WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, shared the following statement this week as we reach the conclusion of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
“This annual commemoration offers the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the rich history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Mineta of California, and later Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, both of Hawaii, first introduced a resolution in 1977 to establish an annual commemoration of the contributions of this community. That first resolution proclaimed the first 10 days of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. Congress passed a modified version of that resolution in 1978, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law. In 1990, Congress expanded Asian Pacific American Heritage Week to the entire month. Just two years later, Congress passed a final resolution permanently designating the month of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This timing is deliberate, as it commemorates important milestones: the arrival of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.
“The Asian American population is the fastest growing population in the United States, having risen from 10.5 million in 2000 to more than 23 million in 2020. More than 1.6 million individuals identify as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. With these combined figures, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community makes up almost 7 percent of the U.S. population and roughly the same percentage of Maryland’s population. Nationwide, demographers estimate that this population, which consists of over 40 subgroups, will more than double from 20 million to more than 50 million by 2060.
“Over the past year, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a vital role in our nation’s battle with COVID-19. Serving as frontline workers, first responders and emergency personnel, they have provided life-saving and critical care to hundreds of thousands of people during unprecedented times.
“The approximately 555,200 Asian-owned businesses in the U.S. represent approximately 1 in 10 businesses in the nation. As the Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I know the importance of each of these enterprises to our national economy and to the local communities they serve. I also know the serious challenges that all small business owners, but particularly minority-owned businesses, have faced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some research indicates that these businesses may have suffered the most significant economic effects of all demographic groups. Through the past year, I have sought to ensure that the Small Business Administration’s grants and loans flow to smaller and minority-owned businesses.
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have also served our nation in important public service roles. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have also served our Nation in important public service roles. Norm Mineta, after spending 20 years in the House of Representatives, served two presidents – Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – first as Secretary of Commerce and then as the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation. I was proud to serve with him in the House and with Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii from 2007 to 2012 during his tenure as President pro tempore of the Senate, a role that made him the highest-ranking Asian-American government official in the history of the United States. Of course, Kamala D. Harris eclipsed that distinction this year when she became Vice President — the first Asian American ever to hold that role. I am also proud every day to serve alongside Senators Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth, two strong leaders who are committed to promoting the well-being and progress of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders along with all Americans.
“The Asian Americans and Pacific Islander population has long endured racism and prejudice. This discrimination reached a peak when President Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps as war began with the Empire of Japan in World War II. Over the last year and a half, we have seen an alarming and dangerous rise in prejudicial treatment and racially motivated hate crimes and attacks. According to a recent report, there were nearly 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian discrimination related to COVID–19 between March 2020 and February 2021. Dangerous rhetoric such as calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus” jeopardizes the safety and well-being of millions of Asian-Americans.
“It is time we stand up and protect our fellow neighbors, friends, co-workers and loved ones. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to combat anti-Asian bias, prejudice, discrimination, hate crimes and violence. Congress overwhelmingly passed S. 937, the COVID–19 Hate Crimes Act, which Senators Hirono and Duckworth introduced. This legislation serves as a pledge to our Asian-American community that we, as the United States of America, stand in solidarity with you and will not tolerate violations of your civil rights. I was proud to cosponsor Senators Hirono and Duckworth’s resolution condemning discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Working together with our local, State, national, and international partners –- along with our allies in the private sector and faith community –- we can stem this dangerous trend and provide a sense of peace and security to our Asian-American brothers and sisters. In doing so, I am committed to listening to and being guided by the voices of those individuals and communities who have suffered harm.
“Asian Pacific American Heritage Month offers all Americans the opportunity to recognize and to appreciate the important role of this community in our nation –- both throughout history and today. It is more important than ever that we all take advantage of it.”
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