BREAKING: Most of President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Just Resigned in Protest

February 16, 2017
US Circuit Court Judge Sri Srinivasan swears in new and returning commissioners of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in May 2014. (Photo credit: NBC News / Edmund Chiang)

In a joint letter delivered to the president yesterday (and shared to NBC News Asian America), 10 out of the remaining 14 members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) courageously resigned in protest of President Trump’s recent spate of laws targeting Muslims, immigrants, refugees and other people of colour. The ten commissioners join six additional commissioners who resigned their posts on January 20th when President Trump was first inaugurated.

That means that due to his hateful and intolerant policies, President Trump has in the first three weeks of his presidency just lost 80% of his Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs was created by the Clinton administration to:

…provide advice to the President, through the Secretary, on: (a) the development, monitoring, and coordination of Federal efforts to improve the quality of life of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through increased participation in Federal programs where such persons may be underserved and the collection of data related to Asian American and Pacific Islander populations and sub-populations; (b) ways to increase public-sector, private-sector, and community involvement in improving the health and well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; and (c) ways to foster research and data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including research and data on public health.

That same executive order also first established the White House Initiative on AAPIs, and both efforts were renewed by the Obama administration. During the Obama years, WHIAAPI enabled historic access for AAPIs to the White House, enabling several fruitful collaborations between the AAPI community and the federal government in order to create better services for the AAPI community on key topics such as anti-bullying initiatives, healthcare, and disaggregated data collection.

With Trump’s inauguration, however, the Commission feared a dissolution of that relationship. On January 13th, the Commission reportedly sent a letter to President-Elect Trump’s team requesting a meeting to discuss issues affecting the AAPI community, but received no response prompting six commissioners to resign in January.

Within the first month of Trump’s presidency, the White House appeared to be taking a more hostile stance towards immigrant communities and other communities of colour. Citing these positions, ten of the fourteen remaining commissioners — including the Advisory Commission’s two co-chairs — tendered their resignation, saying:

[W]e can no longer serve a president whose policies aim to create outcomes that are diametrically opposite to our principles, goals, and charge.

Speaking to NBC News, actor Maulik Pancholy — who was sworn-in as a commissioner in 2014 and who was among those who resigned yesterday — said:

“The choice to stay on under the new administration was with the hopes that I would have a seat at the table to be able to bring up the issues that are important to our community based on the work that’s happened over many years under this commission… It became very clear to me in the last month and a half that that voice at the table wasn’t going to be able to be effective inside the administration the way that I hoped it would be.”

The resigning commissioners’ tenures were set to expire at the end of September 2017. The four commissioners who elected to remain with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs under Trump are Ravi Chaudhary, Billy Dec, Bill Imada, and Lorna May Ho Randlett.

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