Ignored by Trump: Why Are We Still Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

 Ignored by Trump: Why Are We Still Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

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Chris Lu, former Deputy Secretary of Labor under President Barack Obama, released a scathing criticism of the Trump administration on May 30, the end of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Of the 22 appointments that have received Senate confirmation, two are of Asian American descent, including Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, and Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. However, Lu said, on issues with substantive impact on the AAPI community, such as immigration, healthcare, and federal budget allocation, the administration has failed to address these challenges.

Asian American immigrants have had mixed feelings towards this year’s AAPI Heritage Month. Lu, writing for the Huffington Post, contributed a piece titled “What President Trump Should Know About the Asian American Community”. It echoes the complaints by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) of being sidelined by the Trump administration.

Judy Chu, chair of CAPAC, has written to Trump many times to seek a face-to-face discussion on the challenges faced by the AAPI community. In March, Trump met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but completely ignored the Asian American Caucus. Chu has stated that it is rare for a new president to have not met with minority congressional leaders for so long after taking office.

According to Chu, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, with a population of over 20 million. Despite the persistence of the model minority image, both Chu and Lu stress that many pressing needs of the community are still being ignored. For example, during the height of the recession, the rate of Asian American home ownership fell the most among all groups. During that time, 38% of Asian Americans lived under the poverty line. AAPI unemployment rates have been the highest among all groups since before the recession. Over half of all Hepatitis-B patients in the United States are of AAPI descent.

Under Trump, the sixteen members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on AAPI resigned en masse. The commission is now an empty shell, with no new members appointed.

Lu stated in his article that a recent event hosted by Vice President Mike Pence celebrating AAPI Heritage Month was nothing more than a show, ignoring the challenges faced by the community. Five days before Lu’s article was published, the Department of Transportation also held an AAPI Heritage Month celebration. The only Asian American cabinet member, Elaine Chao, and other Asian American guests, expressed platitudes similar to those at Pence’s event.

The long struggles of the Asian American community, and the ability of many to achieve prosperity and success in the face of hardship, is commendable. The achievements of people such as Elaine Chao and Julia Chang Bloche, former US Ambassador to Nepal, should be recognized and lauded. However, this does not mean that all Asian Americans are wealthy or successful. Neither can this conceal the challenges the community continues to face.