The White House announced Wednesday night that Erika Moritsugu, an Obama administration alum and the current vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), will serve as President Joe Biden’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander senior liaison.
The administration called Moritsugu, who will also hold the title of deputy assistant to the president, a “vital voice to advance the President and the Administration’s priorities” in a press release distributed just hours after White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodged questions about the hire. (RELATED: Biden Admin Announces A Host Of Moves Designed To Combat Rising Violence Against Asian Americans)
Biden is slated to meet with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on Thursday, but Psaki told reporters at Wednesday’s briefing that Biden’s then-unknown appointee would not sit in on the meeting.
Prior to joining NPWF, Moritsugu held a number of positions focusing on Asian-American outreach, including stints at the Anti-Defamation League and on Capitol Hill, and spent the final three years of the Obama administration as as assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
She also served as general counsel to Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who threatened in March to vote against confirming Biden’s pending administration nominations to protest the lack of AAPI representation in his Cabinet and senior staff. Duckworth eventually backed off her threat after Biden pledged to create the AAPI liaison position in the White House.
The president had previously announced a series of executive actions in recent weeks aimed at combating anti-Asian American bias that has reportedly surged throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Those actions included:
- Reinstating the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with initial focus on anti-Asian bias and violence
- Providing $49.5 million in Health an Human Services funding for “AAPI survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault”
- Forming a COVID-19 Equity Task Force committee to address rising xenophobia against Asian Americans
- Establishing a DOJ cross-agency initiative to combat on anti-Asian violence
- Launching a “new virtual bookshelf of federally-funded projects that explore and celebrate Asian Americans’ contributions to the United States”
- Providing Funding critical research to prevent and address bias and xenophobia against Asian American communities
Violence against Asian Americans has risen by as much as 800% throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and while Biden has openly condemned anti-AAPI violence, his administration hasn’t fully confronted alleged anti-Asian discrimination at some of the country’s top universities.
In February, the Justice Department dropped a lawsuit, originally filed by the Trump administration, against Yale University, alleging that the school discriminated against AAPI applicants, a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.