February 12, 2013

WASHINGTON—Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), issued the following statement in response to tonight’s State of the Union address:

“Coming off of the momentum of his inaugural speech last month, the president expanded on those themes and continued his focus on building a better America.

A little more than four years ago, the economy crumbled. Millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs. Many business owners closed up shop. Although we still feel the aftershock, we have seen some improvements to our financial infrastructure; but we are not out of the woods yet.

As President Obama pointed out, there’s a key task ahead for our congressional leaders to move quickly to block the looming drastic budget cuts. The president outlined his vision to reduce the deficit in a balanced way that protects middle- and low-income families. Action is urgently needed by Congress to prevent sequestration—the massive federal spending cuts set to take effect March 1 that would devastate public-health funding and undermine recent advances.

One measure that would help spur economic growth is comprehensive immigration reform. As the president stated, “Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.” Creating a clear pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, reducing waiting periods and making it easier for workers to come to, and remain in, America will pump millions of dollars into our recovering economy.

Although not mentioned in the president’s speech—but just as important as clearing the hurdles immigrants face to becoming citizens—is meeting their health-care needs. Even though the immigration proposals recently put forth are good starts to overhauling our policies, they do not go far enough to ensure that the pathway to citizenship includes access to health care and public-health programs.

In order for our immigration system to function, it must include commonsense provisions that address the health care needs of immigrants. Denying or limiting access to health programs could have major economic consequences, undermine current federal and state efforts and put millions of hard working immigrants and their families at risk.

In the next four years, we can work towards bringing down the costs of health care while increasing health outcomes; improving children’s health; and realizing an AIDS-free generation. Together, we can stamp out the obstacles facing our nation if, as the president said, our congressional leaders no longer let political differences drive wedges between them and all Americans do their part and stand united for a better America.”