[Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by JACL Executive Director David Inoue and Public Affairs VP Sarah Baker and was lightly edited only to adhere to AP Style.]
On Thursday, President-elect Biden announced his final Cabinet appointments, including key senior appointments to the Department of Justice. We celebrate the nomination of Vanita Gupta to the role of associate attorney general. She will bring with her a career of civil rights legal expertise when it is most needed for the challenges ahead for DOJ. As the daughter of Indian immigrants, Gupta represents much of what is great about our country and will act on the concerns of Asian Americans in the restoration of civil rights protections in the Department of Justice.
However, with the final Cabinet appointee nominations, it has become clear that there will be no Asian American nominated to a Cabinet secretary position. Were it not for Transportation Secretary Chao’s abrupt resignation from the current Cabinet, President-elect Biden’s Cabinet would be the first in 20 years without any Asian American representation. This comes as a shock as there is no shortage of qualified Asian American candidates put forward to the transition team.
President-elect Biden has spoken of seeking to be a president for all Americans. To exclude Asian American representation from the Cabinet falls far short of that ideal. It is unacceptable that the new Administration will begin with a lack of AAPI representation at the secretary level.
As the transition team continues to fill senior roles throughout the White House and administration, it will be more important that Asian Pacific American candidates are included and prominent. Representation may not be the end all be all, but there is no excuse not to select an AAPI person for Cabinet secretary when there are so many qualified individuals.