President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address touched on many issues at the core of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including childcare, education, voting rights, income disparities, immigration, discrimination, and more. Leaders from the AAPI community react to what they heard, and what they wanted to hear but didn't, in last night's address.
Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles
"We absolutely agree with the President that rising income inequality is one of our greatest challenges as a nation, and that education is one of the keys to stemming that inequality. We applaud the President's great first step forward in proposing free community college, but we need to improve access to as well as the quality and affordability of education across the board, from childhood through higher education. And we must ensure that the most disadvantaged communities are not left behind. Only through truly accessible and equitable education opportunity for all Americans will we really transform economic opportunity for all Americans."
Jasjit Singh, Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
"Tonight, the President of the United States of American outlined proposals and addressed issues that are of utmost importance to Sikh Americans and their neighbors, including the cost of childcare and higher education and the need to maintain a competitive economy and ensure voting rights. However, for our community and others, President Barack Obama’s reflection on the last fifteen years was a stark reminder of the daily, lived experiences of Sikh Americans in a post-9/11 era. The President’s remarks on the need to reject offensive stereotypes and condemn the persecution of religious minorities are important. Yet until the DOJ no longer allows the TSA to profile based on religion or country of origin, until a Sikh child is not bullied in school for wearing a patka, and until all Sikhs can serve in their local police forces in all 50 states with their articles of faith intact, this vision will not be achieved."
Gregory Cendana, Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
“We join President Obama’s call to address the growing income inequality in this country and support many of the policies he outlined during the State of the Union—raising wages, increasing access to higher education and strengthening workers’ voices on the job. APALA agrees there is also a need to reform America’s criminal justice system so it protects all Americans and shows that black lives matter, too. We urge our elected officials to oppose fast-tracked trade deals that will have a negative impact on our ability to create an economy that truly works for all. Many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, including APALA members, look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to ensure we move forward policies that benefit all of our communities."
Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
“President Obama reminded us tonight that true equality begins with providing access to opportunity. As a new American community, providing for our children and increasing their educational opportunities is extremely important. There are large disparities between Asian American ethnic groups, and many of our communities -- similar to Latinos and African Americans -- struggle to make ends meet, find affordable housing and access quality education and employment. The president’s vision is one that will help our families achieve the American dream.”
Mini Timmaraju, National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
“We are encouraged by President Obama’s commitment to grow the middle class, provide equal pay and stand for immigrant families. Tonight, the President also emphasized his plan for quality and affordable education including free community college. These key issues significantly affect the lives of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, communities that experienced one of the fastest growing poverty rates in the wake of the recession.
NCAPA applauds the President’s call to reform the criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all Americans. Additionally, while we applaud steps toward relief for the estimated 1.3 million undocumented immigrants of Asian descent, NCAPA urges leaders to also keep families in mind when finding solutions to our broken immigration system. NCAPA is also heartened that the President pushed for protections for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and condemned offensive stereotypes of Muslims and Muslim Americans in his speech.”
Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together
"As an organization advocating for the rights of immigrants and communities of color, SAALT supports the President's call to continue the fight to improve voting rights protections on this 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
SAALT does wish that the President had addressed the effects of racial profiling on Arab, Muslim, South Asian, Black, and Latino communities. The issue of racial profiling is especially critical for our communities. The FBI’s recent hate crimes report showed that reports of anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2013 were at the highest since 2001, which is particularly concerning to SAALT given the recent release of the Department of Justice flawed update of the profiling guidance that retained and indeed strengthened exemptions for federal and local law enforcement under the guise of national and border security concerns. Our communities deserve better."