San Francisco - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at a reception in Japantown this past Sunday in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Pelosi was honored for her work with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Below are her remarks, which covered topics such as hate crimes and immigration:
'It is always wonderful to be with our friends in the Asian Pacific American community. It is a wonderful treat to be honored by you. To be with you at the same time as we are recognizing the extraordinary pioneer work of Doris Koo of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. and the recognition that she has received professionally and now here this evening is very special for me. Thank you so much.
'When I left for Washington after I was elected 20 years ago, I met with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and one of the issues of priority for them was the issue of hate crimes in America. They said: 'This is a very important issue; we've got to get a bill like this passed in Congress. It's important to our community.' Just two weeks ago, we reauthorized that same bill and expanded it to cover people from the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.
'I want to mention that piece of legislation because the Asian American and Pacific Islander community was the lead on this issue. When we introduced this bill to Congress, opponents of the bill said: 'You are not going to be able to expand it to include any other groups - it's just too much.' The result after the vote showed 80 percent of the American people supported what we did across the board, but you were first. Discrimination has no place here. If you discriminate and you act upon your discrimination in a violent way - the legislation that we passed two weeks ago falls under the federal law, under that jurisdiction. That was an incredible contribution.
'Also this week, as you know, the Senate announced an immigration bill. When I left for Congress, I knew that this community was a tremendous resource in writing immigration law. The Asian community was in the forefront of naturalization, of people coming into this country, moving along, fully participating and contributing to the life of America. I considered this community a great intellectual resource in that regard 20 years ago and today. Let me give you my commitment that I will do everything in my power as Speaker to make sure that family reunification is an important part of any comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill in the House.
'Another reason I am happy to be spending time with you this evening is because it is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In order to observe APA Heritage Month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and I had a conference in Washington, D.C. At that conference, we talked about hate crimes and immigration.
'Let me just say that Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the Senate, said to that group that day, 'The point system in our immigration system is pointless.' He made it clear to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community that it was not something he favored. We hope that the Senate will have good amendments, and we will then act upon legislation ourselves in the House. I am in constant touch with the President on the issue of immigration. I'm hoping that the President will be with us on this. We're not going to succeed without a tremendous outside mobilization on this issue. The community is going to have to be mobilized as you always have been in order for us to be true to who we are - family values being an important in America, family reunification being central to our immigration policy.
'It has been part of the American Dream that Doris had talked about, in which one family would try to make the prospects better for the next generation of their family and therefore the next generation of Americans. We have always said that newcomers to our country, with their determination, their optimism, their commitment to the future, their commitment to family values, to community - the Asian Pacific American community's commitment to work ethic and academic ethic make our country stronger. It is hard to see where any other community has made a bigger contribution to making America more American. I thank you for that.
'I commit to you that I will do the best that I possibly can. We will do better to the extent that everyone hears from you all. Nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. Asian Pacific Americans are in every district in the country. You have got to communicate to your friends, to your networks, and the rest to make the calls, letters, e-mails, blogging, texting, whatever form it's taking - it's a real challenge. We have to have bipartisan compromise on immigration reform. We do not want to do it by going backward on family reunification.
'I just want to say what an honor it is to represent all of you. Out of great pride I go to the floor, knowing that I have a district that is so magnificent because of the beauty that is in the mix, the vitality of America constantly being reinvigorated by newcomers to our country, and by the traditions and the commitments to the future that you all bring.
'The other day, I was having a meeting with some of the leadership in the House and the Senate. I said to the Republican leadership: 'There's something you should know, because it will make you understand better why I bring certain issues to the table. Your membership is almost 100 percent white. Senate Democrats have more, but it's not so great. But in the House, about one-third of my caucus is black, Hispanic, Asian-American, women, or gay.'
'That diversity makes us a completely different body when they send me to the table to talk about what our priorities are. I don't think many of the people in the Senate have any remembrance of an immigrant experience. It's just not in their experience. Those of us who do and have the privilege of representing that vitality in our country have a special responsibility to make that fight. You give me inspiration and strength to do that. For that, I am enormously honored, very grateful, and determined that we will improve immigration reform in the Senate right now. Thank you.'