Thursday, January 10, 2019

A record of 20 Asian federal legislators swearing in

CAPAC Chairwoman Chu Remarks at Inaugural CAPAC Swearing-In Ceremony for the 116th Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On January 8, 2019, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) held an inaugural swearing-in ceremony for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Members of the 116thCongress, which includes a record 20 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Members of Congress. Below is a transcript of CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu’s remarks:

“Thank you all so much for coming to this inaugural swearing-in ceremony. I have looked for many years at the swearing-in ceremony for the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and always dreamed of having a similar ceremony for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. And now, thanks to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and their hard work, this is finally a reality. Can we thank Madalene Mielke and her entire team for making this such a success? And to be sworn in by Judge Sri Srinivasan is especially a huge honor. In fact, we in CAPAC advocated for his judicial nomination, and he went on to become the first Asian American appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Let’s give him another round of applause.

“This incredible event, the first of its kind in history, comes at a very special time for both CAPAC and APAICS as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of both of our organizations by Secretary Norman Mineta in 1994. It also comes at a turning point in history with the most diverse Congress ever elected! We had the only woman Speaker of the United States – the incredible Nancy Pelosi – sworn in. And this is a historic moment for the Asian Pacific Islander community because now we have the highest number of Asian Pacific Islanders in Congress. We have 20 Members of Congress that are AAPI.

“In the Senate, we have three Asian Pacific Islander women – Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, and Kamala Harris. And in the House, we have made some great strides in leadership positions. Just recently, one of our members was elected as Co-Chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Congressmember Ted Lieu from California.

“We are now the chairs of some very important committees. How about the Chair of the Committee on Education and Labor: Congressmember Bobby Scott from Virginia. And the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee is our very own Congressmember Mark Takano from California. We also have Asian Pacific Islander Members who are chairing prominent caucuses in Congress. She just got elected as Co-Chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressmember Pramila Jayapal from Washington. And doing double duty, Co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Mark Takano from California. 

“I’m so excited because we also have new Asian Pacific Islander Members –  the ones who brought us to this historic high of 20 – and I am in awe of the experience they bring. This young man is the son of Korean American immigrant parents, and after nearly 20 years of not having any Korean American in Congress, he got elected: Andy Kim of New Jersey! This incredible man has a Filipino mother and a Chinese American father, and he pulled off one of the most astonishing wins in California: TJ Cox from California. This incredible delegate from Guam is the youngest person to ever represent Guam in Congress and has an incredible family that’s very involved in politics there. We know he will be a strong voice for the AAPI community and Pacific Island territories: Michael San Nicolas.

“I am proud that we have so many members of CAPAC. They have large AAPI populations in their districts and also happen to be great leaders in Congress. One of them is just so special because she has been an Executive Board member for the longest time, but now she’s also a member of House leadership as a Co-Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee: Congressmember Barbara Lee from California!

“When CAPAC was first founded 25 years ago, there were only a handful of AAPI Members of Congress. In fact, Norman Mineta often jokes that there were so few of them that they could hold their caucus meetings in a phone booth. Well today, not only do we have 20 AAPI Members of Congress, we have our Associate Members. And with both of them together, we have over 60 Members in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“These historic achievements are what we are here to celebrate tonight. We’ve had so many trailblazers. Patsy Mink changed history by championing Title IX, which promotes equal opportunity and prohibits sex discrimination in education. Bob Matsui, Spark Matsunaga, Norm Mineta, and Daniel Inouye passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations to Japanese Americans who were wrongfully incarcerated during World War II. Robert Underwood championed the creation of the AANAPISI Program to increase opportunities for AAPIs in higher education. These individuals used their power to create a better, more inclusive America than the one they grew up in. They showed so much courage and refused to let hate and injustice triumph over progress. And it’s that powerful history of strength and resilience that we must remember today. 

“Because today, we have a President who cares more about sowing division and fueling hate than bringing our country together. Who is intent on prolonging a wasteful government shutdown. Who wants to ban all Muslims, gut our family immigration system, and deport undocumented youth who were brought to this country as children. And that’s why CAPAC has been at the forefront of fighting to keep immigrant families together; speaking out against the Muslim ban; helping to ensure that minority-owned businesses have access to capital; and working to address health and educational disparities in our communities.

“Because of CAPAC, we have been able to award Japanese American, Filipino American, and Chinse American World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian honor. Because of CAPAC, we have been able to fight to preserve our family-based immigration system and push back against ugly attempts to label it as ‘chain migration.’ Because of CAPAC, we have been able to hold both corporate America and Hollywood accountable in prioritizing greater diversity and inclusion efforts. And because of CAPAC, we have been able to push for greater data disaggregation and language access for our diverse communities.

“As we celebrate the tremendous growth of our AAPI representation in Congress and the progress we have made, let us also recommit ourselves to tackling the challenges ahead and bridging the current state of division in our country.

“CAPAC in the 116th Congress will fight to eradicate hate and continue to speak out against injustice wherever it occurs. We will not tolerate the dehumanization of immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color. Instead of building walls, we will build bridges and we will make sure we do not lose ground on the hard-fought progress we have made. 

“You can count on us to be a strong voice for the AAPI community in Congress and in this country as we work together to build a brighter future for all Americans. Thank you all very much!”

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