President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday renewing a White House initiative charged with advancing “equity, justice, and opportunity” for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, including coordinating a “comprehensive” federal response to the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination.
“… For far too long, systemic barriers to equity, justice, and opportunity have put the American dream out of reach for many AA and NHPI communities, and racism, nativism, and xenophobia against AA and NHPI communities continues to threaten safety and dignity of AA and NHPI families,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Friday.
Over the last year, the Asian American community has seen a reported surge in physical and verbal assaults and discrimination while erroneously being blamed for the Covid-19 pandemic. The new initiative builds on a commitment from Biden to advance racial equity and a memorandum signed early in his presidency stating that his administration’s policy will be to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias – specifically amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative, led out of the Department of Health and Human Services, aims to ensure the federal government is mitigating Covid-related anti-Asian bias, advancing health equity for AA and NHPI communities, and that they “equitably recover” from the dual crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the anti-Asian attacks.
The White House said the initiative will also address the “systemic lack of disaggregated data” on the AA and NHPI communities in federal statistical systems, as it noted how these communities together are the “fastest growing ethnic group” in the US.
The initiative will also work to expand language access and language assistance programs for AA and NHPI individuals across federal programs – which has been a barrier to accessing health care, career mobility and voting, among other things. The initiative will also help empower AA and NHPI communities to be more civically engaged, as they emerge as a pivotal voting bloc and are concerned new voting restrictions could undermine their gains.
Krystal Ka’ai, who is a native Hawaiian, will lead the White House initiative. Ka’ai comes to her new role from Capitol Hill, where she served as the executive director of the bicameral Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus since 2013.
The executive order Biden will sign Friday also renews the presidential advisory commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
Last week, the President signed into law a bill intended to counter the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes by creating a new Justice Department position to expedite review of potential Covid-19-related hate crimes and incidents.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Rachel Janfaza contributed to this report.