The White House announced Wednesday that Erika Moritsugu will serve as the administration’s Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison and deputy assistant to the president.
The appointment is a part of multiple initiatives Joe Biden announced last month to address the dramatic increase in hate-related incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
In a statement, the White House said that Moritsugu “will bring her experience and expertise to the Biden-Harris Administration where she will be a vital voice to advance the President and Administration’s priorities”.
Following the shooting of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian American women, Biden announced he would establish a committee within the administration’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to address racism against Asian Americans.
He also said the Department of Health and Human Service will allocate $49.5m to support community services for AAPI domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and the National Science Foundation will dedicate $33m to study bias and xenophobia.
Biden came under pressure from Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono, the sole Asian American members of the US Senate, who criticized the lack of AAPI representation in Biden’s Cabinet and vowed to reject any non-diverse Cabinet nominee until Biden came up with a plan to address AAPI representation in the White House.
Both Duckworth and Hirono praised Moritsugu’s appointment Wednesday.
“I know first-hand that [the White House] will benefit from Erika’s counsel, policy expertise & strong relationship-building skills as he seeks to ensure AAPI leaders are president at the highest levels of government,” Duckworth wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to working with her to protect & empower the AAPI community.”
Moritsugu currently serves as vice president of not-for-profit organization National Partnership for Women & Families and has held multiple roles on Capitol Hill, including general counsel to Duckworth and deputy legislative director for the late Democratic senator Daniel Akaka.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate advanced on a bipartisan basis legislation, co-sponsored by Hirono, that addresses hate crimes against Asian Americans. The bill, called the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, would broaden the federal government’s capacity to respond and track hate crimes. The bill still has to go through a final vote in the Senate, which Democrats hope will take place by the end of the week.