Biden Appoints New AAPI Liaison

Posted by on May 4, 2021 in Government, United States

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month–a time to honor and celebrate the achievements, accomplishments, and contributions of the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States. As of the 2017 Census, 22.2 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders were living in the U.S. On April 14, the White House announced the new role of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) senior liaison. Here, btw takes a closer look at the new position, as well as the person appointed by President Biden to fill it: Erika Moritsugu.

Demanding the Change

The creation of the new position can largely be attributed to the work of two Democratic senators–Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. These senators were frustrated about the lack of AAPI representation in the cabinet and in other important senior positions in the federal government. Duckworth and Hirono threatened to vote no on any non-diverse cabinet nominees until their concerns were addressed. Soon after the Biden administration agreed to add the new position of AAPI liaison. Both senators were pleased with the decision and with Biden’s appointment of Moritsugu to the role.

Who is Erika Moritsugu?

Erika Moritsugu has an impressive resume. She has served as assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. She was also vice president at the National Partnership for Women and Families; and was Senator Duckworth’s general counsel.

What Does the AAPI Liaison Do?

As with any other brand-new position, the role is being defined. The hope is that the new liaison will allow for better communication between the AAPI community and the Biden administration. It is not yet clear if the new liaison’s primary role will be to conduct outreach to the AAPI community or if she will be directly involved in policymaking. Critical issues that the AAPI community hopes will be addressed include civil rights, education, housing, and jobs.

Other Areas of AAPI Improvement

While the AAPI community has always faced racial discrimination in the United States, the frequency and violence of attacks against this group has risen sharply because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Appointing a new AAPI liaison is an important step. But the White House has undertaken several other initiatives as well. These include:

  • increasing funding for AAPI survivors of sexual assault
  • establishing a task force to look at COVID-related prejudice towards the AAPI community
  • a Justice Department initiative to investigate anti-Asian violence
  • launching federal programs to celebrate the contributions of the AAPI community, and
  • funding National Science Foundation research on discrimination.
What Do You Think? Of all of the White House initiatives described above, which one do you think will be most effective at combating anti-AAPI discrimination and violence? Explain.