Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke today at the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Summit. This is the fourth annual AAPI Summit, hosted by Senate and House Democrats to discuss issues of importance to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you all for coming to Washington and for being here this morning. I appreciate how important the contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are to each of your organizations, and I want to let you know that the United States Senate values your contributions just as highly. Though we celebrate them officially at events like this one, they do not go unnoticed the rest of the year.
“I also want to recognize two Nevadans here today: Rozita Lee, of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations; and Jose Melendrez, of UNLV’s Diversity and Inclusion program. Thank you both for your leadership.
“The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. At every turn in our history, we have become stronger and closer by recognizing the richness in each of our many cultures.
“My state of Nevada is home to the third-highest Pacific Islander population in the country, and the sixth-highest Asian-American population.
“Nevada, like America, is stronger for its diversity – not only from the greater Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, but also the great diversity within it. Each year, more and more Nevadans can trace their roots back to the Philippines, China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, India and many other Asian and Pacific nations.
“As these communities grow, they increasingly include second-generation Americans for whom – as the title of my state’s official song says – ‘Home Means Nevada,’ but who never forget their heritage.
“With each new generation comes the promise of stronger, more vibrant communities – and the same is true for our country as a whole.
“It is fitting that the theme of today’s summit focuses on restoring our economy and helping the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities recover and prosper.
“It is fitting because just as the values of your communities are the values of all Americans, getting our economy back on track is in our common interest.
“That is why the Senate this year has worked hard to help make life better and more affordable for families of every background.
“We have committed ourselves this year to honoring the past, securing the present and strengthening the future promise of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
“First, Congress and the President honored our heroes by finally giving Filipino troops the well-deserved and long-overdue pensions they earned in World War II.
“These brave and patriotic troops served under the American flag when the Philippines were a commonwealth of this country.
“They stood with us, they fought with us, they helped us win the greatest war in history – and with the leadership of Senator Dan Inouye and the signature of President Obama, they at long last have received the recognition they deserve.
“Second, we are ensuring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can succeed even as our economy weathers unprecedented challenges and crises. As all Americans struggle with strained job and housing markets, we know that minority families and minority-owned businesses are hit the hardest.
“Our economic recovery plan and the President’s budget have made important progress toward creating and saving millions of jobs; cutting taxes for the middle class; and making critical investments in health care, renewable energy and education – but there is more to do.
“The economic recovery plan also gives small-business owners tax relief critical to helping them thrive. There are 9,000 businesses owned by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Nevada, and more than a million across the country. With nearly a trillion dollars going into and out of these businesses every year, their success is central to our recovery.
“We are also making it easier for these small businesses to get the loans they need to grow and hire employees.
“And when we acted to help families keep their homes, we didn’t stop at stabilizing the housing market – we also made it illegal for con artists to prey on minority communities, and are educating those communities – in their native languages – about how to avoid such scams.
“With the leadership of people like Commerce Secretary Gary Locke – a third-generation American and the only Chinese American to ever serve as a governor – our economy will continue to rebound.
“Finally, we will again pursue comprehensive immigration reform that respects both our nation’s laws and the people from all nations who want to live in America, work hard and pay their fair share of taxes. And it is critical that we bring families together by cutting down on the long waits for prospective immigrants trying to join their immediate family members in the United States. I am committed to reforming our system in a way that is tough, fair and practical.
“We will also continue working to pass the Dream Act so that children of immigrants can receive an education and get a good job.
“Whether one comes from the Far East or the Golden West, our values are one and our shared goal is the continued recovery and sustained strength of the American economy. At great events like this one today, we reaffirm our commitment that no matter where one’s parents or grandparents were born, it is our solemn responsibility to make sure everyone in America can realize the American dream.”