President Barack Obama praised the contribution of Asian-Americans to America’s heritage, and invoked efforts to bring about immigration reform in which ‘everybody is going to have to take responsibility.’
In a White House reception celebrating ‘Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,’ yesterday, Obama gathered members of his cabinet of Asian-American extraction and leading members of the Asian-American community, which he said, ‘has not always been given its due.’
“But we also know that generations of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders helped to build this country, defend this country, and make America what it is today,” Obama added.
The president, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, said Monday’s celebration was close to home for special reasons.
“Obviously this is personal for me, since you need to look no further than my family – my sister Maya, and brother-in-law Konrad, and my two mischievous nieces Suhaila and Savita – to know that it is part of America’s past but is also going to be part of America’s future,” he said.
Obama also used the ceremony to reaffirm his government’s fight for ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’ which is heading for debate in Congress after an uphill fight from the start of his administration last year.
“Washington has an obligation to set clear, common-sense rules, including rules that no longer punish and divide families that are doing the right thing and following the law,” Obama said.
In the blueprint for reform, he added, ‘everybody is going to have to take responsibility’ – from government in securing the border and enforcing the law, to employers who have ‘to be held accountable when they exploit undocumented workers.’
“Individuals who are here illegally, they have to take responsibility by paying a fine and back taxes, learning English, and going to the back of the line so that they take a legal path towards citizenship,” Obama said.
Obama also gave a shout out to Brooklyn based DJ, DJ Rekha.
“I want to thank DJ Rekha who’s been spinning a little East Room Bhangra for everybody mixing a hip-hop beat with the sounds of her heritage; making a uniquely American sound that may not have been heard in the White House before,” Obama said.
East Room is the largest room in the White House used by the US President for entertaining, press conferences, ceremonies and for a large dinner.
Several eminent Indian-Americans were invited on the occasions, including Rajan Zed from Nevada, and those in his administration.
The young Sikhs who recently joined the US Army were also invited at the White House function.