CAPAC Applauds Biden Actions to Combat Anti-Asian Xenophobia

Jan 26, 2021 Issues: Civil Rights, Healthcare, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Task Force

Washington, D.C. — Today, President Joe Biden took executive action to renew the federal government’s commitment to promote racial equity, including signing a Presidential Memorandum to condemn and combat racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander in the United States. The memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to issue guidance on best practices regarding cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community as part of its COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to partner with the AAPI community to prevent anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) have been vocal proponents of the need to address anti-Asian bigotry and to ensure that AAPIs are included in our government’s COVID-19 response efforts. CAPAC Members issued the following statements:

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“I commend President Biden for taking bold action to prioritize a whole of government response to advancing racial equity and justice. The coronavirus pandemic exposed the deep inequalities in our healthcare system that have led AAPIs – especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – to experience some of the highest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates out of any racial group. For many AAPIs, these health disparities have been exacerbated due to language and cultural barriers that have impeded access to lifesaving COVID-19 resources and care. On top of this, since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been terrified by the alarming rise in anti-Asian bigotry and hate. In fact, long before stay at home orders were put in place, Asian-owned restaurants and businesses were among the very first to lose customers due to misinformation and xenophobia associating Asian Americans with the virus. As the pandemic surged across the nation, Asian Americans increasingly became the targets of violent hate crimes and incidents, with over 3,000 anti-Asian incidents reported last year alone. Unfortunately, this bigotry was exacerbated by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans who repeatedly used racial slurs like ‘China virus’ and ‘Kung flu’ to refer to COVID-19 even though experts from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI warned that it could lead to an increase in anti-Asian stigma and violence.

“That’s why CAPAC has made it a top priority to combat this xenophobia and discrimination, including through the passage of Rep. Grace Meng’s congressional resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiments related to COVID-19. We are elated that we now have a President who shares our desire to address anti-Asian xenophobia, rather than stoke it. While we know there is much more work to be done in the weeks and months ahead, today’s actions are a great first step to addressing systemic racism and inequality in our nation. I am incredibly grateful to President Biden for prioritizing these executive actions and look forward to working with him to build upon these crucial efforts to advance equity and opportunity for all.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), CAPAC First Vice Chair:

“I applaud President Biden for joining me and the Asian American community in standing against the disgusting racism that has been directed against Asian Americans. I recently raised the issue of anti-Asian bigotry with President Biden and I thank him for swiftly moving forward to condemn and combat it. The President’s actions are needed and welcome, and the directives in his presidential memorandum will go a long way towards protecting Asian Americans who for the past year have been forced to endure racial inequities due to the coronavirus crisis. It is critical to see the leader of our nation address this xenophobia and prejudice, and I am proud that he is doing so by including various legislation that I have also championed relating to the racial inequities and health disparities. Since early last year, even before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in my state of New York, I have repeatedly advised the public and other elected officials to not blame the Asian American community for the spread of COVID-19. I fought tirelessly for months to pass my resolution. I also spoke out relentlessly and forcefully against the discrimination and violence we have seen across the country, bringing these concerns to the federal level, and denouncing in particular the rhetoric spewed by Donald Trump, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and others who used terms such as ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan Virus’ and ‘Kung Flu’ that have further stoked and fueled attacks and acts of hate. I was proud to lead this effort with our now-Vice President Kamala Harris. I also saw the immediate need, and thereby, introduced multiple legislation addressing the increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans, plus the inequities of language access and cultural sensitivities. After all, no one should be denied access to COVID-19 response and care because of their ethnicity or language proficiency.

“I called on President Biden to use his executive authorities to address these injustices. I am pleased that my actions and initiatives helped lead to this memorandum, especially within the first full week of President Biden taking office. Unlike the previous administration, President Biden understands the needs and concerns of the Asian American community. In signing his memorandum, the President said loud and clear that this intolerance against Asian Americans has no place anywhere in our country, and it underscores his commitment to lifting up and empowering those of Asian descent and tackling issues that have disproportionally impacted the Asian American community, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. I look forward to continuing to work with President Biden to combat the increase in anti-Asian sentiment, and ensure that the crucial initiatives he laid out today are implemented, and benefit the Asian American community during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Second Vice Chair:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an alarming uptick in anti-Asian bigotry and xenophobia, made worse and promulgated by Trump’s racist rhetoric. Throughout the pandemic, the AAPI community has suffered increased discrimination, physical and verbal attacks, and their homes and businesses have been targets of hate. It is essential for the federal government to respond to and address this increased discrimination and xenophobia against the AAPI community. I’m grateful that President Biden is taking the necessary steps to help our community heal and recover by signing a presidential memorandum issuing guidance regarding cultural competency toward the AAPI community and directing DOJ to prevent harassment against AAPIs. Together, we will work to improve the lives and well-being of members of our diverse AAPI community, put policies in place that can help us combat hate and discrimination, and promote racial equity.”

Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33), CAPAC Whip:

“I applaud President Joe Biden and his administration’s efforts to address xenophobia against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community with today’s racial equity rollout. Since the start of COVID-19, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus has been working to address the rise in hate crimes, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans who have been wrongly blamed for spreading the virus. We look forward to working with President Biden to fight back against racism and xenophobia.”