SALT LAKE CITY – Ten members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have resigned in the last month, including one from Utah.
In 2015, President Obama nominated Jacob Fitisemanu to serve on his advisory commission. He was the voice for the 100,000 Asian Americans and 45,000 Pacific Islanders who call Utah home.
But with President Trump in office, the role of Fitisemanu and the other 19 members have been in limbo. The group says they reached out to Trump before his inauguration but never heard back.
On January 20, six members turned in their resignations. This week 10 members, including Fitisemanu, tendered theirs as well. Only four members remain.
Those who resigned wrote a letter saying, “They can no longer serve a president whose policies aim to create outcomes that are diametrically opposite to our principles, goals and charge.”
Fitisemanu elaborated on that decision.
“It is a statement to say that our communities’ interests will come first,” he said.
After President Trump temporarily banned refugees and imposed a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, Fitisemanu didn’t feel comfortable staying on until his term ends in September.
“Having a seat at the table, the figurative table, is fantastic, but only if there's someone sitting across that table who's willing to listen, who is proactively considering the advice that you're giving and is willing to discuss," he said.
Fitisemanu plans to continue pushing AAPI causes, helping constituents with home ownership, financial stability, education and health issues. Some members have branched out and formed the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander National Network, providing resources for legal assistance and immigration services.
“I'm really looking forward to seeing how we can mobilize and really serve the people in a way that the commission was intended to do, and we can do that at a grassroots level as well," Fitisemanu said.
President Clinton formed the commission and both President Bush and Obama renewed the initiative.