Increase local AAPI voices and Get Engaged

[November 3, 2015 – North Miami, Florida] In partnership with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) – Southern Region, the Asian American Federation of Florida (AAFF) hosted the first WHIAAPI Roundtable on Saturday, October 24 at the NANAY Community Center in North Miami.

The purpose of the WHIAAPI Roundtable is to bridge the gap between the AAPI community and the federal government so the local AAPI community would have opportunities to meet various federal agencies for better understanding of federal policies and services as well as to increase AAPI’s participation.

Over 50 community leaders and members attended the first WHIAAPI Roundtable representing the Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Nepali, Thai, and Vietnamese communities.

White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI)Sanjita Pradhan – President’s Advisory Board on AAPI – from Iowa, Dave Hung – Regional Advisor of WHIAAPI – from Kansas, and Ron Stephens – Executive Director of Atlanta Federal Executive Board – from Georgia, led a team of federal agencies directors and staff: US Citizenship & Immigration Services, US Equal employment Opportunity Commission, US Department of Housing & Urban Development, US Small Business Administration, US Social Security Administration, US Health & Human Services, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Wage & Hour Division of US Department of Labor, US Department of Veterans Affairs and E3! Ambassador of White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.

Winnie Tang, President of Asian American Federation of Florida, worked with WHIAAPI – Southern Regional Committee to organize this Roundtable. She stated that AAFF was established 31 years ago to work with AAPI community to empower our diverse voices through civic engagement, cultural events and community education forums. President Obama signed the Executive Order to enact the WHIAAPI six years ago. Each year, special events and programs take place in Washington DC to increase AAPI’s participation.

White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI)White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI)The purpose of the Roundtable is to establish a partnership with local government through dialogue so as to take appropriate action on needs and concerns. Once the partnership is built, we can work together to take care of issues such as the Affordable Care Act. Henceforth, we will continue to organize more community roundtables and trainings.

“Through this Roundtable, we have established a partnership with various federal agencies,” said Winnie Tang. “We hope more AAPIs will actively participation so federal agencies will pay more attention to the AAPI community to provide more services and resources.

“Our agency oversees over 120 federal agencies with over 47,000 employees providing services to 11 states of the Southern Region,” stated Ron Stephens, Executive Director of Atlanta Federal Executive Board. “We would like to participate in this kind of community roundtable to engage local community to learn and understand more about federal services.”

Every immigrant arriving at this diversified country would like to make his/her “American Dream” come true and become a contributing member of society. The most important issue is to understand the structure of the American society, to build relationships of people to people, people to community, and people to government to effectively use the services and resources provided by the government.

Topics discussed included medical needs, small business, Affordable Care Act enrollment, Medicare/Medicaid, immigration, etc. The issue that stood out was language access. As a “Limited English Proficiency (LEP)” community, AAPIs encounter barriers to access various services. “It is Important for us to file reports for inadequate services that we received from Federal agencies to obtain statistical data to demonstrate the need,’ said Dave Hung. “It would help WHIAAPI understand local community’s needs and work closely with federal agencies for improve their services to AAPI community accordingly.”

To fully participate in civic engagement would be a challenge for the AAPI community because AAPIs are over 60% foreign-born. “On November 14, AAFF will partner with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida to host a Citizenship Workshop to assist eligible Legal Permanent Residents to file N-400 Naturalization applications at NANAY Community Center,” states Evelyn Bruce, President of NANAY. “We would like to encourage the AAPI community to get ready and get engaged for the betterment of our community.”

In May 2015, Sanjita Pradhan was confirmed as a board member of the President’s Advisory Board on AAPI. “Prior to the appointment, I was just like anyone in the room – a local community member,” said Ms. Pradhan. “In these few short months, I have learnt how important the WHIAAPI is and its work with AAPIs across the country to assist and urge federal agencies to provide good services to the AAPI community.” In closing, Ms. Pradhan would like to see more AAPIs involvement so the AAPI community will no longer be a silent community.

For more information about AAFF or the 11/14 Citizenship Workshop, please contact Winnie Tang at 305/753-8791 or Evelyn Bruce at 305-991-5550.