparities among our Pacific Islander population,
seeing the geographic disparities,
just seeing how challenging it is to reach people in need was
really just unforgettable.
So we are very proud to say that our Office of Minority Health
is sponsoring the first survey done in Pacific
Islander households in the U.S.
about health in collaboration with the University of Michigan.
We want to report that back to you very soon.
We also have a CDC so-called community transformation grant
in Palau that allowed some 22,000
residents there to achieve healthier lifestyles in 2011.
And also initiatives in Guam and American Samoa about breast and
cervical cancer screenings that are very much needed.
So this is just a snapshot of what we're trying to do under
the leadership of Secretary Sebelius and President
Obama in this administration.
Just in a couple years, it has been just fantastic to see the
leadership of so many community leaders like yourself who are
coming forward and working in partnership with all of us.
As I close, I often think of the great quote from
Reverend Martin Luther King.
And he said some 40 or 50 years ago,
We may have all come over on different ships but we're
in the same boat now.
And I think that's a very appropriate saying for today.
So thank you very much for being here.
And I hope you get to see me and my brother tonight.
So thank you very, very much.
(applause)
Christina Lagdameo: Congratulations again, Dr. Koh
And I apologize we can't take questions.
We're just moving things along.
Just to note, speaking of the great leaders in the audience,
Kathy Koh from the forum is here.
And they are with us and HHS doing a webinar on the
Affordable Care Act tomorrow at 12:30.
So as if you don't have enough to do already,
get on the webinar.
And we'll send out more information about that.
Our next speaker again does not, you know,
her reputation precedes her as well.
And we are just so lucky because as you know,
our co-chair is Arne Duncan and Dr. Kanter is the Undersecretary
for Secretary Duncan and all of the White House initiatives
are housed under her.
So she is our "mother hen" as you could say and
keeps us in line.
And we are just so lucky to always have her support and
encouragement.
Please welcome Dr. Martha Kanter.
(applause)
Dr. Martha Kanter: I love the introduction of being a mother hen.
You know, when you all -- thank you for having
me this afternoon.
It is really an honor.
Not only to celebrate this month,
but to celebrate every day as the preceding speaker,
my colleague has said.
You saw this chart I think sometime today.
And you know, when I step back and -- can you see me here?
Okay.
Is it -- When I step back and look at this chart and look at
the growth that Asian American Pacific Islander populations
are going to make over the -- between now and 4040,
It really is dramatic.
So one of the things that I do in addition to working
with Kiran and Husia
on this fantastic AAPI initiative staff is oversee
American higher education, all of the work force education,
career technical education, adult education.
Anything having to do with education beyond high school.
But, of course, all of us work with the
entire education system.
And when I look at the growth of the AAPI community and think
about you know what is that going to mean for sub
populations and their success, not only getting ready for
kindergarten, going through K-12 and going on to get degrees and
certificates and be part of America as we will -- well,
I may not see it in those years, but that as we expect and we are
going to need all the more important to I think bring the
partners together and bring the thought leadership from
all of you to help all of us craft strategy within
four to eight years.
We are looking forward to eight years.
And what can we do systematically in education
which is our job in the education part of this work.
Which is much broader.
It is immigration, it is commerce.
It is health.
It is everything.
But what can we do to prepare the next doctor who is going to
be up here, who is going to be from a community that is not
represented in higher education in the medical profession?
In any one of our many, many professions across the country.
So it really gives us pause in the Department Of Education to
try to think systematically and reach out to all of
you where ever we can.
The reality today is that a third of children are ready for
kindergarten, but two thirds are not in this country.
So you have only to look at children centers to see who
is in there and who is not in there.
And who is being cared for in their families?
And are they crawling?
Are they getting the kind of nourishment from family,
from food, from all of life's challenges that many of us
sitting in this room have had the benefit of?
And so when then we go up the pipe line between K-12,
kindergarten, and graduating from high school,
we see that on average nationally only 75 percent
of children are getting a high school diploma.
And I have a great chart which I can't give you today,
but I am sure Kiran can get that to everyone on the
level of education.
And we tie it to America's economic prosperity about how
much income that family, that child will receive over a
lifetime based on the education levels that they,
that they succeed in.
And it is a dramatic difference.
So when we look at K-12 and then you look at certain communities
across the country, whether it is urban or rural,
Whether it you cut it by ethnic group,
whether you go down into further racial definitions and ethnic
definitions, if you look at gender equity,
all of those kinds of things give us real pause because we
have such what I call an achievement gap in American
education at all levels.
And then when you sort of ramp up to the college level,
the post secondary level, only half of students in post
secondary, we have got 22 million in higher
education right now.
Only half are completing a college degree within six years.
So President Obama boldly in, in January,
you know a month after office actually it
was February 24 I should say.
He took office January 20.
On February 24, he posed a vision for the nation,
which we now called the 2020 Vision.
And for the 2020 Vision, he said,
we should really work systematically.
Secretary Duncan has called this our north star.
And attack the education disparities at all levels.
That we just can't focus on post secondary.
We just can't focus on early learning or K-12 which has
received much of the national attention given all of the
challenges and No Child Left Behind and what
has and hasn't worked.
And all of the, the I guess concerns and outcries from
faculty saying, you know, we can't teach anymore.
It is just too bureaucratic.
And the schools are, you know, all kinds of issues that you
hear about everyday.
How can we step back and say what is the role of
the federal government?
Where can we have the greatest impact in really closing
these achievement gaps?
And getting more students to reach that 2020 goal which the
President posited as we have 42 percent of Americans today who
have baccalaureate degrees.
We want to ramp that up to 60 percent.
I call it an aspirational goal.
Some people say it is impossible.
Some people say it really is possible.
What we want is a call from every group, every initiative,
every, every program, every school,
to play a role in this to really significantly
increase student success.
If I boil it down to some very simple things,
we want more children ready for kindergarten.
We want the students that are falling out of high school,
not to fall out.
And if you look at certain cities where the mayors have
partnered with health services, with education,
with the business community to say,
we are not going to allow drop-outs in our
education system.
And that is where you can give us the thought leadership about
how can we bridge these communities so the marginalized
populations especially will be put back into the education pipe
line and we won't have the achievement gap that we have had
over the last 30 to 52 several hundred years that the education
system has been in place in this country.
Now, you know, Kiran has written a great deal and all of you have
participated in a lot of the reports that have come out and I
do have some statistics here about the Asian American Pacific
Islander communities.
You know, many often being referred to as highly educated,
but often mask, masking the challenges that we have today.
For example, 29 percent of Vietnamese Americans,
38 percent of Hmong, 33 percent of Laotian,
37 percent of Cambodians don't complete high school.
So for that, if you back up to what do we need to do to get
children ready for kindergarten?
Keep students reading, writing, really having the kind of access
to educational excellence that we want for every child.
What can we do in the K-12 system?
And then certainly at the college level if they can make
it to that level, getting them through to get a degree to
get a certificate to get into the work force and
serve their communities.
When we look at the college numbers,
only 13 percent of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
25 years of age or older have at least a Bachelor's Degree.
And you know, I work a lot with the Gates Foundation.
They do a ton of research.
They say if you really don't have an advanced degree after
high school by the age of 26, it is unlikely you are going to.
So we have a huge focus.
And this is also where you can help with
the thought leadership.
I am really focusing on children from early learning, you know,
when they are born, all the way through that age 26.
It is sort of a bell whether you say 30 or 35 even.
That really is the largest population of people that we
want to focus on.
And then for college, 47 percent of Guamanians and 50 percent
of native Hawaiians, and 54 percent of Tongans,
and 58 percent of Samoans entered college but didn't get
their degree.
So I call this the low hanging fruit opportunity.
They went to college.
They got in at whatever level.
Maybe they went to a two year.
Maybe they went to a flag ship, you know
research one university.
But these are people that could be interested in coming back.
And certain states have taken leadership to look at that
population who just left college.
And try to get them back in.
They are in new programs.
There is distance learning.
There is the AANAPISI's which I will talk about in a minute.
You know, great outreach programs to not only serve the
students who are in the system today,
but really find the ones who have left.
Figure out why they have left and get them back in.
The good news, the state of Texas took a study.
It is about five years, University of Texas at Austin.
They have a higher education institute there
at Angela Valenzuela.
When they went back after and asked all of the students that
had left Texas institution, so these would be community
colleges, post secondary institutions,
University of Texas, at all, why did they leave?
They left for economic reasons, they left for
social mobility reasons.
They left for family reasons.
Someone got ill.
They needed different kinds of things.
It didn't -- they didn't leave because they were dissatisfied
with the value that they were getting from the institution.
They just simply couldn't manage this.
And, you know, President Obama has spoken very boldly.
Even tomorrow, the Vice President is going to be
hosting a College Affordability round table.
We are trying to keep college costs constrained so that
Americans see that college is in their future.
It is an opportunity we want for every American who would like to
go on after high school.
And for the ones who have left, we want to get them back into
community colleges, to the first, you know,
first two years of a four year education at all costs.
So we have a huge push to really do that.
And the Department Of Education, you know,
under Kiran's leadership, really is looking at how do we look at
disaggregated data?
And how could we explore and encourage states to really look
beyond, you know, especially in the AAPI community,
what that data disaggregation looks like so that we can really
help students who either fell out of the system,
who aren't achieving at the levels we need to go forward and
get the resources, get the tutoring centers,
get the mentoring, get the AANAPISI resources that you know
are grant funding, to really say what are the models in higher
education in the case of AANAPISI's.
These are, these are institutions that are designated
to serve large populations of Asian American
Pacific islanders.
And there is a real outreach effort to have more AANAPISI's
apply in the country.
We have 6,700 colleges and universities.
So AANAPISI's are a small but growing number.
And we are doing tremendous outreach to have more of the
AANAPISI's involved in the federal funding stream so that
they can put in place the special historic cultural
educational programs that these students will need to stay on
track to eliminate the drop out, to get them over to financial
aid, to help them take federal loans,
not private loans as a first step,
to help them apply for a Pell Grant.
So help them if they need VISA information like my colleague
just said up here.
So there is a lot that the AANAPISI's are doing.
And what we want to do is use them as really the bridge to
increase this success of Asian American Pacific Islanders in
higher education, especially in the populations I mentioned.
I talk fast as you can see because I only have ten minutes
I think up here.
Now, why the President has really spoken out on the loans,
and keeping the interest rate 3.4 percent?
This is, you are going to see this in the news going forward.
It is a hot topic.
It is one that you know really cuts to the core of our
education program.
And it really talks about you know 7.4 million students have
federally subsidized Stafford loans.
They get a 3.4 percent interest.
But for the next generation, or the next trudge of college
students coming in to the fall, that is set to expire July 1.
And so we are doing everything that we can to
work with Congress.
Hopefully, it will be a by partisan support to keep that
interest rate at 3.4 percent.
Not double.
And not effect students.
And this is how it would effect the borrowers.
We have 334,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander borrowers.
These are students that have loans.
It would mean an estimated average savings per borrower of
about thousand dollars for the populations over the
life of the loan.
It would save students in the aggregate about $360 million.
So, you know, why should these students have to pay 6.8 percent
who are going to be the first time freshman?
Where the people sitting in the class next to them have a loan
at 3, you know 3.4 percent?
It really, it does cost money.
It cost $5.5 billion to maintain that interest rate.
But President Obama and this Administration and many members
of Congress feel very strongly that this is a benefit that
every student should have going forward,
that we want to keep college affordable and want to have
the economic indicators that you can see.
They are going to earn more money.
They are going to pay back.
A student with a baccalaureate degree will earn on average of
a million dollars more than a student with only a
high school diploma.
So we need your help.
I think I will probably bring this to a close because I think
you -- I am not sure if you want to take questions or not.
I guess we don't have time for questions unfortunately.
But Kiran knows we are all at first name.last name at ed.gov.
And we all actually return our own emails and accept meetings
from you because we want to hear from you about what things
we could do -- we could be doing better.
President Obama has posed a very bold set of initiatives going
forward for all of the education sectors.
Hopefully, you have read about Race To The Top for early
learning and K-12.
He has added to that a proposal for next year to
focus on college affordability and quality.
We want to keep college affordable.
Students are paying more on credit -- on their student
loans than they are on credit card now.
That is the first time.
Students, many of them more than 50 percent in higher education,
are using credit cards or private loans when they would be
able to take a direct federal loan.
A federal loan has many more benefits than a private loan
and lower interest rates.
So we are going to continue to really push the envelope on
the federal scholarships and grants and loans.
And want your ideas on how we can make a difference at the
state level, impacting states to restore their funding
to American higher education in general.
The AANAPISI's are effected.
If you look across the country, colleges and universities have
had to cut their budgets and back fill by raising tuition on
the backs of students, because states have declined their
funding to American higher education and also K-12.
Higher education has taken somewhere between a 20 and a
25 percent reduction over the last few years.
That is unacceptable.
All you have to do is see what is happening at the University
of California Berkeley or any of the flag ship institutions to
look at what has happened.
And we have got to sort of reinvest the country that
education is an investment that pays off in the long-term.
And we see that in the economic numbers.
So we are all in this together.
I want to thank you for your leadership.
I truly mean everything I say.
Your populations are going to grow.
I want the diversity, we need that in American higher
education, and we need Samoan students and Tongan students,
and all diversities of the Asian American Pacific Islander
populations getting not only ready for kindergarten but
graduating from high school and then going on and getting a
post secondary degree or a training program.
We have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of training programs
that are after high school where we want the diversity and we
want the success for our, for our country going forward.
So I want to thank you for having me and I look forward
to further conversations.
(applause)
Gautam Raghavan: So I know you guys have had a long morning
and long day.
We are going to wrap this up very quickly.
I would like to introduce you to someone who many of you have
probably already met or seen before.
A key member of the senior team here at the White House
and one of my bosses, Michael Strautmanis.
(applause)
Michael Strautmanis: I try not to make it a practice to
follow anybody that much smarter than I am.
Martha is really doing tremendous work here.
And she meant it when she said and I think although I just only
heard her remarks, I think everybody that came up here,
I am sure, talked about how much we need you,
how much we want to engage with you.
And how much we want this to be a dialogue.
And so I hope you, I hope you really take us up on it.
What is up, Eddie?
How are you doing?
Speaker: Good, good.
Michael Strautmanis: You never stop working for us.
I am Mike Strautmanis.
I am the Deputy in Valerie Jarrett's Outreach Operation
as I like to call it.
It includes the Office Of Public Engagement with all of these
fine people, like Gautam work and the Office of
Intergovernmental Affairs.
It is a terrific job because we get to, I think,
put the President's philosophy about governing into practice.
Which is that change, good ideas,
they come not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
And so we get a chance to go out and get that,
get those ideas and gauge people,
and get out from behind these black gates and get
out to see you.
And sometimes ask you to conquer the stairs and come in
here and sit down with us.
So I am here basically to wrap this up with
the following message.
The first is that we really need your help.
It is one of the main reasons why we brought you here.
You all are leaders in your communities.
I am sure that everybody asks you every single day why did
the President do that?
Why isn't the White House doing this?
And we wanted to give you our own perspective on what we
are doing and what our priorities are.
But we need you to get out and deliver the message.
Tell people what you thought about today.
Good, bad, or indifferent or even ugly.
Because I think the fact that you were here,
that we had these administration officials engage with you is
something that would be a surprise to a lot
of folks back home.
Who may have been, who may have grown a little cynical possibly
over the years about the federal government,
their willingness to engage with community leaders
and with citizens.
And so just the fact that you were here I think
is really important.
So your newsletters, your barber shop and the beauty salon,
and your places of worship, wherever it is,
your family dinner table, you can blog about it,
you can tweet about it.
Letting folks know that this happened is so important.
So that is, that is the first thing I
would like to ask of you.
The second thing is where we need your help is we still have
a lot of work to do.
This President gave Congress a to do list earlier this week and
his message was, that there is, this election season is not an
excuse for, for this town to be idle on the priorities,
the simple bipartisan common sense things that we can do to
continue to propel this economy forward and to create jobs and
to do the right thing.
You heard about the student loans.
There are other simple things that this Congress needs to do
to pull this forward.
We need your help delivering that message on this to do list.
Don't let this election season be an excuse for inaction.
And then finally, we need you to hold us accountable on this deal
that we want this to be a dialogue.
So hopefully, you came out here with a lot of email addresses
and phone numbers.
Gautam doesn't sleep from what I can tell because I get emails
from him at three in the morning and then I see him at 7 in the
morning, looking very well put together.
So I assume he does not sleep.
So you can email him and email us and call us any time.
And we will get back to you.
Really test us on whether or not this dialogue is real.
And then finally, as you get those ideas,
those priorities from your communities,
from the people that you work with every single day,
get them to us.
We need to hear them.
We need -- if they are coming from you,
then we take them very seriously.
So I will ask you to test us and hold us
accountable on that as well.
So with that, thank you so much for joining us today.
I really appreciate the briefing.
We are honored that you took the time to be with us.
Take care and we will see you next time around.
Bye.
(applause)