President Obama meets with CAPAC members, including (from left) Reps. Mike Honda, Judy Chu, Madeleine Bordallo, Mark Takano and Tammy Duckworth. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON — President Obama met with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) at the White House on July 23 to discuss a range of important issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

The White House released the following readout of the meeting:

“The President thanked CAPAC for their work to expand the middle class within AAPI communities and among all Americans, and said that he looks forward to continuing to work with them.

“The President stressed that the Administration continues to urge the House to take action to pass common-sense immigration reform that would secure our borders, crack down on illegal employment, offer a path to earned citizenship for undocumented persons, and modernize our legal immigration system so that it once again addresses our needs and reflects our values as a nation. 

“He thanked CAPAC for their ongoing efforts on this important issue and both sides agreed on the need to pass immigration reform now to help grow the economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit. 

“The President urged CAPAC to continue to reach out to their colleagues in the House to find consensus and complete work on this important issue at the earliest possible opportunity. In the coming weeks, members of the Cabinet and senior administration officials will stress the economic need for common-sense immigration reform, including highlighting the economic benefits of reform and the high costs of inaction.

“The President also said that he was proud of his efforts to make the Executive Branch and the federal judiciary more diverse. CAPAC thanked the President for more than doubling the number of AAPI federal judges currently serving. The President reiterated his commitment to ensuring that his administration is composed of highly qualified public servants who reflect the diversity of America. 

“CAPAC also thanked the President for the ongoing work of the White House Initiative on AAPIs to better connect AAPI communities to the federal government.

“The President also thanked CAPAC for their strong support in passing the Affordable Care Act and discussed the robust ongoing efforts to successfully implement the law.  Starting in 2014 nearly 2 million uninsured AAPIs will have new opportunities for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. And, increased funding to community health centers is enabling more AAPIs to receive culturally and linguistically appropriate and accessible care. 

“The President and CAPAC pledged to work together to ensure that all qualified individuals are able to sign up for the Health Insurance Marketplace.”

Also attending the meeting were Office of Legislative Affairs Director Miguel Rodriguez, Director of Presidential Personnel Jonathan McBride, and Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs Kiran Ahuja.

CAPAC members issued the following statements:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “Today’s meeting was very productive, and helped to reaffirm that we have both a partner and champion in President Obama. This meeting comes at a pivotal time for immigration reform, and I appreciate the President’s receptiveness and willingness to address a number of concerns critical to the Asian Pacific American community, from immigration reform and presidential appointments to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. CAPAC is grateful to the President for all that he has done, and we look forward to continue working with him to ensure that our government represents the interests of all Americans.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “I was pleased to have this opportunity to speak with President Obama about critical issues that are facing Hawaii, our country and Asian American and Pacific Islander community. During our group’s discussion, I asked the President to support Native Hawaiians, who are often overlooked when we talk about the AAPI community. The President committed to continue working closely with me and the rest of our Hawaii delegation on issues important to Native Hawaiians. He also committed to continue pushing for immigration reform – a mobilizing issue for the AAPI community.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): “During the meeting, President Obama showed his clear commitment to prioritizing key issues that are important to Hawaii and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including passing comprehensive immigration reform in the House, federal action to ensure that Native Hawaiians have a government to government relationship, and diversity in the President’s Cabinet. Today’s meeting marked an important step in a partnership between the President and Congress when advancing measures that will benefit Hawaii. I will continue to work with my CAPAC colleagues and the delegation to ensure that the people of Hawaii are heard in Washington, D.C.”

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), CAPAC vice chair: “I appreciated the opportunity to meet with President Obama to personally address the importance of the Omnibus Territories Act. I thanked the President for his leadership on issues important to our Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities, and I requested the Administration’s support for this important bill. Among its many provisions, the bill will help to strengthen economies in the territories and promote energy efficiency. This meeting was an important step forward in addressing some of our most pressing concerns and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to advance CAPAC’s priorities in this Congress.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus and Immigration Task Force co-chair: “President Obama has always been a leader for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and I greatly appreciate his willingness to hear our concerns on a large number of important issues facing us today.  He understands the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform, and I am confident that the diversity of the immigrant experience – particularly family reunification – will be respected when a bill is signed into law. ”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC whip: “Today’s meeting with President Obama further solidifies his commitment to the AAPI community and sends a clear message that his Administration is willing to continue to address the issues facing Asian Americans. While several key topics dominated the conversation, the President heard many of our concerns and understood our priorities. I thank the President for his time and his unwavering support, and look forward to continuing to work with his Administration on issues that matter most to Asian Americans.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove): “I appreciated President Obama meeting with me and my colleagues … We were able to discuss some of my concerns about the Affordable Care Act and making sure that those who need health care can access it – including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who may have limited English-speaking skills. As a doctor and co-chair of the CAPAC Health Care Task Force, I believe it’s crucial to make sure all Americans can get the health care they need. That also means we need to address the skyrocketing cost of health care to make it more affordable and sustainable.”

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “I appreciated President Obama’s time and consideration of CAPAC’s and the AAPI community’s priorities in our meeting earlier today. During today’s discussion, I spoke about the importance of the Administration and Congress’ continued work on issues of importance to the AAPI community, including comprehensive immigration reform. With the President’s support of a practical, fair and humane proposal, we will be able to advance the future success of AAPIs and our country.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “In our meeting with President Obama today, I appreciated the opportunity to highlight the concerns of Native Hawaiians, and critical issues facing our diverse communities in Hawaii. The President has been a strong ally of Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the country, and I’m encouraged by the dialogue we had today about the need for passing immigration legislation that includes family reunification measures. I look forward to continuing to work with the President and my CAPAC colleagues on issues like comprehensive immigration reform, Native Hawaiian recognition, and the reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.”

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “As a keiki o ka aina, President Obama understands the importance of Native Hawaiian recognition and what it means to our host culture. We know he will seriously consider our request to use his executive branch authority to achieve this elusive goal. Federal recognition of the Native Hawaiians right to self-governance is long overdue. The Congress of the United States has created and continues to fund programs that assist Native Hawaiians with housing, health care, and education, yet a government-to-government relationship does not exist. I am working with my colleagues to carry on the work of the many legislators, activists and concerned citizens who have fought long and hard to solidify the trust relationship with Native Hawaiians. I would like to say mahalo to the President for taking the time to meet with us today.”

Rep. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), CAPAC Immigration Task Force co-chair: “Today’s meeting was a critical step in voicing the concerns of the AAPI community, especially as Congress considers critical issues affecting our community, such as immigration reform. As our nation’s first-ever ‘Pacific President,’ President Obama has demonstrated consistent understanding of the needs of AAPIs. Today’s meeting only reinforced his support for our community. I am hopeful that as President Obama considers key administrative decisions affecting our nation, this meeting will help inform him of how best to serve Asian Pacific Americans throughout the country.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), CAPAC Economic Development Task Force chair: “I thank the President for meeting with us and for listening to the concerns we have about immigration reform and other critical issues facing the AAPI community. He was very receptive to the issues we raised, and I look forward to working with him further on these important topics.”

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  1. What about the Native Hawaiians who consider geothermal drilling into Pele sacrilegious, especially if they frack (enhanced geothermal)? Their beliefs are being ignored in their own homeland.